It is already too late to avoid significant adverse impacts from man-made global warming – but, it is not too late to minimise the risk of severe and dangerous global climate change.
What is needed is a global emergency climate stabilization program which preserves the right of all people to reach a dignified level of sustainable human development free of the privations of poverty.
This approach, put forward by the proponents of the Greenhouse Development Rights framework, is what was needed from Durban (in fact from Copenhagen two years earlier) but is still far from being agreed, far less implemented.
If we were facing imminent impact of an Asteroid from space, all countries would be working together to find the best way to avoid it hitting the earth.
The impacts of global warming over the long term could be as disastrous as an asteroid hitting the earth, however, we are unable to develop and implement an effective global agreement to address it.
Do we need a UN Global Climate Council, alongside the UN Security Council, which can develop a global strategy to reduce our global emissions as quickly as possible while enabling sustainable development?
Is this a better approach than 194 countries trying to negotiate line-by-line the details of a new protocol under the UNFCCC?
The answer is almost certainly yes; however, the likelihood of major countries such as the US, India and China agreeing to it is extremely low.
In a negotiating session in Durban on long-term global emission reductions, a senior negotiator claimed that we did not know what was needed to the increase in global average temperature below 2C above pre-industrial levels.
We do, however, know exactly what is needed to minimise the risk of exceeding 2C which is to reduce emissions as quickly as possible to as close to zero global emissions as we can get.
In other words, global emissions need to peak as soon as possible, to reduce as quickly as possible and to a level 95% or more below current levels by 2050, preferably earlier!
Required: Finance, fast
In order to achieve this, we need an unprecedented level of global cooperation and a way of equitably sharing the effort needed.
There is enough wealth in the world to fund this transition, however, we need to urgently find a way of re-directing significant global resources needed to make the transition.
Durban agreed to negotiate a new agreement by 2015 to be implemented by 2020, this is too little and too late.
It did not make any progress on increasing the level of the emission reductions to be made between now and 2020.
More ambitious short-term emission reduction targets are needed in order to maximise the probability of staying below 2C.
How we stop vested national and corporate interests getting in the way of what the planet needs to avoid dangerous global warming is the major challenge facing humanity.
Dr Ian McGregor is a Lecturer at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) and is a member of the Steering Committee of Climate Action Network Australia.
At the Durban Climate Summit, he worked as an adviser on the negotiations to one of the Least Developed Countries.