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Climate negotiations are a con-trick

Suggested targets for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are almost a third below what are needed to avoid dangerous climate change, according to a report from the World Wildlife Fund. That’s the reality facing the planet, as negotiators at the latest round of UN climate talks in Tianjin, China, wrangle over even these inadequate proposals.

The US and EU delegations are threatening to ditch the UN process altogether unless “emerging economies” accept more stringent emissions cuts than at present. They want India, China and Brazil to propose bigger reductions and accept independent monitoring.

US delegate Ron Pershing denounced other delegates for demanding a return to the climate talks agenda that was ruthlessly and unilaterally junked by the EU and US delegates at Copenhagen. Given that the majority of countries did not accept the resulting Copenhagen Accord, this is arrogance in the extreme.

The Chinese delegation accused the United States of trying to foist higher targets on others when they themselves are unlikely to meet their own, extremely low, target. The US goal of reducing emissions by 17% from 2005 levels by 2020 equates to a cut against 1990 levels of around 3%.

But scientists have recommended industrialised countries should cut emissions by between 25 and 40% against 1990 levels by 2020. The Obama administration’s failure to achieve any climate legislation means not only will the US fail to meet even this target, but it won’t fulfil the promises it made for finance or technology transfer to poorer nations.

The WWF report underlines the problem we face. To avoid dangerous climate change, a world emissions budget of 40 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2020 is needed. In fact even with the current promised reductions, we are on track to reach 47.9 to 53.6 gigatonnes in 2020.

And the situation could be even worse than it appears. The WWF is concerned that accounting loopholes can allow double counting or even fictitious claims of emissions reductions. Closing known policy loopholes and accounting tricks currently undermining the integrity of emission reduction targets would add up to another 2.4 gigatonnes saved per year by 2020, the WWF says.

Back at the talks, Bolivian negotiator Pablo Solon insists that industrialised nations are effectively blocking the current talks, which are in preparation for the December Climate Summit in Cancun, Mexico. He added: "If we had a set of commitments that assured developing countries that the measures will cool the planet, these talks would be moving very well.”

And he is quite right, since nothing at the talks has anything to do with a serious attempt to halt global warming. The Copenhagen Accord set out to eradicate the issue of “historic emissions” and climate justice from the agenda, although these have formed a key strand of UN climate diplomacy up to now.

The process has degenerated into a diplomatic con-trick, where action to halt climate change is far from the priority. They are little more than a trade war forum, as the EU and US try to ensure the costs of reducing emissions affect the emerging economies, and not their own.

And at the same time, it is absolutely correct that unless China and to a lesser extent India and Brazil, start to cut emissions right away, climate change cannot be halted. Choosing which side to take between these reckless capitalist behemoths is a waste of time. It is clear whose side they are on – global capitalism and the right of the corporations to carry on business as usual.

As AWTW’s Manifesto of Revolutionary Solutions explains, we need an entirely different approach, which eliminates the power of the corporations to decide:

A new kind of international co-operation would bring together the peoples of the planet in a democratic forum to plan together to halt the growth in emissions and to mitigate the impacts that are now inevitable. They would draw on all the expertise represented by climate scientists, world food and health experts and support each others’ development towards self-government and economic independence.

Penny Cole
Environment editor
7 October 2010

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