This week involved a trip to Brussels to take part in a stake holder event focused on the question of what kind of international agreement should follow on from Kyoto.
Part of the day involved an update on the science which was, as ever, quite depressing. Everything is happening faster than the models predicted. As if to confirm this, my inbox this morning contained the headlines – “[Arctic temperatures at record levels](http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2007/20071017_arcticreportcard.html “”)” – air temperatures this Autumn are 5 degrees C warmer than normal and the Greenland summer melt this year broke records in terms of its extent and duration. And “[Sea’s Acidity Rising 100 Times Faster Than in Past](http://portal.unesco.org/en/ev.php-URL_ID=43690&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html “”)” – according to a UNESCO report issued yesterday the acidification of the world’s oceans, caused by the absorption of huge volumes of carbon dioxide, is accelerating at an unprecedented rate, threatening marine ecosystems and the livelihoods of tens of millions of people.
All cheery stuff.
In light of this it’s easy to get frustrated with the UN process – it can appear painfully slow and far too unambitious. But in and around the margins of the meeting there were some glimmers of hope. Developing countries such as South Korea and South Africa are already taking action to reduce their emissions, and privately admit that they know they have to be part of the solution, and will join in just as soon as the US changes tack. The rise in renewable energy is now thankfully a worldwide phenomenon. And the idea that countries should pay for pollution rather than being handed our rights for free is gaining ground as a principle – though when it comes to negotiating this it is likely to seriously upset Russia and so potentially delay progress.
The world has never been easily divided into two categories of rich and poor countries and if the UN can find a way of creating more shades of grey in the future agreement then it might succeed in creating a structure where the total level of commitments countries are prepared to make adds up to enough to bend the curve in global emissions.
I tested out an idea for creating an emissions budget for the global power sector as a first step towards a truly global deal, (see [recent Guardian blog](http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2008/oct/03/network.carbonemissions “”)), amongst some of my international NGO colleagues and was pleased they agreed it would be a significant step forward. So we will carry on doing some more thinking and number crunching and hopefully it will emerge as a clear campaign ask running up to December next year – when, as nearly all the speakers agreed, it really does appear to the world’s last chance to respond in time to this looming disaster.