It is a good legal principle that an agreement to agree is not enforceable in a court of law. The countries attending the COP18 Conference at Doha are finding that such a principle has a practical basis.
Supposedly all countries agreed at last year’s COP17 Conference at Durban to negotiate a replacement for the Kyoto Convention by 2015. Doha was to be the start for these negotiations.
The difficulty is that there is a sharp and fundamental divide as to what this Durban agreement requires. On one side are the developing countries – which include China, India, Brazil and South Africa – and on the other side are the developed countries ( including the European Union, the US and Canada).
The developing countries claim that the agreement in Durban was to continue the basic principles of the Kyoto Convention in the replacement convention. They claim that “rich” developed countries must agree to be bound by emission limits, and must assist developing countries, financially and otherwise, to reduce emissions. The Kyoto developing countries must commit to the principles of the replacement convention, but are not subject to specific limits.
The developed countries point out that the developing countries include the first (China) and third (India) ranked GHG emitters by volume. In these circumstances, they question how there can be an effective control of GHG, the essential agent behind climate warming, unless “developing countries”, or at least major emitters, are also bound? Canada justified its withdrawal from the Kyoto Convention last year on this ground.
All countries are taking a hard line dictated by their national interest. It does not seem to matter that Michel Jarraud, the head of the U.N.’s weather agency, said that ”climate change was taking place before our eyes”. Nor does it seem to matter that the scientific advisers told the Conference that the possibility of limiting global warming to 2 degrees C was becoming increasingly problematic. Many scientists consider that a temperature rise of 4 degrees C is likely, and it may even be higher.
Some grandparents may be comforted that this projection of the Armageddon is tied in with the year 2100. But not For Our Grandchildren: we are fighting so that grandchildren (and their children) never have to face such a cataclysm.