11 December 2007

Breaking down in Bali

All's not well at the UNFCCC conference in Bali. News reports suggest that the negotiations to create a roadmap for the post-Kyoto climate agreements are becoming bogged down. It would seem that the various nations of the world have come with their set-in-stone predetermined positions rather than coming to honestly negotiate. And they aren't moving from those positions.

Following the findings of the IPCC, the draft UN resolution is calling for industrialized nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25-40% by 2020.In the same objections we we have all heard before, the Canadians (with support the US) have said:

"The agreement should include binding emission reduction targets for all major emitters.

"Developed countries should be required to take action more quickly, but major industrialised developing countries should also have binding targets."

And the pro forma response from the developing nations is that their per-capita emissions are a long way below western levels, and that taking on targets would slow their economic growth.

Stop me if you've heard this before...

Of course, the US -- the prime supporter for the exploitative capitalism which has done so much of the damage -– is acting to undermine the talks, pushing to hold their own, separate meetings. They have, along with the EU, also pushed for a lowering of trade barriers for so-called green goods to gain access to markets. All for their advantage, of course.

It is particularly sad to see Australia's (apparent) complicity in all of this. While ratifying Kyoto was a good thing, new PM Rudd had rapidly backed off election promises to set emissions targets,while blaming the previous government for their inaction on the issue. It is especially disheartening because one of his main agenda items was making a difference on climate issues. But it looks like the same old game so far...

I don't want to be completely cynical as the conference isn't over yet, but basically it looks like we humans are going to pursue our great 'carbon dioxide enhancement experiment' to the bitter end. Some climate scientists also see an agreement as unachievable. The early warning signs aren't enough to make us realize the harm we are doing. Instead we hold out faint hopes that technology or the Sun will somehow save us. I suppose that, like a train wreck or some natural calamity, raises unfolding climate change makes for fascinating 'disaster porn', as well as unveiling some fascinating scientific questions. But I'd personally rather not be titillated in that way, and there are lots of other scientific enqueries to make.

Solving the issue all comes down to economics. A fundamental problem of our society is that we live our lives in servitude to an malignant economy that has been specifically constructed to externalize costs to the greater environment. Nothing matters but the financial bottom line. Little penalty is applied in our current system for destruction of our 'natural capital', be it air, land or sea. A healthy economy should serve our needs, not vice versa. Further, we are conditioned through relentless advertising to consume at all costs in a futile attempt to fulfill our otherwise meaningless existence. Community and family have become unimportant, replaced by extreme competition. This is all completely artificial, a man-made construct. It doesn't have to be this way. Taking back the world from the bankers and the economists is a key step to repairing the environmental damage to our world. I don't know what comes after, but it's got to be better than leaving our children a legacy of social chaos, a disaster-plagued landscape and an ocean full of nothing but jellyfish.


Jai said...

Getting any two or more parties to agree on anything is an act of negotiation. No-one at the IPCC or UNFCC appears to see this.

If they (the scientists and UN'ers) state (rightly or wrongly) that doing 'X' will fix the problem, no government will sign-up for it politically unless
a) they can convince the public of the COST/benefit
and more importanlty
b) they can be sure of holding to any measurable commitments.

Reducing CO2 by 1% is a 'vague' target. It does tell how it will be achieved.
Reducing Co2 by 40% has to be an unrealistic target. Common sense says no government will sign for that.

The key point on negotiation is to get agreement to do something as a first step.
Dont fix the big problem.
Take the first step.

CL said...

Thanks for the comment...

These aren't even binding negotiations, though. More along the lines of 'We'd like to see this happen...'. The final treaty won't be negotiated until 2009. Everyone just seems completely stubborn on this, with little willingness to compromise, even at this early non-binding stage. You have to move from your initial position to negotiate. You gotta give to get...

You're right, though...40% is probably a bit unrealistic, given that the 'first step'--Kyoto-- hasn't worked out especially well to date...Still, desperate times call for desperate measures...Even simple austerity measures like energy conservation would be a good first step, and can go a fair way towards a solution.

We have to do something. Fatalism is easy, but not really acceptable.