The Road to Mexico?

The Road to Mexico?

Image CC licensed by Flickr user ~*Bomba Rosa*~

Imagine this scenario: It’s late 2010, parties from all over the world have gathered in Mexico City to try and negotiate a legally binding climate change agreement that will set the world on a low emissions pathway to 2050.

Over the year distrust has spread, with the developed world growing to suspect developing country parties of trying to change their previous commitments. At the penultimate meeting to Mexico City developed country parties express their frustration by walking out of the talks. They are only brought back by developing country parties reassuring them that they will honor their previous commitments.

Then there is the disclosure of the “Mexican paper!” On the first day of the conference, despite reassurances that they would not act unilaterally, it emerges that the developing world has secretly written a draft text that appears to be pre-guessing the outcome of the conference. Further walkouts ensue, there are protests on the streets, the developed world is brought back to the table with further reassurances, then on the third from last day, just as ministers are arriving, the developing world announces that they will present ministers with a final text, a text the developed world has never seen.

Incoming developing world leaders start to make noises that they believe a deal might not be possible and we may have to wait until Johannesburg, while another year passes, before any agreement comes into fruition.

There is no denying that this scenario seems unfathomable when the tables are turned and the boot is placed on the other foot, but swap the developing nations for the developed and these events actually have occurred in COP15. The dream ending is of course ...

... Then miraculously the developed world agrees to carry on talking and comes back to the table. The developing world stops stalling and agrees to honor its previous commitments. A new text is agreed on in remarkably short time. Deep long-term targets are negotiated, generous funding is agreed, and new and innovative market mechanisms are put in place to promote the flow of finance and technology. The incoming heads of state all sign the deal and everyone concurs that the final agreement marks a significant shift and is a positive step forward on the road to reducing emissions. The protestors, delegates and all the NGOs go home happy ... and yes, miracles can happen.

But will we get this dream miracle in Copenhagen? The short answer is probably not. A rigorous deal is starting to look like it might not be likely. There are, however, important lessons to be taken away, whatever the outcome. The most important one of all is that a multilateral negotiation needs to be just that. However, although it is tempting to cluster together with like-minded parties and write text, it can simply create mistrust amongst those parties who aren’t included, as we have seen during the COP15 proceedings.

The climate treaty process has to be inclusive, the legitimate concerns of the developing world need to be heard and accounted for, or otherwise we may find ourselves repeating the same experience on the road to Mexico. Let’s hope that now we are almost at the eleventh hour in the COP15 negotiations that sense prevails and all the countries do what is necessary to ultimately get a deal.

Miles Austin is head of European Regulatory Affairs for EcoSecurities. Image CC licensed by Flickr user Eneas

Click here for full coverage of COP15 from the GreenBiz.com and ClimateBiz.com teams, including posts from Copenhagen by Executive Editor Joel Makower and Senior Contributor Marc Gunther, and from dozens of guest contributors from the business world.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user ~*Bomba Rosa*~.