Dec 19, 2009 0
A wrap-up for anyone who hasn’t managed to follow the news today:
After two weeks of negotiation and a long, long night of extra time, the long-anticipated 15th Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ended in a non-binding accord as the required 100% consensus could not be reached. (I’ve written before about the torturous UN consensus-building in the context of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.)
Some of the specific factors contributing to the non-consensus were:
> The inequities existing around the fact that the current situation has largely been caused by emissions from developed nations, but that most of the emissions projected in the next 50 years (in a ‘business as usual’ scenario) will be from industrialising nations. Understandably, industrialising nations aren’t inclined to agree to anything that is perceived as punishing them for being a tipping point for a problem initially created by developed nations. To some degree, this particular block is one that can be addressed with sufficient funding and technology transfer mechanisms.
> China’s disagreement with much of the rest of the world regarding monitoring of emissions. And honestly, given China’s foreign policy position has been ‘we don’t like people looking at our stuff’ for a very long time, this hardly comes as a surprise and will continue to be a sticking point into the foreseeable future.
> Strong resistance from island nations and their supporters to any agreement resulting in a projected temperature rise of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, being the maximum sustainable increase proposed for many island nations (such as Tuvalu and the Maldives) ranked as extremely vulnerable. This can’t be resolved simply by funding or technology transfer, and can’t equitably be resolved by repatriation either. And I’d note here that history has demonstrated repeatedly that disenfranchised national groups without a homeland are a recipe for a human rights disaster.
> The unmentionable issue of relatively short electoral terms in many developed countries, and the concern that any leader committing a nation to a path where the majority of electors see (or even expect) a reduction in material wealth, rise in prices or perceived decline in standards of living (however unsustainable) may reasonably assume that they will be voted out of office. Personally, I have a bunch of problems both in terms of this concern being a driver of long-term political decisions and in feeling that my fellow voters may reward such decisions with dismissal at the polling booth. However, none of my problems change that fact that, for instance, a Kevin Rudd might well fear leaving a country in the hands of, for instance, a Tony Abbott. For many developed nations (particularly non-EU nations) this is very much the elephant-in-the-room, and highlights how our political structure can lead to, and rationalise, dysfunctional long-term outcomes.
There are a bunch of other things going on here, but these are the ones that have really come to mind today. I might leave it here, as I’m wilting somewhat under information overload, and there are people on my f-list far more qualified than I to speak on some of the issues at hand.
In the meantime, the Wikipedia article on COP 15 is very much a work in progress but looks like it is on the way to providing a good overview.