Copenhagen’s Neverland

The world’s war on carbon emissions isn’t going well. In just six months, the UN sponsored Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change will seek to launch a worldwide anti-carbon strategy with teeth. Billed by alarmists as “the last chance to save our planet,” all the signs are that Michael Jackson has a better chance of recording new material than Copenhagen has of delivering a meaningful international accord.

No doubt sensing the political train crash looming in Copenhagen—and the PR point-scoring on offer to anyone able to avert it—the bureaucratic rhetoric has ratcheted up in recent weeks.

In June, President Obama reiterated his “optimistic” view that the U.S. can take a world lead in fighting climate change. Within hours of the Congress passing his climate bill (Waxman-Markey) by a narrow 219-212 margin, Obama implored the Senate to follow suit. However, Obama, for all sorts of political reasons, would be wise to postpone the Senate consideration of the bill post-Copenhagen, as the ramifications of failure in Denmark’s capital will more than render U.S. domestic anti-carbon efforts—and thus President Obama’s green deal—a sideshow.

President Obama is not alone in the jockeying for the global lead on climate. UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown pledges “UK leadership” via a new “Road to Copenhagen” document. The strategy outlines a raft of emission cuts for the UK that would see it exceeding its Kyoto targets. Unfortunately for Brown, however, are new figures from the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) which cast serious doubt on the UK’s entire emission cutting performance to date. The report notes that official UK anti-carbon measures ignored the fact that UK average emissions are twice that of the average person in China; that they exclude aviation and shipping emissions, and that they take no account of imported goods. With these figures factored in, the SEI calculates that UK residents emit five times the Chinese average—and that to meet its targets the UK actually needs to make substantially deeper cuts than those planned.

Assuming the revolving presidency of the EU on July 1, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt made EU climate leadership a priority for his nation’s six-month presidency. To achieve it, Reinfeldt recognized, “We need to see a lot of leadership, a lot of nations moving on this issue.” Unfortunately for Reinfeldt and other Western leaders, the abject failure of a slew of key climate meetings over the first half of 2009 shows that far from ‘moving,’ nations are entrenching themselves along a developed/developing national divide. For all the public bluster, developed nations are determined not to disadvantage their industrial and economic competitiveness in the face of an emerging alliance of over 130 developing nations, led by China, India and Brazil.

The successor to the Kyoto Treaty is supposed to achieve emission cuts of between 25% and 40% from 1990 levels beginning 2012. However, at the UN climate talks held in Bonn in April, hopes for any kind of strategic consensus all but disappeared. The alliance of developing nations demanded that the industrial nations reduce their carbon dioxide and other emissions by at least 40%, leaving themselves with a potentially minimal target to achieve come the final deal in December. As things stand, Greenpeace estimates that specific pledges from industrial countries to date only add up to around 14%—and perhaps as little as 4%. In addition, climate alarmist organizations said that richer nations would also need to help developing nations “build defences and shift their economies against the effects of climate change”—costing industrial nations another mere $100 billion a year. Clearly, there is a yawning chasm between the sides.

In May, India and China demanded 1% of the developed world’s GDP be committed to developing nations, by way of atoning for past carbon emissions. They also demanded the transfer of new green technologies which raised the perennial and thorny issue of intellectual property rights (IPR). They want a global fund that could buy out green technology IPRs, in a similar manner to HIV/AIDS drugs. In response, industrial nations hardened their demand that developing nations, especially larger ones like India, China, Brazil and Mexico, make emissions cuts that are “measurable, reportable and verifiable.”

But without the injection of massive funding and the sorting out of the IPR issue, it is plain the Indo-Chinese led alliance will render any deal in Copenhagen meaningless. No Western government is about to commit 1% of its GDP, especially in the current economic climate, to the developing world as reparations for past emissions. On the issue of IPRs, a raft of countries, including the U.S., Japan, Canada, and Australia, have been vocal in support of a strong regime that will ensure future innovation and development technology is protected by intellectual property rights. For Western industrialists, IPRs are private property and not fodder for a government give away.

A litany of government statements have added to the political gridlock. In April, Russian Premier Vladimir Putin said “nyet” to binding emissions targets in the interests of Russia’s economic growth. In June, Japan drew widespread condemnation when it set “weak” emission targets. And at a meeting in Brussels in early June, the 27 EU states could not agree in principle on how to fund the global fight against climate change. Poland rejected entirely the notion of new obligations. After three days, talks between the world’s biggest emitters, China and the US, also foundered on what the London Financial Times called “an almost ideological divide”—again alluding to the impasse between developed and developing nations.

Just for good measure, the gloves finally came off for India at the end of June when Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh told the media in New Delhi that India would flatly reject any new climate treaty that imposed binding greenhouse gas emission cuts, as that would undermine its energy consumption, transport and food security. Ramesh said, “India will not accept any emission-reduction target—period. This is a non-negotiable stand.”

India’s position looks set to be the keynote for developing nations at Copenhagen. Even if, against the odds, Copenhagen could cut anything approaching a meaningful deal, there remains the troubling issue of what legal status a Copenhagen Accord would have. As if all that were not enough, the dark brooding spectre of a costly, wholly pointless global war on carbon and other emissions looms ever larger.

As climate scientist Patrick J. Michaels points out, “Kyoto failed … because it was too costly, both politically and economically. It would have had no detectable effect on global warming … ‘preventing’ about seven-hundredths of a degree Celsius by 2050. The earth’s surface temperature bounces around about twice that amount naturally from year-to-year.” As global efforts focus on averting political disaster in Copenhagen, we might note the almost total lack of interest on the part of politicos and the mass media alike when it comes to the latest scientific data. Figures for June show a further drop in the average recorded global temperature in the face of ever-rising CO2 emissions. The figure confirms the trend downwards since 1998 and a fall of 0.74 deg F (O.39 deg C) since Al Gore released An Inconvenient Truth in 2006.

Copenhagen is thus set to be dominated by the same surreal, Jackson-esque, naivety that has marked all recent climate talks by attempting to throw off the constraints of real world economics. If the fantasy park of Neverland is appropriate for the deceased Michael Jackson, it will also prove, post-Copenhagen, a highly fitting final resting place for the corpse of global anti-carbon pretensions.

—Peter C Glover is a conservative British freelance journalist and blogger. He can be read and reached at http://www.petercglover.com/, where this article first appeared. It is reprinted with permission. Glover was a legal executive with the UK Crown Prosecution Service for over 15 years and a national spokesman for the Director of Public Prosecutions office for three years.