Environmental activist 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The outcome of the latest round of climate change negotiations in Durban was as
good as any dared hope for. A second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol,
together with agreement from all countries to begin negotiations on a new
legally binding instrument, or an agreement with “legal force,” is a major step
forward. However, Durban will be remembered for much more than that; as the
place where the tectonic plates of international relations fundamentally
The group of countries that drove the outcome in South Africa
was a new coalition involving the EU and the BASIC countries – Brazil, China,
India, Mexico and South Africa.
The emergence of this alliance of
countries is significant for two reasons. First, these countries share a vision
about the future and are committed to a path of low carbon, sustainable
development. They recognize that this is the only pro-growth, pro-development
Second, this grouping signals a dissolving of the traditional
divide between rich and poor countries. For too long international negotiations
have been hampered by an overriding solidarity between developing countries and
a culture of blame. Durban saw a new maturity with the major developing
countries partnering with progressive, developed countries and beginning to take
responsibility for the future direction of the global economy.
of the tectonic plates is based on enlightened self-interest. On the one hand,
there is no long-term scenario under which a fossil fuels-based economy is
either sustainable or desirable for the human race as a whole. Reliance on
fossil fuels, with supply risks in terms of political stability in oil producing
regions, dwindling supplies and volatile prices together with an unstable
climate caused by increasing emissions of greenhouse gases, present serious
risks to a growing economy.
On the other hand, the economic opportunities
presented by the low-carbon economy represent a major source of sustainable
growth over the next few decades, while protecting the climate from dangerous
human interference. With the existing regulatory and legislative frameworks,
investment in clean energy is already rising fast and these countries were at
IN 2010, the clean energy sector increased in value by 30
percent and was worth $243 billion. The EU – with a long-term and credible
legislative framework to tackle climate change – claimed the largest share with
$94.4 billion. Asia, led by China, was second with $82.8 billion. And the
Americas, where the US has no legislative framework to price carbon or tackle
climate change, fell into third place with $65.8 billion, reflecting the
regulatory risk for investors of policy uncertainty.
The new coalition of
countries that surfaced in Durban is building on this foundation by developing
the regulatory and legislative frameworks to strengthen progress. As the 2nd
Global Legislators Organization (GLOBE) Climate Legislation Study – launched
last week in Durban – shows: • Brazil recently passed legislation to introduce a
system of payments for ecosystem services to properly value natural resources
and has updated the forest code to reduce the rate of deforestation – its major
source of emissions.
• China’s 12th Five Year Plan sets carbon intensity
targets for the first time, alongside energy intensity targets, and it is
developing climate change legislation, expected to create further incentives for
• India has adopted a “Solar Mission,” setting ambitious
goals for the development of solar power generation.
• Mexico passed a
comprehensive climate change law in the Senate last week, and the measure is
expected to pass the lower house within days.
• South Africa has a
comprehensive White Paper on climate change that sets out its vision for moving
to a low-carbon economy and adapting the inevitable impacts of climate change
that are happening now.
These are all investments in the future, a future
that will belong to the major developing countries. After all, the projected
population of the Earth in 2050 is 9 billion, 8 billion of whom will be living
in what we currently call developing countries. It will be their world
and they are beginning to prepare their economies to provide sustainable
prosperity for their people.
As president of GLOBE International, the
group of international legislators from the G20 economies, I am working hard to
help facilitate the move to a low-carbon economy.
Through the annual
GLOBE Climate Legislation Study, we are promoting best practice and supporting
lawmakers as they develop practical national legislative frameworks to drive
forward progress. And, in the new year, I will be convening legislators
from this new coalition of countries to see how we can accelerate the transition
to a low-carbon economy by identifying and dismantling regulatory barriers and
standardizing regulation to allow the private sector to maximize commercial
The EU and the major developing countries share a vision
for the future, a future that is resource-efficient and powered by domestic
sources of clean energy. And they are developing the legislative and regulatory
frameworks to turn that vision into reality. Welcome to a brave new
world.The writer is president of The Global Legislators Organization
(GLOBE International ) and was formerly UK Secretary of State for the