Never a good time for a climate deal


Flickr user aturkus

Flickr user aturkus

Over at (the truly excellent) Clusterstock, Jay Yarrow notes that US car-markers are complaining bitterly about being forced to cut their fleet’s emissions.

The crippled industry, which we’ve already pumped full of cash, just can’t support changing its production. Big beefy SUVs and light trucks are profitable, compact cars are not. Gasoline is oversupplied, the economy’s in a rut, fewer people are buying hybrids. General Motors just laid off 2,000 workers yesterday. The timing is not right for tougher emission standards.

“When exactly will the timing be right for a shift in fuel standards?” Yarrow asks. “When the economy is flying high? Like it was just a few years ago and nothing changed? Or when gas prices spike again and it’s too late?”

I made a similar point in last week’s talk at the United Nations University. In the boom years of 2000-2006, global emissions shot up by 2.6% a year – blowing to bits the figure of 1% that Stern used in his models. Reflecting on these trends, Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows argued that:

It is difficult to envisage anything other than a planned economic recession being compatible with stabilization at or below 650ppm.

But now we have that recession (not planned of course), falling energy demand, and a breathing space where global emissions are likely to decline. Will leaders use the opportunity to do a global climate deal? Or will they listen to their industrial lobbies and decide that tomorrow (or the day after that) will surely be a better time?