22 Dec 09 Eddie's Blog Global

Climate Summit at Copenhagen:

The following quote is from one of the documents I receive every day, “Nopenhagen, fiascopenhagen, slowpenhagen, COP out, flop COP, bad COP, the great disappointment. Call it what you will, but under no reasonable interpretations did the climate conference in Copenhagen (COP15) end as a success.”

On the surface this is what happened, but………

It is a good thing that the medium is the message. It is hard to believe that 130 world leaders were assembled in Denmark, and that they came to discuss what for most of them was not day to day business. These leaders usually live day to day. They are always afraid of what the papers and the other media will say about them.

But they came.

They did very little else. If it had been a business meeting it would have been a complete failure. If you don’t measure it you can’t manage it. If you don’t set achievable targets everyone is given the excuse to fail to achieve them. And in particular if you don’t spell out the first few steps with great precision nothing will happen.

Perforce Copenhagen has to be seen as a step on the road. It is not the road, and no-one is sure where it is going. But I think that the leaders realize that there is a road there. What brought most of them there was the realization of what climate was doing to their countries. We know for instance that the Republic of South Africa is keenly aware of the drought being caused by global warming. It is also aware of the destruction of species, and the inevitable effect climate change will have on their economy.

On the bleak side it can be said that Kyoto has been replaced with ………….nothing. No new treaty. Indeed there was almost a reinforcement of national identity. President Obama realizes that he doesn’t have the power to effect massive change, so he did what he usually does best, he spoke great rhetoric. The infinite sink that economists formerly assumed the environment to be, is alive and well and living in the minds of most of the Senators in the U.S. congress. The President knew he couldn’t get a two thirds majority from Congress to ratify new climate change treaty. His very attendance there was due to the attendance of China. After his diplomats went to India two months ago, and were rebuffed there about coal burning, he let it be known that he would not be in attendance at Copenhagen. However after visiting China, and realizing that they were going to Copenhagen to do business there, he changed his mind.

When Mr. Zhou Enlai, (b March 1898, d Jan 1976) the former Chinese Prime Minister was asked whether he thought the French Revolution had been a success he said “it is too early to tell.” I think we, in similar manner have to make the same reply about Copenhagen. The world assembled, and appeared to do nothing. But it did assemble. It also decided to set up a fund to pay poor nations not to chop down trees. There would be technology transfer from rich to poor to help countries adapt to climate change. There was little by way of timetable and little by way of hard cash backing these initiatives. Hard cash was mentioned insofar as there was agreement for rich nations to provide $30bn by 2010 and $100bn by 2020 to help poor countries adapt to climate change, but there was no agreement as to where this money was going to come from. Indeed there was no timetable for turning the Copenhagen Accord into an international treaty.

Europe played a leading role throughout. As someone who campaigned hard for an Irish yes vote on the Lisbon treaty I was proud of our EU. Civilization is alive and well and living here. Gordon Brown tried his best, as did the Germans, but their actions had already spoken louder than any words they might utter at the Summit.

If you are a European or a Chinese, then I think that, from the purely selfish view, our economies will be improved by this Copenhagen Accord in the short term. We will develop the new climate abatement technology anyway and we will sell it to ourselves and to anyone else who wants to purchase it. If we accept the science, and it’s veracity needs no elaboration here, then the world should be our oyster. The US has effectively missed the boat on this wave of technology innovation. The lawmakers there have to find their own way to deal with the vested interests that deny the science. This undoubtedly will happen. Science must eventually win out. Even though the Earth looks flat, and a vote would probably have confirmed that view in 1550, the fact that it is round must surface in time.

The losers are the poor world. To do anything like the Indians are proposing, and to build their electricity generating from coal, is a short term and a stupid decision. India will have to rebuild it all again from sustainable plant long before the coal fired generating stations have run their full course. It will cost them more and it will divert money from other places.