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Limping to Paris
Scientists Say Climate Summit Structure Is Deeply Flawed

We’re just weeks ahead of a climate summit in Paris that’s been billed as a “once in a century” opportunity, and the knives are already coming out. The UN’s climate chief has previously all but admitted that the negotiations won’t aim to produce an enforceable treaty, but rather one based on “enabling and facilitating” countries to act to reduce emissions. And while the national pledges for said reductions—called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)—are now rolling in, a group of scientists are warning that this piecemeal approach is unlikely to produce satisfying results. The BBC reports:

Prof David MacKay, from the University of Cambridge, who was former chief scientific advisor to Britain’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), said: “The science of cooperation predicts that if all you are doing is naming individual contributions – offers that aren’t coupled to each other – then you’ll end up with a relatively poor outcome.

“We have the history of the Kyoto agreement as an example of this. Initially, the approach was to find a common commitment, but eventually it descended into a patchwork of individual commitments… and that led to very weak commitments and several countries leaving the process.” […]

The researchers admit that with the Paris climate conference just weeks away and the fact that global carbon pricing is not already on the table, their idea is unlikely to have much influence.

By their own admission, the scientists’ call for a different approach is going to be too little, too late, but even had they voiced their objection months or years ago, it’s hard to imagine us ending up anywhere but where we are now: lacking momentum ahead of an overhyped summit whose objective was likely doomed from the start.

The gap between the developed and developing worlds remains as wide as ever, and the bridge meant to assuage concerns of the world’s poor at the economic constriction green goals might induce—a climate slush fund paid in to by the world’s richer nations—remains underfunded. Mistrust hangs over the summit, as does a good deal of defeatism as officials reiterate that, regardless of Paris’s outcome, the world is sure to shoot past the 2 degrees Celsius warming limit scientists have set as a cautionary benchmark.

In that context, this latest warning that the aggregated national approach won’t produce a robust deal comes as no surprise.

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