Saturday, May 8, 2010

Before the Flood

Via Naked Capitalism, here's an entertaining article from Der Spiegel about the "dramatic" breakdown in talks at the Climate Summit in Copenhagen. Long story short: the Europeans had put together a "green" treaty that they thought would Save The Earth, but the Chinese and Indians would not go along with it because it would involve curtailing their economic growth just when it was getting started (with the Euro-weenies still living well off of 200 years worth of development). The impasse was lifted by Barack Obama who suddenly walked out of the meeting, joined an impromptu caucus of the BRIC countries, and drafted a meaningless agreement that would do nothing for the climate (that is if humans could negotiate the problems of the planet away), leaving the Euros to huff importantly about how they were only trying to save humanity. Some of this stuff is classic: How China and India Sabotaged the UN Climate Summit

There were still two important placeholders, X and Y, in the draft agreement. They marked the spots where the percentage targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, for the industrialized nations and emerging countries respectively, were to be entered. "We cannot go over and say nice things but x and y wait please one year or so," Merkel said. The German chancellor was determined to secure a commitment from China and India to participate in the climate protection efforts.

But China and India were unwilling to make that commitment. Behind the backs of the Europeans, they had apparently reached their own agreement with Brazil and South Africa. "We have all along been saying 'Don't prejudge options!,'" said a representative of the Indian delegation*, prompting Merkel to burst out: "Then you don't want legally binding!"

This, in turn, prompted the Indian negotiator to say angrily: "Why do you prejudge options? All along you have said don't prejudge options and now you are prejudging options. This is not fair!" Chinese negotiator He Yafei stood by this remark.

British Prime Minister Brown, speaking in a sonorous voice, tried to mediate. "I think it's important to recognize what we are trying to do here," he said. "We are trying to cut emissions by 2020 and by 2050. That is the only way we can justify being here. It is the only way we can justify the public money that is being spent to do so. It is the only way we can justify the search for a treaty."

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg pointed out that it was the Indians who had proposed the inclusion of concrete emissions reductions for the industrialized nations in the treaty.

But India had made an about-face within hours and was no longer interested in his own proposal. An unidentified member of the group was outraged, saying: "I am surprised that our Indian friend would say that an amendment by the Indian environmental minister this morning is no longer there. This is a breach of process."

Merkel took one last stab. The reduction of greenhouse gases by 50 percent, that is, limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, was a reference to what is written in the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report. Then she directed a dramatic appeal at the countries seeking to block the treaty: "Let us suppose 100 percent reduction, that is, no CO2 in the developed countries anymore. Even then, with the (target of) two degrees, you have to reduce carbon emissions in the developing countries. That is the truth."

Of course, Chinese negotiator He Yafei knew perfectly well that Merkel was right, which was precisely why he could not possibly agree with her proposal. It would have meant that China was required to check its economic development. Double-digit growth figures would no longer be an option for the Asian giant.

The Chinese diplomat refused to give in to the Europeans' demands, saying: "Thank you for all these suggestions. We have said very clearly that we must not accept the 50 percent reductions. We cannot accept it."

This was the point where Sarkozy, who had had enough, accused the Chinese of hypocrisy. As one of the attendees recalls: "There was a sense that we had reached a logjam, an abyss."

What a bunch of loons. These are the 21st century's equivalents to the Reagans, Thatchers, Kohls, Mitterands, Ghandis, and Dengs of my youth. Imagine that, while the financial crisis was still at a low boil, the leaders of the developed world were arguing over how much they should hobble their own economies for the sake of ephemeral problems with climate change.

I'm sure Obama would have loved to emerge from Copenhagen with a treaty ("Nice Weather For Our Time") to wave around, but give him credit for quickly reading the mood of the room, getting out of there, and getting in with the side with real economic power. The folks at Der Spiegel don't seem to agree, as this bit of editorializing makes clear:
Finally, the politician spoke up whose claim to being the most powerful man in the world would soon be based solely on his many nuclear weapons: US President Barack Obama. By that point, hardly anyone in the room dared to even bite into the soggy mozzarella sandwiches that were constantly being served.
You have to love the xenophobia on display here. Of course, America is again to blame for arrogantly agreeing to destroy the planet, but China and India are clearly the objects of a subdued racial antagonism for their role in derailing the Summit. What's next, a trade war over tariffs disguised as carbon credits?

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