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Kepa Solaun, School of Economic and Business Sciences, University of Navarra

Climate negotiations: the tortoise or the hamster?

Thu, 16 Dec 2010 15:16:06 +0000 Published in Expansion (Madrid)

Scientific necessity and the political capacity of the international community have once again clashed in the climate negotiations, which took place in Cancun until last Friday. Progress has been lukewarm, but at least 193 of the 194 participating countries (Bolivia has refused) have signed an agreement agreement. Some international experts have defined the negotiating process as a dilemma between the tortoise and the hamster. As in Aesop's fable, the tortoise makes progress little by little, showing certain advances. It is a long process, but each step brings it closer to its goal. The hamster, however, is stuck spinning a wheel. No matter how much faster it advances, it always ends up in the same place. In the case at hand, there is probably something of both. It is undeniable that the depth of agreement is nowhere near comparable to that reached at protocol in Kyoto more than ten years ago. In this, the hamster takes the lead, which would explain the exhaustion of the negotiators who have been facing the same issues for more than a decade, without clear progress.

A year ago, after the Copenhagen Summit, we wrote another opinion piece article using game theory to explain the paradoxical lack of agreement in a topic of such great importance for all countries. The root of the problem lies in the fact that the optimal status for each state is for the others to reduce. But a binding agreement will not be reached without the cooperation of the major emitting countries. However, in some areas, such as financing for adaptation to climate change and the fight against deforestation, the status is more favorable than the one experienced a year ago in Copenhagen. The two main novelties of Cancun are the creation of a ' green fund ' , through which the promised 100 billion dollars a year until 2020 will be collected and distributed. The sum will be used to support the adaptation of developing countries development to climate change. On the other hand, with regard to the fight against deforestation, parameters have been established to finance concrete efforts and define what is and what is not acceptable.

Unlike the exorbitant expectations generated by the Copenhagen Summit, Cancun has been more realistic. Both the issue number of heads of state and attendees who have come to the Mexican city is lower than those registered in Copenhagen in the previous edition, which in turn has led to less media coverage.

The great unanswered question of the final agreement is, as expected, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, agreement admits that in the future it will be necessary to make greater reductions in these emissions, but does not specify by what methods this will be achieved goal.

At summary, the hamster is still dancing on the wheel, but at least it leaves us some clues to be optimistic. We will see if in a year's time, in South Africa, a binding agreement can finally be reached. December 31, 2012, the final date of the Kyoto commitments protocol , is getting closer and closer.