24 hours to go to the EU top jobs summit…

…and things are turning nasty, according to the Economist’s Charlemagne:

To my surprise, a dominant mood in this final stretch is one of hostility towards the Swedish presidency and specifically, the Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.

If the briefing, which comes from several EU governments, were just sniping about incompetence, I would not be so surprised: every rotating presidency is criticised before every big summit, because everything always looks like a mess before every crunch meeting of the EU. It is only when summits are over and the results are known, that you can really judge the role played by its hosts.

No, what takes me aback is the level of “distrust” out there about Mr Reinfeldt, to use the word chosen by a senior figure from one EU country. There are veiled hints that he is using his role as chairman of the selection process in a way that is not wholly straightforward.

Specifically, there is grumbling about Mr Reinfeldt’s decision to seek a very short list of candidates to put to EU leaders at their emergency summit, consisting of one or two names who enjoy near consensus before discussions even start. The thing about this system, it is alleged, is that it gives Mr Reinfeldt extraordinary power over the process, because once a candidate attracts any opposition, that candidate can be chucked off the shortlist as “failing to create consensus”. The accusation from some camps is that candidates are being chucked off too quickly, when the opposition to them might not be as hard and fast as all that. Nobody is quite accusing Mr Reinfeldt of using this system to kick people off the shortlist who he himself does not favour, but they are coming pretty close.

International cooperation – the book!

We don’t just blog. Some of us edit books.  Old school!

Cambridge University Press has just published Cooperating for Peace and Security, a guide to all types of security cooperation since the Cold War.  It’s edited by Bruce Jones, Shep Forman and me and – despite being $85 – is basically the answer to all your Christmas present problems. 

It includes a great range of authors (Mats Berdal, Barnett Rubin, Stephen Stedman, Sting…  OK, not Sting) on everything from NATO to biosecurity.

So go out and buy it.

There goes the [global] neighbourhood

Front page splash on The Times this morning:

Less than half the population believes that human activity is to blame for global warming, according to an exclusive poll for The Times.

Only 41 per cent accept as an established scientific fact that global warming is taking place and is largely man-made. Almost a third (32 per cent) believe that the link is not yet proved; 8 per cent say that it is environmentalist propaganda to blame man and 15 per cent say that the world is not warming.

Tory voters are more likely to doubt the scientific evidence that man is to blame. Only 38 per cent accept it, compared with 45 per cent of Labour supporters and 47 per cent of Liberal Democrat voters.

Similarly depressing polling data a month ago in an FT / Harris poll:

Fewer than a third of people in the UK and only one in five in the US were in favour of developed countries offering aid to the developing world to help them adapt to the effects of global warming, the Harris poll showed.

In the US there was strong opposition to such aid – four in 10 people were against, compared with about a quarter in the UK, and 17-19 per cent in continental Europe.

From the same poll:

When it came to apportioning the burden of cutting emissions, people were clear that China, as the world’s biggest emitter, must make most of the effort required.

A majority in all countries was in favour – 63 per cent in the UK and the US, with higher percentages in mainland Europe – and fewer than 10 per cent in each country disagreed.

On the web: Obama’s Asia tour, the EU’s world role, and Pakistan’s nuclear security…

– With President Obama embarking on his visit to Asia, John Plender examines the nature of China’s challenge to US dominance. Cheng Li and Jordan Lee suggest what the President has to do in striking the right tone for US-China relations going forward. Kishore Mahubani, meanwhile, views Asia’s rise through the prism of Francis Fukuyama’s End of History twenty years on.

– In a wide-ranging interview with Der Spiegel, Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev talks about Stalin, democracy and the rule of law, his relationship with Vladimir Putin, and ongoing Western entanglement in Afghanistan.

– Elsewhere, Stefan Theil argues that, aided by the financial crisis, the EU’s global standing is on the rise:

“The EU’s modus operandi — sharing power, hammering out agreements, resolving conflict by endless committee — can be boring and even frustrating to watch”, he argues, “[b]ut in an increasingly networked and interdependent world, it has become the global standard.”

Julian Priestley, meanwhile, suggests four conditions if the EU is to get the most from its “institutional architecture”.

– Finally, writing in the New Yorker, Seymour Hersh explores US concerns about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal amid growing instability.

The EPA ‘whistleblower’ YouTube

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This video, by Laurie Williams and Allan Zabel, two veteran Environmental Protection Agency staffers based in California who specialise in emissions trading, is causing a small commotion in the US – as the EPA has now demanded that they either remove, or substantially re-edit the film.

Writing as someone who’s also done a stint in officialdom working on emissions trading (though only of a few months rather than Williams and Zabel’s few decades between them – I was seconded in to Defra in 2002 to co-ordinate the offsets part of the now defunct UK Emissions Trading Scheme), I think they are totally right about the disastrous train crash that is allowing ‘offset’ permits in to cap-and-trade schemes (see this post I did back in September arguing same).  And they’re also right that phase 1 of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme ended up giving windfalls to utility companies for no real emissions cuts.

But I think these are arguments for doing cap-and-trade properly, rather than doing away with it altogether. The critique about utility windfalls can be dealt with fairly easily, I think: the EU should have auctioned permits rather than giving them away.  But the bigger issue is the one about the use of offsets – either at US or at global level.

As they point out, the problem with offsets like Kyoto’s Clean Development Mechanism is that they’re based on the idea that even if you don’t have a cap, you can still do the trade part.  If you’re wondering how the verification happens – to make sure that what you trade is a real emissions reduction – well, so am I. It’s all to do with comparing what did happen with what you think might have happened otherwise, and is hence an exercise in guesswork.

So these offsets shouldn’t be included in US climate legislation.  Even more fundamentally, countries that don’t have binding targets should not be involved in international emissions trading – period.  It’s a recipe for disaster to allow permits from inherently unverifiable projects in developing countries in to the system, and then allow developed countries to claim them as their own “emissions savings”.

The still larger issue is that you can’t solve a global problem with a less-than-global solution – so any “solution” to climate change that lacks targets for developing countries simply isn’t a solution, however compelling the equity arguments.

Of course, developing countries don’t want binding targets – but equally, they don’t want to lose the chance to profit from emissions trading.  This, ultimately, is why we’re in the mess we’re in with the CDM: developing countries were concerned that assets were being shared out and that they weren’t getting any (an analysis that was 100% correct), so the CDM was dreamt up as a way of keeping them happy.  Alas, it came at a high price in environmental integrity terms.

What should we be doing instead? Well, it’s logically very simple: binding caps for all countries, everyone gets to take part in cap and trade, and the global emissions budget is shared out according to some equitable formula (for my money, equal per capita entitlements by some future date – but ultimately, whatever policymakers can agree on is fine by me; the key thing is just to share the damn thing out and get on with it). 

Alas, no-one at Copenhagen is talking about these kinds of brass tacks, and it looks a racing certainty that the awful CDM will be with us for a while yet.  If policymakers are really hellbent on another round of the offsets gravy train, then it may be that the presenters of this video are right, and that a revenue-neutral carbon tax might be the best option.

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