Editorial: 5 reasons for frustration — and hope — as the world prepares for another U.N. climate summit
After two years of disappointment and frustration, the United Nations climate summit coming up in September in South Africa could well be a watershed moment for climate policy as it considers what comes next for the international community. It certainly could mean a return to the negotiating table.
Last week, the world leaders who arrived in Cape Town for the U.N. climate summit got a first taste of optimism in the run-up to the historic and possibly climactic meeting. The mood was upbeat, and the mood was shared by a diverse group of activists in Europe and beyond.
Their enthusiasm was not surprising given the fact that all of the world’s major nations are expected to be represented, and that the talks are in a position to shape the future of global warming policy in a way that is both ambitious and flexible enough to adapt to the changes that climate change is already bringing.
With that comes hope. The summit will be a test not just of the ability of the global community to come together in a meaningful and constructive way around ambitious global climate adaptation goals, but also whether it is possible to forge something that is effective and enduring.
Even though the U.N. climate summit may not change the course of international climate policy for a few years or more, it could help determine the future of the Paris Agreement, which is the legal and political basis for what might be one of the most ambitious climate treaties to date.
One thing is for sure — there will be much to discuss in South Africa, and much that will be asked of the nations that will be present at the summit. It is to the benefit of the world community that the summit is happening — both for the atmosphere, and for the future of climate policies and the Paris Agreement itself.
But it is also to the benefit for the world of the negotiators, and the negotiators’ countries, that the summit is happening. With the election of Donald Trump and other major world leaders as his successors, their presence is no longer likely to be so influential. Instead, the U.N. climate summit will be more closely linked to the debates over national energy policies as countries begin to choose between two sets of rules for the future of burning fossil fuels.
It is impossible to predict whether the future of