Donald Trump and Stephen Harper may not have noticed, but multilateralism is back. Velma McColl writes:
In 2009, many claimed the chaos surrounding COP15 in Copenhagen marked the end of multilateralism — a fatal blow to the UN. It seemed to speak to the futility of trying to bridge so many interests, so many regional voting blocks, that no agreement could possibly be crafted to meet all the multilateral conditions for a global climate deal.
For many, it was a final proof, after years of experimentation and incremental successes, that national interests would always trump a global good, thwarting collective climate action into the foreseeable future. There was plenty of finger-pointing at governments, but also outside actors recognized that they had, perhaps inadvertently, undermined political will, contributing to the collapse.
Mr. Trump and Mr. Harper would like you to believe that the world doesn't work multilaterally. But what each man lacks is perspective:
Looking back, it is not surprising that countries were too deeply divided when they arrived in the Danish capital in 2009. It was likely naïve to expect otherwise. The world was dealing with the fallout of the economic crisis and the five key UN regions — Africa, Asia-Pacific, Eastern Europe, Latin America/Caribbean and Western Europe/other (including the U.S., Australia and New Zealand) — saw the next 10 to 20 years very differently. That’s not to mention the fact that countries like India, Brazil, South Africa and the other emerging players were already economically stronger than they were in 1995. In the same period, China became the world’s second-largest economy and the largest single greenhouse gas (GHG) emitter.
And each man refuses to acknowledge a glaring truth:
Looming over all climate negotiations is a concept, embedded in Kyoto, that the developed world is responsible for accumulated global GHG emissions in the atmosphere and should therefore act first and largely alone — represented by ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ in the legal texts.
Acknowledging that truth meant acknowledging that developed countries would have to pony up funds to help poorer nations adapt to a warming world. The Paris Agreement put the financial framework in place. Multilateralism was back.
Let's hope it continues in the new year. Happy New Year to all.