Another Climate Confab Going Down in Flames?

  • Date: 29/11/12
  • Walter Russel Mead, Via Meadia

The latest round of climate talks in Doha began Tuesday in the usual fashion—with a spate of bickering and accusations between developing countries and the West. China and India led a group of 15–20 developing countries calling for their developed peers to reduce emissions (in particular, Annex 1, the group that took part in the Kyoto protocol).

Greens, for their part, are championing this development. TheTimes of India has their take on the situation:

Too often in the previous couple of years the small island developing countries and LDCs have cozied up to the EU. But they too mounted pressure on the developed world to do more.

“The commitments proposed by those parties ready to join a second commitment period are roughly consistent with an aggregate 20% reduction below 1990 levels by 2020. So this ambition must be urgently increased, and the time for this increase is here in Doha,” said the Association of Small Island States at the launch of Doha talks.

The US came under attack by Gambia, who spoke on behalf of the LDCs, with the African nation singling out the biggest historical emitter. “We also hope that the year with a monster storm and scorching heat waves, as well as the re-elected leadership will lead the US to be more active and will no longer be a disinterested bystander in this process,” Gambia hit out in a rare outburst of nations singling out others by name in such international diplomatic wars.

India, China & Co. would like Annex 1 to commit to reducing emissions. The green NGOs present at the conference agree emphatically and are calling for a second, legally binding Kyoto Protocol—this time without the loopholes which, in their view, gutted the original agreement. They plead that not taking stronger action now will set a precedent for the future.

On the other side, the U.S. is flatly refusing any binding measure. (The original Kyoto Protocol lost a 95-0 vote in the Senate, with even the most liberal senators deserting the greens on an agreement that would have given India and China significant advantages over the United States. A second Kyoto would probably not do much better in today’s Senate without deep changes.) The EU, for its part, says that it will commit only if its fellow developed nations do the same and if economic conditions permit, which is, in essence, a “no” as well.

India and China’s bargaining position is becoming increasingly divorced from reality and is guaranteed to deadlock the climate talks. Indeed, it’s beginning to look like their position is largely intended to allow them block any progress on an idea they both fear and loathe while insulating themselves against being blamed for the likely failure of yet another round of expensive and useless negotiations.

The pattern of climate talks is pretty clear. An alliance of bureaucrats wanting the conference and position paper gravy train to keep rolling with greens who think a futile process is better than nothing keep the charade alive. Many rich country politicians are fine with that; a “process” that allows them to appease greens without having to impose unpopular measures is not a bad thing.

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