Wednesday, December 30, 2009

souvenir of copenhagen

I said I'd do a deeper analysis on Copenhagen, but frankly I've had to get up to speed on the talks and deals retrospectively.

Once the new year shenanigans are out the way I'll write up the stuff I did and saw while there, although I know that's not the important stuff. Stories of frontline troops are interesting, but they're not to be mistaken for being a microcosm of the war, let alone an overview.

Thing is, all the stuff that needs to be said about the talks has been said well by others and I've not much really to add. So go check out a few of them.

If you only read one, read Jess Worth's piece for New Internationalist. She was inside the talks the whole time, and tells the story with characteristic clarity, incisiveness and succinctness.

George Marshall writes about how the strong NGO presence gives the talks a legitimacy that they don't deserve.

Picking through the aftermath and debunking the 'blame China' mantra, Martin Khor writes about the stitch-up by the rich nations that ensured the collapse of the talks.

The accord itself is weak mainly because it does not contain any commitments by the developed countries to cut their emissions in the medium term. Perhaps the reason for this most glaring omission is that the national pledges so far announced amount to only a 11-19% overall reduction by the developed countries by 2020 (compared to 1990), a far cry from the over 40% target demanded by the developing countries and recent science.

To deflect from this great failure on their part, the developed countries tried to inject long-term emission-reduction goals of 50% for the world and 80% for themselves, by 2050 compared to 1990. When this failed to get through the 26-country meeting, some countries, especially the UK, began to blame China for the failure of Copenhagen.

It's expanded upon by George Monbiot

The immediate reason for the failure of the talks can be summarised in two words: Barack Obama. The man elected to put aside childish things proved to be as susceptible to immediate self-interest as any other politician. Just as George Bush did in the approach to the Iraq war, Obama went behind the backs of the UN and most of its member states and assembled a coalition of the willing to strike a deal which outraged the rest of the world. This was then presented to poorer nations without negotiation; either they signed it or they lost the adaptation funds required to help them survive the first few decades of climate breakdown.

The British and American governments have blamed the Chinese government for the failure of the talks. It’s true that the Chinese worked hard to mess them up, but Obama also put Beijing in an impossible position. He demanded concessions while offering nothing. He must have known the importance of not losing face in Chinese politics: his unilateral diplomacy amounted to a demand for self-abasement. My guess is that this was a calculated manoeuvre guaranteed to produce instransigence, whereupon China could be blamed for the outcome he wanted.

And if we couldn't bring home a legally binding treaty commensurate with the science, what souvenirs were there to be had? My favourite was a freebie from Air France. They'd covered thousands of parked bikes with seat covers:

Air France bike seat cover

Good, you are cycling! Going further? Then fly green, fly with Air France - the greenest airline five years in a row.

This is a piece of plastic promoting aviation, pretending to be something that's helping us take climate change seriously. I think it'd have been more appropriate to print it with 'My ruling elite went to Copenhagen and all they got me was this lousy seat cover'.


Paul said...

I read the Jess Worth thing, and I read Mark Lynas' piece from inside the conference.

Were they at the same event?

Derek Wall said...

my post copenhagen new years resolutions here

keep up with the blogging, you are definately at the more thoughtful end when it comes to green strategy

Jim Bliss said...

There's a news story on the BBC website with a headline that -- in six words -- tells you all you need to know about the Copenhagen summit... Copenhagen climate deal 'satisfies' Saudi Arabia, it reads. Sums it up really.

merrick said...


that would be the same Saudi Arabia whose lead negotiator at Copenhagen said, a week before the talks, in the aftermath of the UEA email leak:

"It appears from the details of the scandal that there is no relationship whatsoever between human activities and climate change. Climate is changing for thousands of years, but for natural and not human-induced reasons. So, whatever the international community does to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will have no effect on the climate's natural variability."