Thursday, December 17, 2009

Copenhagen Climate Talks Deadlocked; New Deal Unlikely

The Kyoto Protocol, which is set to expire in 2012 was a failure as emissions continued rising, and the single biggest emitter, the Chinese, weren't even bound by the agreement. President Bill Clinton didn't even submit the Kyoto Protocol to the US Senate for ratification because the emissions reduction plan would have resulted in a lower GNP and stifled economic growth in the US.

Now, the same issues are set to kill the Copenhagen climate talks, even though Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the US would be willing to contribute to a $100 billion slush fund to help curtail emissions in the Third World.
Mrs. Clinton did not specify the American contribution to this fund, and she cautioned that the United States’ participation was contingent on reaching a firm agreement this week, one that would require a commitment from China about greater transparency in its emissions reporting.

It was the first time the Obama administration had made a commitment to a medium-term financing effort, and it was a clear effort to unblock negotiations that have been stalled. With just two days remaining in historic and contentious climate talks here, the announcement from Mrs. Clinton seemed to signal that some agreement might still be reached.

“A hundred billion can have tangible effects,” Mrs. Clinton said. “We actually think $100 billion is appropriate, usable and will be effective.”

The $100 billion figure is in line with estimates by Britain and the European Union of the needed contributions, although the amount is at the low end of the range that European countries have suggested.

Shortly after Ms. Clinton’s announcement, Yvo de Boer, the head of the United Nations climate office, welcomed the decision by the United States to support the fund and said he saw it as a sign that negotiations were making some progress.
World leaders, including dictators and despots like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hugo Chavez, and even the Palestinian Authority delegation get to use Copenhagen as a platform to rail against the US, Israel and capitalism, even though the biggest polluters and those who are least interested in cleaning up their own environmental messes are former socialist/communist nations like the former Soviet Union and China. At the same time, those very countries will have their hands out to grab a piece of the pie.

Mind you, most countries, especially the US, do not have the money to do this, and none are willing to curb their economic growth for the sake of a climate change package, particularly when the biggest emitters are going to continue emitting ever larger amounts regardless of Copenhagen's limits. Even if China makes its ambitious goals for increased power generated from nuclear power plants, the Chinese will emit 72-88% more carbon dioxide in 2020. That will overwhelm any deal done in Copenhagen.

Any deal will require greater transparency from the Chinese on their emissions, and they aren't exactly willing to do so since it would require massive expenditures to clean up their environmental disasters, let alone daily emissions from coal powered plants and the ubiquitous charcoal heaters and cookers used by hundreds of millions of Chinese, which choke the air with toxic fumes, particulates, and carbon dioxide.

Still, the Copenhagen talks are all about politics, not science; and the lack of a deal goes to the basics of politics - national leaders want to do nothing that would imperil their own position, or do anything that would undercut their economies back home, many of which are in a perilous state.

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