Considering that I had no hopes that anything at all would be agreed in Durban I suppose I should be pleased that a binding global climate treaty has been decided… kind of. The Guardian describes this as a breakthrough but there are a few points in the coverage of the Durban deal in the FT which rather deflate my expectations. First of all the treaty will not be “legally binding” but rather an “agreed outcome with legal force” and is not clear how this will be interpreted. Secondly, while the Kyoto protocol will be extended, the length of the extension is not clear and to my astonishment according to the FT, “the countries signing up to the extension are only likely to account for around 15 per cent of global emissions”. I hadn’t realised the extent to which we have exported our pollution to developing countries. Lastly, while we’re promised a deal to be finalised by 2015, it won’t be implemented until 2020 so there will be almost a decade of further unregulated pollution before any deal kicks in.
As a journalist, what strikes me most is that the deal such as it is which in other times would be top news has been shoved off the front pages or into the corners of them by more parochial issues. Both the Guardian and Independent give the front-page lead to the coalition split over Europe which, granted, is a story of great significance but it is the 5th story and just a single paragraph on the Times front page and is not on the Telegraph or New York Times’ front pages at all. If the newspapers are right about this apparent lack of interest in the environment given our other woes there seems little chance that politicians will feel the pressure required from the public to work on an adequately stringent solution. (See Kiosko for today’s newspaper front pages from around the world).