The Road to Copenhagen

Another news-packed MCFly will be hitting your email inboxes on Sunday 22nd November. In the meantime, when not sweating blood over Chomsky at 80, the upcoming one-day event in central Manchester, I’ve had a read of a couple of very interesting articles about the climate negotiations that are supposed to culminate with a Global Deal in December 2009.

Fiona Harvey, environment reporter for the Financial Times, wrote a piece published on September 15 entitled “Divided We Stand” The links are added by MCFly.

“The next major step in the UN negotiation process is a conference in December at Poznan, Poland. But although this conference will be the last major meeting before the climax of talks in Copenhagen, it is unlikely to produce any notable breakthrough.

People are not going to give away their real negotiating position at this stage,” says Eileen Claussen, president of the Washington-based Pew Centre on Global Climate Change. “The negotiations are hardly moving at all.

Ms Claussen is further quoted as saying “My own experience [as a Whitehouse adviser on climate change under Bill Clinton] suggsts that it takes at least six months for senior policy people to be confirmed in place…. Then they have to go through the policy process. The odds of a detailed US position before the fall of 2009 are pretty small.

However, since then, Obama has won t’election, and as Ed Luce of the FT points out, he isn’t making the same sorts of foul-ups with his transition that Bubba did

The second piece is also from a Pew Centre bod, and also from the pre-election period (October 22, to be precise). Eliot Diringer writes in “The US Election and Prospects for a New Climate Agreement”

The new U.S. administration will likely not be in a position to agree to a specific emissions target when governments meet in Copenhagen. That can happen only when Congress has enacted (or is on the verge of enacting) legislation setting firm limits on U.S. emissions. Beyond the question of timing, however, is the level of effort the United States is likely to undertake. One quandary is that targets that appear quite ambitious from a U.S. perspective would still be far short of what Europe is calling for.

And further, “the U.S. target will be largely a function of the domestic debate, not international pressure, and is unlikely to deviate significantly from the numbers now before Congress.

So Diringer argues “developing countries will not be prepared to enter into such commitments before the United States assumes a binding international target, which, again, is highly unlikely in Copenhagen. Under these circumstances, the best plausible outcome for Copenhagen may be an intermediary agreement outlining the key elements of a post-2012 framework- for instance, binding economy-wide targets for developed coutnries, policy commitments for the major emerging economies, and support mechanisms for technology, finance, and adaptation in developing countries. This would then serve as the basis for further negotiations on details such as specific target and funding levels. An intermediary framework agreement will be most credible, and most likely to induce developing country commitments, if it includes an agreed range for developing country targets, making it imperative that the US-EU gap be bridged in Copenhagen…. Instead of a full and final deal in Copenhagen, we must aim for what is in fact feasible, and set expectations now so that it is received as a success. The risks and consequences of failure are otherwise far too great.

Obama is a smart guy, and he seems to know what is at stake. He has sent a video message to Ahnold Schwarzenegger’s Climate Conference promising quick action.

One more FT quote, this time from Mike Scott on Monday 17 November:

“Clean energy is also proving to be a convenient policy tool, as it addresses four major issues that dominated the election campaign: energy security, the economy, employment and climate change,” says Lord Stern, now vice-chairman of IdeaCarbon, the carbon ratings agency.
A little noticed aspect of the US Treasury’s $700bn bail-out plan was the inclusion of a number of measures designed to boost clean energy including the extension of tax credits for the solar and wind industries and measures to boost carbon capture and storage.”

There’s a new Congressional House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman too, Henry Waxman, which informed commentators think is a Good Thing.

Things to remember– despite all this talk, or talking about talking, and all the “good intentions”, emissions still climb, and we build the infrastructure to lock us into continued high emissions. Recent work by Manchester-based academics Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows has shown this to be a remarkably stupid thing for a species that bills itself as “sapiens” to do.

Contraction and Convergence
might actually have given us a chance to sort all this out, but we’re now looking at accelerated sink failure and- as Margaret Atwood put it- a Pending Ecological Debacle. There is no such thing as a free lunch- someone, somewhere, always has to pay. Until now the West has been able to throw that bill at some Other. Not for much longer, not for much longer…

Thanks to Olive Heffernan of Nature Climate Feedbacks for bringing both of the Pew articles to my attention

See also
Climate Progress
Beyond Copenhagen Complete with pictures of the Little Mermaid before and after the icecaps melt…

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About dwighttowers

Below the surface...
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