Leaders of 193 countries on Saturday inked a new global climate regime called the Cancun Agreement and resolved to begin digging the grave of the Kyoto Protocol. The earlier regime brokered in the 90s had outlived its utility in the changed global order where the emerging economies share the high table with the rich. After a week of heated talks, the negotiators had stuck to their respective positions. The politicians, as the end result showed, were looking for a face-saver, not a permanent resolution for the climate change problem. They were looking for a cop out. The agreement, adopted early on Saturday with the acceptance of all but one, Bolivia, began to roll out this compromised but fresh climate regime.
The Kyoto Protocol had used a top-down approach. On paper at least, it was required to first ascertain how much emission had to be removed from the atmosphere to keep temperature rise under control. Once this was ascertained, it was meant to apportion the responsibility of reducing emissions among the rich countries according to their historical burden of polluting. It locked only the rich countries (except for the US) into such a regime and the three years of negotiations were all about trying to strike a deal where the US would take on similar targets and the emerging economies take some mitigation actions too.
Instead, on Saturday the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change country members signed on to an agreement that shall set into place a pledge-and-review deal. Under this new deal, each country will be allowed to offer whatever it wishes to pledge for emission reductions on its own volition. There shall be no cumulative target to reach. No one shall ask if the individual targets are collectively adequate or not. The new regime will only check if the pledges have been acted upon or not. Rich countries, including the US, will offer emission reduction targets and others, such as India will offer their mitigation actions as part of a new deal which can be said to be defined by the bottoms up approach. The desire has been expressed to maintain the global temperature rise below 2 degrees but the Cancun Agreement has not given the global community the brief to enforce the cap on emissions.
Under the agreement India will get off easy. Because it let others off easy as well. The link to science has got weakened though promises have been made to adhere to science. But the developing world and the poor countries have got something to sweeten the deal as well. They have got the architecture of an Adaptation Fund, a Green Climate Fund and a technology developing regime.