Balance sheet and perspectives on the climate change negotiations (Part I)
Pablo Solon (*)
Almost a year has gone by since the results of the climate change negotiations in Cancun were imposed with the objection of only Bolivia. It’s time to take stock and see where we are now.
In Cancun, the developed countries listed their greenhouse gas emission reduction pledges for the 2012-2020 period. The United States and Canada said they would reduce emissions by 3% based on 1990 levels, the European Union between 20 and 30%, Japan 25%, and Russia from 15 to 25% . Adding up all the reduction pledges of the developed countries, the total reduction in emissions by 2020 would be 13-17%  based on 1990 levels.
These greenhouse gas emission reduction “pledges,” according to the United Nations Environment Programme , the Stockholm Environment Institute , and even the Executive Secretary of the Climate Change Convention , would lead us to an average increase in global temperature of around 4°C or more. That is double the amount they established in Cancun: a maximum temperature increase of just 2°C.With an increase of 2°C, the number of deaths per year attributed to climate change-related natural disasters, which was 350,000 in 2009 , could skyrocket into the millions. Some 20-30% of animal and plant species would disappear. Many coastal zones and island states would end up below the ocean, and the glaciers in the Andes – which have already been reduced by one third with a temperature rise of just 0.8°C – would disappear entirely.
Can you imagine what would happen with an average global temperature increase of 4°C or more? 
Nobody at the climate change negotiations defends or justifies an increase of that magnitude. However, Cancun opened the door to it.
When Bolivia opposed this outcome, the negotiators told us that the important thing was to save the diplomatic process of negotiation, and that the climate would be saved in Durban. Now we are just days away from the start of Durban, and it turns out the reduction pledges have not risen by a millimeter. Worse yet, some countries are announcing that they may stick toward the lower range of their pledge amounts.
Sadly, throughout 2011, the climate change negotiations held in Thailand, Germany and Panama have focused on form rather than content. What is being negotiated is not how the reduction pledges can be increased, but rather, how they can be formalized.
The Cancun “agreements” meant going from an obligatory system with global greenhouse gas reduction goals to a voluntary system with no global goals at all. It is as if one said to the inhabitants of a small town about to be washed away by a flood: “bring whatever stones you may have and let’s see how high a dam we can build!” In reality, you must first determine how high the dam should be to stop the flood, and based on that, each family should be told how many stones it must bring to help save the whole town.
(Second part: The emerging countries and the carbon budget)
* Pablo Solón is an international analyst and social activist. He was chief negotiator for climate change and Ambassador to the United Nations for the Plurinational State of Bolivia from 2009 until June 2011. http://www.facebook.com/solonpablo