There was very little to show after two weeks of haggling by 200 countries last year at the expensive jamboree known as the Conference of the Parties (COP) talks on dealing with climate change. The gathering in Doha was the 18th in the series and followed that on our shores in Durban a year earlier.
The COP series has come to symbolise a growing problem around the world. Countries both rich and poor are quick to express concern or outrage, but do not appear keen to find global solutions to global problems. Each nation offers its own, self-serving solution.
The dearth of global political leadership on such issues is made worse by a similar lack of interest on a regional scale. This is evident elsewhere too: nobody is holding their breath while waiting for the Doha Development Round global talks on trade to be successfully completed either.
The Doha presidency of COP-18 was itself fraught with difficulties as Qatar has deeply vested interests in fossil fuels.
In Durban in 2011, a last-minute deal known as the Durban Platform was reached, which essentially brought all major stakeholders into the Kyoto Protocol basket. Yet, after two weeks in Doha, an extra day was required merely to extend Kyoto by eight years to 2020.
Extending Kyoto was important, but the extension included so many loopholes that it in effect placed no obligation on major polluters to change their ways. Although it binds 35 industrialised nations to cut their greenhouse emissions, Kyoto has been undermined by the withdrawal of Canada and Japan, and its key supporters, the European Union and Australia, account for only 15% of targeted greenhouse-gas emissions.
The second critical matter discussed in Doha relates to channelling technology and finance to developing countries to equip them to cope better with the effects of climate change. There was talk of further meetings this year and next, but essentially the matter was put on the back burner.
For developing countries, it is vital for political leadership to emerge by 2015, when the United Nations Millennium Development Goals on halving poverty end. Otherwise, climate change could worsen poverty in Africa just as the continent is on the verge of economic takeoff.