Some two weeks after the UN Montreal talks scraped together an 11th hour deal on climate change there is still a raging debate on whether it was a good deal or not. Environmental groups from Europe were surprising upbeat about Montreal in the immediate aftermath. Friends of the Earth called it an “historic step” forwards that “sent a clear signal that the future lies in cleaner and more sustainable technologies and is good news for people everywhere”.
Charlie Kronick from Greenpeace UK was also positive arguing that Margaret Becket, Britain’s Environment Secretary who was representing the EU “should be commended on the part she played in bringing about a deal that ensures Kyoto is now stronger than ever.” Chris Davies, the environmental spokesperson for the Liberal Democrat Members of the European Parliament also commended Beckett for doing a “good job”. WWF International based in Geneva said that talks represented “real progress”.

This positive response is not shared by everyone, though. Aubrey Meyer, from the Global Commons Institute and a leading advocate of contraction and convergence, argues that the deal was “hardly a breakthrough”, that “success” had been falsely claimed and describing the fact that the US was now committed to the talks process was “risible”.

Mark Lynas, the author of High Tide – News from a Warming World, also remains to be convinced. “As far as the urgent need to tackle climate change is concerned, Montreal is barely a first step, which will make no measurable difference to either the rate or magnitude of global warming. Despite all the back-slapping, there are no grounds for complacency” he says.

So was it a breakthrough or not? Tell us what you think. I am struggling to see Montreal as a real breakthrough. OK, the US was humiliated into not walking away, and yes a post-Kyoto deal has been signed up to, but how do you tame the dinosaur of America that has really only agreed to talk about talks.

The problem I have is the difference between the pace of political change as represented at Montreal which Andrew Simms from the New Economics Foundation recently called “glacially slow” and the rapid need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions before all our glaciers have melted. How do we reconcile the two?