When I blogged on this site ahead of the United Nations climate negotiations in Durban I said that a 'bottom up' approach was needed to tackle climate change. Has the progress seen at Durban changed that? Immediate reaction to the outcome of the negotiations was decidedly mixed. A month on, with the spin having died down, what does a sober look at the facts tell us about what actually happened in Durban and what the implications might be?
The Durban Platform
The most notable outcome of the Durban summit was the 'Durban Platform for Enhanced Action' and, as part of that, the commitment by all countries to work towards an agreement that involves action by all, not just the developed world. With China now the country producing the most emissions and other emerging economies close behind, this change now undeniably makes sense.
The other positive element of the Durban Platform is that this agreement will be binding, not just a set of voluntary commitments. This came about because of a real shift in position by countries such as China and India, which in summit after summit, had resisted calls to be part of a legally binding agreement of any kind.
However, there is a major flaw. The commitment is to trying to reach agreement on a new treaty by 2015 that will then only take effect in 2020. The first problem with this is that we have been here before and have been disappointed. In Bali back in 2007, governments agreed to reach a global agreement two years later, at the summit that took place in Copenhagen in 2009. Famously, they failed to do so.
Secondly, as anyone familiar with the science of climate change will know, to stand a reasonable chance of keeping global temperature rise to less than 2°C (the widely acknowledged threshold for avoiding dangerous climate change), global emissions need to peak and decline by the middle of this decade. An agreement that only comes into force at the end of the decade won't help with that.
The future of Kyoto
On the Kyoto Protocol, the Durban negotiations achieved a largely symbolic success. The Protocol had been due to expire this year, but there will now be a second commitment period, beginning in 2013 and ending in either 2017 or 2020.
However, the only group of countries to commit to targets under it were in Europe. Most of the other major developed countries - the United States, Canada, Japan and Russia - announced that they would not take part. That means that by 2013, Kyoto will only cover about 15% of global emissions and even then will include no new commitments.
Where this leaves us
The Durban summit saw a welcome change in the global politics of climate change. It saw the breakdown in the barrier between developed and developing countries and the emergence of a new coalition of countries pushing for more ambition - with pressure emerging from the most vulnerable developing countries on the big beasts of the developing world, like India and China, to do more.
But in the end, it is essentially an agreement to carry on talking with the hope of reaching a deal that will only lead to action a whole decade away. It is clearly better for governments to carry on talking than not to, but if you subscribe to the science and believe a legally binding global agreement is important for driving action now, it would be difficult to see Durban as a great success.
It is clear that for the rest of this decade, another approach will be needed if the world is to decarbonise in time to prevent dangerous climate change.
Country by country, company by company, the case will have to be made, arguments won, policies put in place and support provided to drive change from the bottom up. And on that score, the world isn't doing too badly, with a growing number of countries and companies committing to action. Of course, much more is needed, but at least we know at what level to direct most of our efforts - think global, yes, but act local.