Monday, December 07, 2009

The Copenhagen Climate Talks Commence

Here's the thing about the Copenhagen summit and Kyoto. The deadline for action isn't because the science says that we must act immediately, but because the Kyoto Accord expires in 2012, so the real timeframe is political, not science related. The political will is "there" to get something done.

The Times of India had an interesting comment to that effect:
"Time is up," de Boer said. "Over the next two weeks nations have to deliver".

The first week of the conference will focus on the text of a draft treaty. Major decisions may await arrival of the environment ministers next week and the heads of state in the final days of the meet, which ends on December 18.

As the first commitment period for greenhouse gas emissions reductions, regulated by the Kyoto Protocol, would expire in 2012, the international community would endeavour to map out a plan for binding emissions cuts for the second commitment period from 2012 to 2020 at Copenhagen.

Delegates must craft a blueprint for tackling manmade "greenhouse" gases and put together a funding mechanism for helping poor nations fight climate change.
Now, what exactly did Kyoto accomplish? Emissions grew at an astounding clip. Here's what actually happened:
Country Change in greenhouse gas
Emissions (1992-2007)
India +103%
China +150%
United States +20%
Russian Federation -20%
Japan +11%
Worldwide Total +38%
That includes the period covered by Kyoto. Europe fell well short of the targets, and even then, their economic growth (lack thereof) contributed to the declines. Strongly growing economies, like China and India, saw tremendous growth in emissions. Far from controlling or limiting emissions, the emissions surged.

That precedent bodes poorly on any kind of deal in Copenhagen, which is primarily political in nature. The science is actually besides the point here; just as surely as it was in the Kyoto talks. This is about the politics of wealth and the distribution (redistribution) of wealth.

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