They have tried to dress it up as a big win, but scrutinise the detail of the Climate Change “deal” announced at the last minute in Cancun (or rather, the lack of detail) and it looks as though the only real deal is a fudge to keep the process going.

Whilst everyone has agreed that further commitments on reduced emissions are necessary, there are no legal commitments from any participants (unlike Kyoto in 1997, where at least the industrialised countries undertook to make binding reductions in emissions).

There is apparently a plan to provide developing countries with cash to encourage them to adopt measures which would reduce their emissions, but we don’t know which countries are involved, or how much they would be paid, or who would pay for this initiative.

The industrialised countries are to provide clean-tech expertise to the developing countries, but we don’t know who will provide what to whom or when this would happen.

Significantly, the US and China, the world’s two biggest polluters by far, have not made any commitments to reduce their emissions, and the world remains on course for a temperature change of well in excess of the 2% maximum rise required to avoid global catastrophe.

No wonder Andy Atkins of Friends of the Earth was describing this as “A very weak deal”.

The problem, as outlined in my blog of December 9th, is that the process for agreeing Climate Change is just too complicated for meaningful progress to be agreed. With 200 nations and 15,000 delegates involved, and a clear split in how to proceed between the industrialised nations and the developing nations, some sort of bland outcome was the only way that complete failure could be avoided.

So the “agreement” at Cancun will at least keep the process of discussion going, and given the predictions of a gloomy outcome to the summit even up till the last minute, that counts as some sort of “win”. But watch out for heavy weather in the months ahead as the participants struggle to agree the details which would make the deal real. It’s a bit easier to save the process than to save the world…