An agreement about survival

Tuesday, December 06, 2011 • Mattias Söderberg

“We can not sign an agreement which is not guaranteeing our survival,” one of the negotiators from Grenada, a small island states has said.

It was an emotional speech which made it clear that an agreement that may lead to the extinction of their state was not acceptable.

It is an argument which is easily understood. However, there is still no agreement. Not specifically about reaching climate agreement but the length of time of the second commitment period of the Kyoto protocol.

Poor and vulnerable countries argue for a five-year period while many of the bigger and richer countries argue for eight. The logic is easy. Poor people listen to the science, which shows how their countries will be heavily affected if the ambitions are not increased dramatically. They therefore want a short commitment period, one which gives flexibility to further increase ambitions within a shorter time frame.

The richer countries on the other hand listen more to their national interest and look for stability before high ambitions. They would therefore prefer eight years.

The difference between the two time periods may seem small. But in the end, the length of the agreement can make a big difference: the difference between survival or extinction for small and vulnerable countries.

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This blog chronicles day-to-day happenings at the UNFCC in Doha, Qatar in 2012 and Durban, South Africa in 2011.

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