Correction- it’s the EU that’s the climate deadweight

Interesting to compare my post from earlier (“anger at America’s free pass“) with Kevin Grandia’s take. Writing from the Bangkok talks, he points an accusing finger at the EU for its failure to make any meaningful commitment to binding targets:

The only developed country to make a real commitment to a hard cap is Norway, who announced yesterday that will commit to a forty-percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2020. It’s worth pointing out that Norway is not part of the European Union.

I have to admit to being slightly bemused by Kevin’s argument. At Bali, all members of the Kyoto club agreed that, ‘as a group’, they must cut emissions by 25–40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. The US, of course, was not in the room for the negotiation.

The EU is already committed to reducing its own emissions by 20% in 2020 against 1990 levels, the Kyoto benchmark year. Since well before Bali, it has explicitly stated that it would take on a 30% target if other countries make comparable efforts.

In contrast, the US is attempting to legislate at home on an agreement that would see its emissions return to 1990 levels by 2020, but does not yet seem to be in a position to take on any binding international target.

So that’s a possible 0% from the US vs a hard(ish) 20% from the EU, and a possible 30%. Seems quite a big difference to me. Or perhaps, Kevin, I am missing something?

Climate – anger at America’s free pass

I was talking to a friend about the Copenhagen climate summit the other day.

She was aghast – and angry – that, even in a best case deal, the United States will take on an emissions target that is no more onerous than that given to the European Union (and may be considerably less so).

US emissions have shot up during the Kyoto years, with the average American now accounting for twice the emissions of his/her European counterpart. But EU negotiators are so desperate to have the US rejoin the party that they’ll swallow more or less any commitment that their US counterparts are prepared to put on the table.

My friend’s visceral reaction is evidence, I think, that outside the ‘climate bubble’, citizens in European countries have not even begun to ask themselves what a fair deal on climate looks like.

This creates a real chance of a backlash when they finally work out that the United States expects to be allowed to continue to emit more than Europe for the next thirty or forty years – and possibly for much longer.

That’s why John Kerry got all hot under the collar when I asked him at Bali whether all countries should be heading for similar levels of emissions per head, dismissing those who insisted on playing what he called ‘the per capita game’.

It’s also why American politicians obsess over the fact the China now emits more than the US, but fail to remind their audiences that there are more than four Chinese for every American.

Past form would suggest that European governments will be meek, mild and biddable in Copenhagen, doing everything they can to make Barack Obama’s life as easy as possible. But it would be a mistake for them to be too supine.

After all, no-one respects weakness, especially Americans. And European citizens will have no hesitation in knifing their governments, when they work out that they didn’t even try to get its transatlantic cousins to finally begin to pull their weight.

German government goes batsh*t crazy

What on earth does the German government think it’s doing? According to the Sunday Times, its diplomats are briefing journalists that it trying to ensure Czech President, Vaclav Klaus, is impeached for failing to ratify the Lisbon treaty.

In recent years, Klaus has carved out quite a niche for himself, trolling other governments on climate change, European integration and a host of other issues. His latest trick is declare that Lisbon will leave the Czech republic open to legal claims from 3.5 million ethnic Germans expelled at the end of the second world war – a red line he somehow forgot to mention before now.

As he clearly hoped, other European governments have responded furiously. But the German reaction must be beyond his wildest dreams – an insane suggestion that he should be impeached on the grounds of, wait for it, high treason.

The Times has even managed to find a German diplomat dumb enough to give the following quote (whose idiocy is such that I wonder whether the paper simply made it up)::

If the president is obstructing the democratic process and opposing the decision of parliament as well as the will of the people, he is moving beyond the law and will need to face the consequences.

Assuming the quote checks out, I can’t even begin to imagine why the Germans would allow themselves to be caught so obviously bullying a neighbour.

After all, it’s not as if they don’t have form. As the Times points out, “A comparison is being drawn in Prague [between Klaus and] Edvard Benes, the pre-war Czech leader who in 1938 had to flee to Britain after refusing to cede territory to Hitler under the Munich agreement.”

Obama’s December: deity or damaged goods?

Obama: We Need Global Emissions to Peak Now

While I still hope Obama’s team will tell him to turn down the Nobel Peace Prize (see my earlier post), that now looks unlikely.His initial reaction doesn’t leave much wriggle room (“humbled to be selected” etc). Given that he was woken in the early hours to be told the news, one wonders whether this was the 3 am call that Hillary tried to warn us all about.

So let’s look forward to Obama’s December, which could progress along two dramatically different paths. Here’s the key dates:

December 7: Copenhagen climate summit opens.

December 10: 300 miles away, Obama arrives in Oslo to give his Peace prize acceptance speech.

December 16: Copenhagen’s high level segment starts (the bit Ban-Ki Moon, Ministers and some heads of state pitch up for – Gordon Brown is confirmed, other are under pressure to turn up).

December 18: Copenhagen concludes – with a deal (triumphant headlines) or no deal (major league acrimony).

So by Christmas, two scenarios – one that will see the President attain mythical status before his first anniversary in office; the other will fuel claims that he is already a busted flush:

Obama’s best case: Health care passed. Nobel prize accepted to great acclaim. Climate change deal sealed (now an outside chance, that is certain to require Obama’s personal intervention).

His worst case: No health care. Copenhagen talks have collapsed. Remorseless mockery for Obama’s Nobel. The IOC’s snub to Chicago’s Olympics dream (also delivered in Copenhagen) now seen as portent for what was to come.

So hold tight Mr President. December is going to be quite a ride.

Nobel Peace Prize – just say no! (update x5)

Early reactions to Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize are almost universally negative. I agree. The decision is absurd.

I’d love to be in the White House now. How does the President react? What can he possibly say that won’t make him look vain and narcissistic? Also – when was he informed? Did his team know this was coming? Was there anything they could do to head it off?

If I was one of his advisers, I’d currently be writing a speech that started something like this:

Today, the Nobel Peace Prize committee made a decision that places an enormous, but welcome, burden on my shoulders. They hope that I can be part of a new global effort to achieve a nuclear free world. This goal is of paramount importance to our future, and that of our descendants, and I would like to thank the committee for recognizing that fact.

There is still a great deal of work to be done, however. We are at the beginning of what will be a long and difficult journey. That is why, after much soul searching, I have decided that I must decline the honour that has been offered to me and ask that it be awarded to a more deserving beneficiary – one whose contribution to peace is in the past, not the future.

Perhaps, in ten, twenty or thirty years’ time, I will be truly worthy of a prize that has such an illustrious history. Today’s news has inspired me to redouble my efforts to make sure that is the case.

Update: Loren Feldman: “In office for 11 days when nominations closed. The fix was in. A sad day for the whole world. Shameful.”

Update II: Just done an interview for ABC News on why Obama should decline. Cashewman is thinking along similar lines.

Update III: This tweet seems to be going viral: “BREAKING NEWS on Obama’s Nobel prize. Turns out it was awarded for making peace with Hillary Clinton.”

Update IV: Looks like he’s going to accept it – big big mistake, I say:

U.S. President Barack Obama felt humbled to have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, a senior administration official said.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs called before dawn and woke Obama with the news that he had won the prestigious honor which was announced in Oslo at 5 a.m. EDT (0900 GMT). “The president was humbled to be selected by the committee,” the official said.

When told in an e-mail from Reuters that many people around the world were stunned by the announcement, Obama’s senior adviser, David Axelrod, responded, “As are we.”

Update V: Here’s an interesting wrinkle. Obama will be accepting his Nobel Prize in Oslo on December 10, just as the climate talks get under way a few hundred miles down the road in Copenhagen.

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