And now for the good news on climate change.
First, an excerpt from the New York Times yesterday. We join Bono, a contributing columnist at the Times, as he’s setting out a list of 10 ideas that might make the next 10 years “more interesting, healthy or civil” – ideas which “have little in common with one another except that I am seized by each, and moved by its potential to change our world.” Here’s number 3:
In the recent climate talks in Copenhagen, it was no surprise that developing countries objected to taking their feet off the pedal of their own carbon-paced growth; after all, they played little part in building the congested eight-lane highway of a problem that the world faces now.
One smart suggestion I’ve heard, sort of a riff on cap-and-trade, is that each person has an equal right to pollute and that there might somehow be a way to monetize this. By this accounting, your average Ethiopian can sell her underpolluting ways (people in Ethiopia emit about 0.1 ton of carbon a year) to the average American (about 20 tons a year) and use the proceeds to deal with the effects of climate change (like drought), educate her kids and send them to university. (Trust in capitalism — we’ll find a way.) As a mild green, I like the idea, though it’s controversial in militant, khaki-green quarters. And yes, real economists would prefer to tax carbon at the source, but so far the political will is not there. If it were me, I’d close the deal before the rising nations want it backdated.
Bono just endorsed contraction and convergence – a big deal, for three reasons. (more…)
Mark Lynas in today’s Guardian:
The truth is this: China wrecked the talks, intentionally humiliated Barack Obama, and insisted on an awful “deal” so western leaders would walk away carrying the blame. How do I know this? Because I was in the room and saw it happen.
China’s strategy was simple: block the open negotiations for two weeks, and then ensure that the closed-door deal made it look as if the west had failed the world’s poor once again. And sure enough, the aid agencies, civil society movements and environmental groups all took the bait. The failure was “the inevitable result of rich countries refusing adequately and fairly to shoulder their overwhelming responsibility”, said Christian Aid. “Rich countries have bullied developing nations,” fumed Friends of the Earth International.
All very predictable, but the complete opposite of the truth. Even George Monbiot, writing in yesterday’s Guardian, made the mistake of singly blaming Obama. But I saw Obama fighting desperately to salvage a deal, and the Chinese delegate saying “no”, over and over again. Monbiot even approvingly quoted the Sudanese delegate Lumumba Di-Aping, who denounced the Copenhagen accord as “a suicide pact, an incineration pact, in order to maintain the economic dominance of a few countries”.
Sudan behaves at the talks as a puppet of China; one of a number of countries that relieves the Chinese delegation of having to fight its battles in open sessions. It was a perfect stitch-up. China gutted the deal behind the scenes, and then left its proxies to savage it in public.
Meanwhile, the FT observes, cracks are starting to appear among the emerging economies:
Cracks emerged on Tuesday in the alliance on climate change formed at the Copenhagen conference last week, with leading developing countries criticising the resulting accord.The so-called Basic countries – Brazil, South Africa, India and China – backed the accord in a meeting with the US on Friday night, and it was also supported by almost all other nations at the talks, including all of the biggest emitters.
But on Tuesday the Brazilian government labelled the accord “disappointing” and complained that the financial assistance it contained from rich to poor countries was insufficient. South Africa also raised objections: Buyelwa Sonjica, the environment minister, called the failure to produce a legally binding agreement “unacceptable”. She said her government had considered leaving the meeting. “We are not defending this, as I have indicated, for us it is not acceptable, it is definitely not acceptable,” she said.
Today, the Brookings Institution publishes Hitting Reboot – a new paper from Alex and I reviewing climate policy in the aftermath of Copenhagen.
The picture is a bleak one – there’s no point pretending otherwise. Copenhagen took us only a little further than Bali, despite two years of negotiations. In some crucial aspects, we actually seem further away from a robust and comprehensive climate deal than we were in 2007.
Rather than hitting the brakes, however, we argue that deal-makers need to steer into the skid – upping the level of ambition. Climate isn’t a problem that can simply be put on pause.
Believe the science (and most still do), and you have little choice but to find new ways of bringing countries into some kind of binding agreement to control emissions.
That means finally getting countries to lay all their cards out on the table. Copenhagen failed, in part, because governments were far too slow to level with each other about what they really wanted. They spent two years pussy-footing around – and were then surprised when it proved difficult to engage in Copenhagen’s frenetic last few days.
How can we ever get to a deal when it’s considered perfectly acceptable to talk about rigorous (and often unachievable) targets for 2050 – but a faux pas to talk about the tough decisions and painful trade offs that need to be taken over the next few years if the climate is to be pushed onto any stabilisation trajectory?
That’s why much of our report is about getting back to the basics – taking 2ºC as a starting point, and then building up the blocks that are needed to seize the increasingly slim chance of making that aspiration a reality. (more…)
“This agreement is a vital step forward for the whole world,” Gordon Brown after the Bali climate summit in December 2007.
“This is the first step we are taking towards a green and low carbon future for the world,” Gordon Brown after the Copenhagen climate summit in December 2009.
“A pivotal first step toward an agreement that can address the threat of climate change,” Ban Ki-Moon after the Bali climate summit in December 2007.
“It is a step in the right direction,” Ban Ki-Moon after the Copenhagen climate summit in December 2009.
So here’s a very rough first analysis of the Copenhagen outcome.
Of the three Copenfailure scenarios David and I outlined, we think this morning’s Copenhagen Accord is closest to a very, very weak version of Bali #2. On that basis, here are 10 initial thoughts on what happened, where we go next, and how countries performed at the summit.
1. Don’t Panic.
2. We need to own up to how weak and ineffective deal-makers have been.
3. We also need to face the fact that the international system for dealing with climate is broken.
4. With this said, as UN Assistant Secretary-General Bob Orr observed in a press conference this morning, the head of governmment level engagement was “the most genuine negotiation I’ve ever seen between leaders”.
5. The main thing deal-makers need to do now remains: be brave, and steer into the skid.
With regard to countries’ positioning:
6. The US is still all about domestic legislation – which is as far away as ever.
7. The EU had a shocking summit, captured for all to see in its exclusion from the closing hours caucus of US, China, India, South Africa and Brazil. The open question of whether any hypothetical deal would have been bad enough for the EU to reject it did nothing whatsoever to enhance EU influence.
8. Appeasing China has failed. Period.
9. Much of the G77 participated in its own shafting – a point seen most clearly in Sudan’s chairmanship of the bloc.
10. But there are some weak signals of fragmentation in the G77 – seen most clearly in the case of the Maldives, which showed real determination in standing up to China.