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Home » news

Post-Copenhagen Assesment: Just Not Good Enough

Submitted by on December 23, 2009 – 12:22 am10 Comments

tree_web2By Jurnan Goos

Xie Zhenhua, head of China’s delegation for the climate change summit that recently concluded in Copenhagen, used remarkably positive words in assessing the conference, saying that “everybody should be happy.” But everybody is not happy. Two weeks have been wasted by endless bickering on subjects that could and should have been scrutinized weeks, nay months, before the summit itself started.

China knew all along that checkups on their emissions are not considered objective without foreign import, and all knew a legally binding maximum of emission was exactly what we needed. The Copenhagen summit, so it seems, has passed with the sole result of fulfilling the purpose of keeping our ambitions alive.

A spokeswoman of the European Commission said of the Copenhagen accord, “A deal is better than no deal. What could be agreed today falls far below our expectations. But It keeps our goals and ambitions alive. It addresses the needs of developing countries. It was the only deal available in Copenhagen.”

The worst thing is that the summit started with several goals in mind. One was that global temperature must not rise more than two degrees Celsius. This was a difficult matter, since no side knows the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that would have to be cut to meet this demand. The other goal was finding a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol. This meant that any treaty without legally binding power would by many be seen as a letdown.

Tragically, this is what happened. Copenhagen’s accord has no binding force. That no such binding force has been implemented has far-reaching consequences, since no one can be held accountable for their actions. The future of the planet depends on sheer goodwill from national governments. Any attempt to reduce carbon emissions will for the most part depend on cap-and-trade systems, meaning actual cuts rather than compensatory measurements. Cash is a vital aspect in this system, to make pollution economically less viable.

As was suspected, developed countries will have to subsidize developing ones. In the 2010 to 2012 period this will amount to $30 billion, and it is planned to rise to $100 billion, by a collective commitment of rich countries, by 2020. Rich countries will be subjected to an 80 percent emission cut by 2050. Figures relevant for functioning as shorter-term goals are yet to be decided upon. Also, a 2016 date has been picked as one for reconsideration, if ever the need arises to set the limit of global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The burden has again been shifted forward a couple of years, as also shown by guidelines for reporting on emissions and progress. National mitigation schemes that run thanks to subsidizing will have to be justified in light of international standards, measurements, reports and verifications (or falsifications). Developed countries face similar rules of monitoring and reporting—every second year by guidelines later to be adopted by the parties to the U.N. framework Convention on Climate Change. But, once again, the key word is “later.”

Of course, the Copenhagen accord is neither fully implemented, finished nor the replacement of Kyoto, yet. Instead, it is a bill waiting for many add-ons so that it might do some good in the end. This might also be due to the fact that the last day, or even hours, turned out to be much more a struggle between this world’s leading forces than one of a consensus-reaching world meeting. The rest of the world watched while the United States, China, Brazil, South Africa and India came up with something.

They have agreed, among each other, that cuts will have to be made. That is a sound step, but again, not one made legally binding, which is certainly necessary. On the other hand, it is better to have this than to have nothing at all. Remember that up until now China and India were not bound by any agreement, and the United Ststes did not ratify the Kyoto protocol. This route has enabled at least a morally binding principle and a framework for more progress in the future.

That framework is what will be looked at now. Next year a new meeting will be held, which is so close to 2012 that it looks even more foolish that we have deprived ourselves of a decent bill on climate change. Sergio Serra, Brazil’s climate change ambassador, said, “It’s very disappointing, I would say, but it is not a failure … if we agree to meet again and deal with the issues that are still pending. We have a big job ahead to avoid climate change through effective emissions reduction targets, and this was not done here.”

The past few weeks have lead to a conclusion that many expected from the outset. Much talk, many promises, and a small sigh of relief that at least something was agreed upon. Those willing to make sacrifices just didn’t hold enough strategic power to create more than an intermediate step. The only sign of how important this summit was is that the head of many states sat together in one room.
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This article originally appeared on worldpress.org.

10 Comments »

  • Vikram Ramsoondur

    The denouement turned out to be an outcome which pleases nobody, but I don’t think that this ought to stun us, for the fiasco that this conference has been was pitifully predictable, as far as I am concerned, right from the outset.

    • Citta Hari dasa

      Predictable, yes, unfortunately. There is too much momentum in the wrong direction to do an about-face at this point.

      • Vikram Ramsoondur

        I would think that concepts such as right and wrong are inherently subjective terms which do not necessarily mean the same thing to different persons, but I do get your drift, and agree with you, basically.

        • Citta Hari dasa

          Yes,terms like right and wrong are subjective; here wrong here means unsustainable and with disregard for the environment which makes all of our human activities possible.

  • KB Das

    It is too late to change the coming fate of mankind as the Earth goes through a cleansing process over the next decade. By the end of the next decade Earth will no longer resemble the playland of materialistic exploiters that it is today.
    It’s time for anyone who hopes to survive the coming cataclysms to take stock in a survival community located far away from all the cities that will become wastelands of starvation and lawlessness as the stronger kill the weaker for food and supplies.
    I am preparing to sell my home in Florida and start a survival bunker in the mountains of Eastern Tennessee. My son Nitai Prasad will be heading up the project as I begin to retire and turn to nama-bhajan as my prominent activity.

    (wrongly posted to another topic)

    • Citta Hari dasa

      If the scenario you outline actually came to pass I’m not convinced that living in a “survival community” would be much of a solution. Eventually the city dwellers would find their way out of the cities in search of food, prepared to take it by force if necessary. What would happen when armed and hungry people arrive to take by force the provisions such communities have stored up? You had better be prepared to kill people in such a scenario.

      Even if you are willing, time is still your enemy. Such a complete breakdown of social structure implied in what you’ve written would last for years. How long are you going to be able to hunker down in your survival bunker with your japa mala? Sooner or later your food will run out and you will need to grow more, which then becomes a target. How long will your bullets last?

  • Vikram Ramsoondur

    http://www.canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/968

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/6679082/Climate-change-this-is-the-worst-scientific-scandal-of-our-generation.html

    http://www.globalwarminghoax.com/comment.php?comment.news.125

    As important as the quest to lessen pollution of various kinds in the world undoubtedly is at this juncture, my own position on the climate change yarn is that, whilst there probably is some element of fact in the current frenzy, some would say outright scaremongering, that the mass media and, in somewhat different fashion, the political establishment, are making a veritable fortune and drawing enormous capital out of, members of the general public should never lose sight of context and perspective.

    The idea of curtailing our dependence on oil and coal sounds cool – I like it too, but a convenient, if not hypocritical, volte-face on the history of human activity of the past century and a half or so is the last thing that would purvey aid of some sort, I would hold. Fossil fuels have enabled humankind achieve tremendous material progress and development; in order not to get enmeshed in a consuming spiral which would entail my listing every conceivable success story rendered possible by petroleum products and/or coal, this is as succinctly as I shall put it. Others will know what I’m referring to.

    We should be all for the vulgarisation of clean energy technologies as well as the greater utilisation of renewable sources of power, but the inescapable fact is that these substitutes for oil, if they can be called such in the current climate (pun intended), are going to remain prohibitively costly for as far as can be accurately foreseen. No country, whether falling under the developed, developing or underdeveloped epithets, will subscribe to a suicidal national policy of compromising its economic interests due to environmental concerns. Any realist would concur with me that, in the present equation, this is THE constant that is not going to change. The variable, hence, has to be the structure through and by which the natural longing of populations for the accretion of mundane wealth, as so compassionately embodied in the Vedic artha, one of the four purusarthas, can be sought and sustained without visiting devastation on the ecological niche of the earth’s living species, homo sapiens sapiens included.

    On an internet forum, even one as potentially edifying as Harmonist, one can hardly be expected to expand on the above necessarily short arguments, for doing so would require perhaps not one, but possibly several entire tomes. At any rate, none of the material written here is novel, and virtually the whole of it can, in some way, shape or form, be accessed on the expansive repository of knowledge (though not always helpful knowledge) the World Wide Web has, as was initially predicted, evolved over the years.

    The three web links posted at the beginning of this post lead to articles which, in my humble opinion, warrant perusal, for they can satisfactorily, again in my view, furnish a contrarian but valid conception on the contemporary Sword of Damocles that the menace of global warming has mutated into, as the first decennary of the twenty-first century rumbles to a spectacular close.

  • Vikram Ramsoondur

    http://www.canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/968

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/6679082/Climate-change-this-is-the-worst-scientific-scandal-of-our-generation.html

    http://www.globalwarminghoax.com/comment.php?comment.news.125

    As important as the quest to lessen pollution of various kinds in the world undoubtedly is at this juncture, my own position on the climate change yarn is that, whilst there probably is some element of fact in the current frenzy, some would say outright scaremongering, that the mass media and, in somewhat different fashion, the political establishment, are making a veritable fortune and drawing enormous capital out of, members of the general public should never lose sight of context and perspective.

    The idea of curtailing our dependence on oil and coal sounds cool – I like it too, but a convenient, if not hypocritical, volte-face on the history of human activity of the past century and a half or so is the last thing that would purvey aid of some sort, I would hold. Fossil fuels have enabled humankind achieve tremendous material progress and development; in order not to get enmeshed in a consuming spiral which would entail my listing every conceivable success story rendered possible by petroleum products and/or coal, this is as succinctly as I shall put it. Others will know what I’m referring to.

    We should be all for the vulgarisation of clean energy technologies as well as the greater utilisation of renewable sources of power, but the inescapable fact is that these substitutes for oil, if they can be called such in the current climate (pun intended), are going to remain prohibitively costly for as far as can be accurately foreseen. No country, whether falling under the developed, developing or underdeveloped epithets, will subscribe to a suicidal national policy of compromising its economic interests due to environmental concerns. Any realist would concur with me that, in the present equation, this is THE constant that is not going to change. The variable, hence, has to be the structure through and by which the natural longing of populations for the accretion of mundane wealth, as so compassionately embodied in the Vedic artha, one of the four purusarthas, can be sought and sustained without visiting devastation on the ecological niche of the earth’s living species, homo sapiens sapiens included.

    On an internet forum, even one as potentially edifying as Harmonist, one can hardly be expected to expand on the above necessarily short arguments, for doing so would require perhaps not one, but possibly several entire tomes. At any rate, none of the material written here is novel, and virtually the whole of it can, in some way, shape or form, be accessed on the expansive repository of knowledge (though not always helpful knowledge) the World Wide Web has, as was initially predicted, evolved into over the years.

    The three web links posted at the beginning of this post lead to articles which, in my humble opinion, warrant perusal, for they can satisfactorily, again in my view, furnish a contrarian but valid conception on the contemporary Sword of Damocles that the menace of global warming has mutated into, as the first decennary of the twenty-first century rumbles to a spectacular close.

  • Vikram Ramsoondur

    http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Magazines/Bulletin/Bull492/49207112021.pdf

    Another excellent read on the points often put forward by the opposing side to the debate – crisp and concise, it intelligently captures the gist of the principal factors sceptics usually say are at play here.

  • Bijaya Kumara Das Brian D Grover

    The record shows earth has gotten much greener in the last 200 years, plants thrive on co2. Just a thought

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