What’s the verdict on the climate talks?

Of the many takes on the Durban talks that ended Saturday, I chose Robert Stavins’s re-post at Climate Progress because he chose to characterize the results of the negotiations in a “glass-half-full” way. Because talks were extended at the last minute, they “advanced international discussions in a positive direction and have increased the likelihood of meaningful long-term action.”

David Roberts on Grist prefaced his top 5 “takeaways” from the climate conference by effectively defining the difference between the proverbial “half-full” or “half-empty” glass of water. In writing about climate policy, there’s only one way to describe most developments:  “compared to what’s needed, a failure; compared to what’s possible, decent.” Same here: the Durban conference didn’t do any harm, but it didn’t do enough, either. He explained why progress seems so slow: “National governments lack the will to challenge entrenched constituencies and take economic risks in the name of a problem that most populations still see as geographically and temporally distant. Only when a critical mass within those populations becomes noisy and powerful enough to push governments into action will the U.N. process come unstuck.”

Stavins concluded with a definition as well: “in the real world of international negotiations on this exceptionally difficult global commons problem, this is what success looks like.”


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