image credit: DECCgovuk (Flickr CC)

A last minute deal at COP17, the UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, managed to secure a legally binding global treaty, even amongst those most reluctant to sign on: big polluters the US, China and India.

But what does the deal entail and is it really any good?

First of all, the treaty is to be signed in 2015 and enforced in 2020 – too little too late according to environmentalists and most climate scientists. But what the hell do they know?

The climate ‘road map’ was the brainchild and goal of the European Union, who desperately tried to persuade the ‘Big Three’ to cap their emissions. The US, China and India (none of which were required to cap greenhouse gasses under the Kyoto Protocol) argued that limiting emissions would harm their economies.

From the Independent:

The fact that their soaring emissions – China’s and India’s growing by more than 9 per cent annually, America’s by 4 per cent – will now be brought into a binding reduction framework, gives some hope that the world may hold the expected rise in global temperatures under the danger threshold of 2C above pre-industrial levels.

To compensate for any developing country’s economic losses incurred by the deal, a Green Climate Fund was set up in Durban, drawing on the $100bn promised by the end of decade by rich industrialized nations.

Reactions from participating governments have been largely positive, but remember, this is a political victory, not necessarily an environmental one. Scientists and environmentalists responses have been lukewarm to negative, largely because the deal only limits warming to 4C.

Read reactions in the Guardian and in the following article:

Durban deal will not avert catastrophic climate change, say scientists