“You have been negotiating all my life.” said the Canadian college student Anjali Appadurai, addressing the assembled government negotiators at the 2011 United Nations climate conference in Durban, South Africa. In 2011, Anjali was twenty-one years old.
The international response to climate change was launched in 1992, at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, with the signing of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The Earth Summit convention committed countries to stabilise “greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”. It set a voluntary goal of reducing emissions from developed countries to 1990 by 2000, a goal the most countries did not met. Our governments wasted years fudging numbers and squabbling over start dates, perpetually trying to get extensions. In the meantime, the emissions form fossil fuels, instead of reducing, have significantly increased. The history of climate change policy is full of missed targets and broken promises.