The 18th UN climate conference, hosted by Qatar, will begin this week. The Guardian (UK) asks us to think about what to expect from Doha this week and next. Their answer is that "another round of climate change talks has every chance of suffering the same fate as the others: stalemate and failure." Positive expectations would ignore the wisdom bequeathed by past experience.
The last climate conference was held in Durban, South Africa, and led to the "Durban Platform," the yawning futility of which I described in What Will The Humans Do? This post is a follow-up to that one, and also to yesterday's post Is Global Economic Growth Persistent?
Bloomberg sets up the suspenseful drama we can expect at Doha.
China, India, South Africa and Brazil said a climate agreement expected to take effect in 2020 won’t be a “new regime,” potentially setting up a confrontation with the U.S., which is seeking to eliminate a firewall in negotiations between developed and developing nations.
The four countries are reining in expectations for the Durban Platform, according to a statement released following a meeting of the so-called Basic bloc in Beijing. Delegates at United Nations treaty talks in the South African city agreed in December  that nations will hammer out a new deal to fight climate change by 2015 and implement it five years later.
The statement may set up a conflict with the U.S. at two weeks of UN climate talks that start next week in Doha, Qatar. The U.S. has said any climate deals must treat nations equally, a shift from the Kyoto Protocol that has separate terms for developed and developing countries.
“The Durban Platform is by no means a process to negotiate a new regime, nor to renegotiate, rewrite or reinterpret the convention and its principles and provisions,” the countries said, referring to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The outcome of the discussions are governed by “in particular the principles of equity.”
At last year’s discussions, the U.S. opposed inclusion of the concept of “equity” in the Durban mandate because lead envoy Todd Stern said it could be used to perpetuate a “firewall” that assigned developed countries binding emissions targets under the Kyoto Protocol, while setting no enforceable greenhouse-gas goals for big developing countries such as India and China.
On a conference call with reporters that followed the Durban talks, Stern was asked whether he’d said “if equity’s in, we’re out,” in the final discussions that crafted the mandate.
“I might have, but that’s certainly the idea,” Stern said in the Dec. 13 teleconference.
We can only be astonished that the United States has threatened not to participate in the Durban Platform, which will be decided three years from now and implemented five years later, if China and India are excluded from any action which might occur. The U.S. used this same rationale for doing nothing fifteen years ago when they refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol (now expiring) because China, India and other developing nations were not bound by it.
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose — the more things change, the more they stay the same.
And now let us touch base with Barack Obama, who made some recent remarks about combating anthropogenic climate change.
Mr. Obama then said that the issue sharply divides Democrats and Republicans, and also different regions of the country, depending on their production and consumption of energy.
But rather than propose a way to bridge those divides, the president seemed to punt. He said he would be listening to experts over the next several months and then conducting an “education process” about long-term steps to add.“There’s no doubt that for us to take on climate change in a serious way would involve making some tough political choices,” the president said. “And understandably, I think the American people right now have been so focused, and will continue to be focused on our economy and jobs and growth, that if the message is somehow we’re going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don’t think anybody is going to go for that. I won’t go for that.”
This assertion — that the nation cannot address its climate and environmental challenges while also dealing with jobs and the economy — is at odds with the approach that Mr. Obama has taken since early in his presidency. He often touted the benefits of “green jobs” as an antidote to a stalled economy, and devoted some $90 billion of his 2009 stimulus package to a variety of measures that he said would save energy, clean up the atmosphere and create jobs.
Earlier this year, Mr. Obama accused Republican critics of wrongly pitting the economy and the environment against each other.
“There will always be people in this country who say that we’ve got to choose between clean air, clean water and growing the economy, between doing right by the environment and putting people back to work,” Mr. Obama declared in March at a conference that included environmentalists, outdoorsmen and small business owners.
“I’m here to tell you this is a false choice,” he said.
President Obama has changed his tune. With no more election battles to wage, he has decided to tell us the truth, which he has no doubt known all along. The choice between economic growth and a liveable planet is not false. This is one case where the issue is indeed Black Or White. There is no in-between. You can not have your cake and eat it too.
U.S. climate negotiator Todd Stern doesn't say much, but he did say this recently—
Hardened climate observers will be watching whether Todd Stern, the state department climate envoy, reaffirms America's commitment to the climate platform reached in Durban last year — including a core goal of limiting warming to 2C.Some campaigners fear America is backing off from that promise, following a speech at Dartmouth University earlier this year in which Stern said signing on to the 2°Centrigrade goal was unrealistic for some countries.
Unrealistic for some countries? Like the United States, for example?
"It makes perfect sense on paper. The trouble is it ignores the classic lesson that politics — including international politics — is the art of the possible," Stern said in the speech.
"If countries are told that, in order to reach a global goal, they must accept targets their leadership sees as contrary to their core interest in growth and development those countries are likely to say no."
Not only are they likely to say No, they are certain to say No. That is the point I made in yesterday's post. And if the humans all of a sudden start saying Yes, then my hypothesis that the urge to grow populations and economies is an unalterable biological imperative would be falsified. That hypothesis would be wrong. One of the main premises of this blog would be wrong. I would write a post saying I have been wrong.
I would have to eat crow.
But I don't have to write that post yet. And I predict I will never have to write it.