London, (Pal Telegraph) – The year 2010 started inauspiciously with the spectacular failure of the climate talks in Copenhagen in December 2009. The recriminations continued well into 2010 and the failure was compounded by the mid-term elections in the US, where the victory of the more conservative Republicans who were against any action on climate change meant the loss of any domestic legislation from Washington. With the global recession adding to economic problems, for most of 2010 the tide of policy and public opinion in much of the rich world was against taking any actions on climate change.
In much of the developing world, however, the picture was quite different. For many of the heads of state who had attended a climate change summit for the first time in Copenhagen, it was a wake-up call to the importance of the problem, which most of them had hitherto not fully appreciated. Thus, with greater public awareness of the climate change issue, together with increasing climatic events, such as the devastating floods in Pakistan, the issue has taken on an importance it did not have before Copenhagen. Many countries in the developing world have been implementing significant initiatives.
Countries like China, India, Brazil and South Afrca have been taking strong actions on renewable energy, while the Maldives has committed itself to becoming carbon neutral in 10 years and Bangladesh has committed $200m from its national budget to implement its national climate change strategy and action plan.
Thus the main impetus for action on climate change has shifted from global policy making through the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to actions at national and local levels, and from the developed countries to the developing world. This change was reflected in the Cancún agreement, achieved this month at the 16th conference of parties (COP16) of the UNFCCC, taking action on adaptation, deforestation and technology transfer, while recognising that progress on global targets for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases through a legally binding treaty as a successor to the Kyoto protocol was not likely to be achieved anytime soon.
The Cancún Adaptation Framework, with an adaptation committee able to support and undertake actions to support the most vulnerable developing countries, is one the most signficant outcomes from Cancún and will enable actions that are already being undertaken in many vulnerable developing countries to get further impetus and support.
One area of progress is in community-based adaptation, where some of the poorest and most vulnerable communities are already taking action, which they share through periodic international conferences. The fourth international conference on community-based adaptation was held in February 2010 in Tanzania and the fifth and largest international conference is to be held in the last week of March 2011 in Bangladesh, where more than 250 participants from all over the world are expected to share their knowledge and experience around the theme of scaling up.
So while 2010 has been a challenging year for global policy on climate change, it has ended in a more optimistic, but also more realistic note that the battle is not lost but it is going to be a long struggle that is fought by many different actors on many different fronts, from the local to the national to the global. Next year will see that struggle being taken up on many different fronts with renewed vigour.