From Kyoto to Durban: Getting It Done

From Kyoto to Durban: Getting It Done

There was a long, loud echo in the room when youth delegate Anjali Appadurai addressed the UN Climate Change Summit in Durban December 9. Appadurai pinpointed a disconnect in global climate meetings that has been evident since 1995, when the first Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change convened in Berlin.

“It always seems impossible until it’s done,” Appadurai said, quoting iconic South African leader Nelson Mandela. “So, distinguished delegates and governments around the world, governments of the developed world: Deep cuts now. Get it done.”

The echo in Appadurai’s closing line goes back to Berlin. And even as we watched Durban delegates hammer out a last-minute deal to salvage the COP process, the inconvenient truth was that we could have and should have been much farther ahead by now.

During the 1995 Conference of the Parties,the Cities for Climate Protection Campaign brought together a large gathering of mayors from around the world. If you shuttled back and forth between the two conferences, you would have thought you were moving between parallel universes.

At the official Conference of the Parties, delegates recognized the urgency of the moment, but saw no way to reduce their countries’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to a low enough level to arrest climate change.

At the mayors’ summit, one local official after another took a turn at the mic to explain what they were doing to tackle climate change at the local level. They were specific and enthusiastic about the economic, environmental, and health-related co-benefits their efforts had brought to their communities.

By this time, some of the cities had been working on their climate strategies for nearly a decade. Those were the ones that were reporting absolute reductions in their GHG outputs.

Across town, the national delegations from the very same countries were projecting endless GHG growth, concluding that it would be impossible ever to turn the curve around.

Until the very end of the Durban meeting, the annual Conference of the Parties was in danger of becoming an exercise in proving that a low-carbon future can’t possibly work in theory, when it’s already taking shape in practice. The Trottier Energy Futures Project’s review of low-carbon energy models has revealed no shortage of plausible, transformative scenarios, and we’ll be releasing our own in the new year.

The scenario-builders will be constantly challenged to keep up with the disruptive technologies and transformative practices that are popping up in research labs, think tanks, and newly-minted production facilities around the world-because the front-line practice is moving faster than the theory can keep up. But as the spirit of innovation and determination from that long-ago mayors’ summit continues to assert itself, there will be many promising pathways for the Conference of the Parties to get back in the game, to truly honour Anjali Appadurai’s demand that we get it done.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *