Almost 150 heads of states and governments have assembled in Paris which is hosting this year’s annual conference on climate change that by the end of the two week negotiations is expected to deliver an agreement that has eluded the world for the last several years.
The leaders’ statements till now are aimed at giving the political push to the badly-fractured negotiations. While the congregation in Paris is possibly the biggest ever of world leaders under a single roof, this is not the first time that Prime Ministers and Presidents have sought to affirm their commitment to the need for a global agreement. They did so at a similar gathering in Copenhagen six years ago, and have repeated it in subsequent years several times at important meetings like the UN General Assembly, G-8 and G-20, ASEAN and at every other occasion the big leaders have met.
It is one thing for the heads of states and governments to say they are totally committed to a global agreement and quite another for their negotiators to agree on the small sticking points in the negotiations.
The situation is not any different this time. After the world leaders leave the stage in Paris on Tuesday, having made their impassioned appeals for a cleaner world and better environment for coming generations, the negotiators will return to the painstaking task of finding the right words and phrases on the several contentious issues that have plagued the negotiations.
If there is a possibility of Paris being able to deliver an agreement, it is not because of the solidarity that the world leaders are trying to show right now but because the bar for success has been lowered over the years. What is being expected in Paris is not a comprehensive, legally-binding treaty– which was the objective of this conference in Copenhagen in 2009– but merely a framework agreement that can be acceptable to everyone.
Once that has been agreed to, countries are hoping that over the next four years they would be able to forge an agreement on the more contentious issues as well. The agreement in Paris is slated to come into effect only after 2020 when the Kyoto Protocol, an existing international mechanism to deal with climate change, comes to an end.