This news article quotes Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN climate secretariat, as telling the World Economic Forum in Davos that there is not going to be a new climate agreement in 2015 unless governments get a strong push from below.
That is not going to happen merely from the top down perspective. That is only going to happen if it’s bottom up, if the private sector moves in. Unless you have this from the bottom up, unless you have very powerful pressure from consumers, from private sector, from civil society to governments to say yes, this is what we want, as a humankind this is what we want, it’s not going to happen because it’s just too big.
This is very much in line with Sergio Abranches’ assessment of the Durban conference, who noted that
Politics hardly moves ahead of the facts. It is not a proactive process. It is a responsive one. Politics responds to active interests in economy and society. It seldom reflects even the ‘inactive majority’ or the majority of ‘public opinion’. Political decisions respond to ‘active interest groups’, to economic constraints and inducements, and to the domestic correlation of power. Countries that show greater ambition of emissions reductions also have greater active political support from domestic economic and social forces to policies aiming at coping with climate change. Their domestic policies are usually more ambitious than their multilateral commitments.
I would just put less emphasis on the private sector and more on civil society than Figueres does according to the above article, though that emphasis is probably due to the audience in Davos. But the private sector is in fact one main reason why politics are not moving fast enough because in many countries politicians are beholden to the old incumbent industries whose business models rely on using fossil fuels. For instance, the German government has a sad history of running to Brussels and putting in their veto every time the EU institutions are thinking about legislating more stringent standards for cars. This will only change if a critical mass of voters and “green” businesses becomes strong and vocal enough to change policy-makers’ political calculus.