Saturday, December 10, 2005

Miracle at Montreal

Beyond expectations, the Montreal climate change talks have pulled a rabbit out of the hat and succeeded in shaming the US negotiators back to the discussion table.

They are now prepared to enter talks on what will happen after 2012, when Kyoto expires, as long as they are "open-ended", i.e. do not appear to commit themselves to binding targets.

The Montreal negotiations have followed two tracks: one to advance the current Kyoto processes; and a broader one, under the 1992 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, to sketch out a way beyond Kyoto.

Beyond Kyoto

Tony Juniper of Friends of the Earth has said that these are the toughest negotiations ever faced by humanity. He's not wrong.

To get all the nations on earth even to admit the cause and scale of the problem is an achievement.

Then to get them to agree on how to tackle the issue is another incredible achievement.

There is, amazingly, some cause for optimism that the world can sometimes see sense.

We reached global agreements over other mutual threats in the past: with the ozone layer, and with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Now we are doing it with climate change.

[Perhaps it's because in every case we're listening to scientists rather than religious nutcases.]

In these negotiations, the self-styled "leader of the free world" abandoned its role, and tried to walk away. What an example for everyone else.

But after walking away two nights ago it was shamed back to the table by not only the vast majority of the other countries, but by many of its own people, its own media, and Bill Clinton.

They recognise that the puppet-masters that pull the Bush administration's strings - the oil junky pushers - are in danger of steering America, and the world with it, over the edge.

Let's just look at the current American position for a second.

The Low Carbon Kid likes to take the view that the stories a country tells itself say a lot about it.

America churns out sci-fi stories about galactic empires or federations where they all speak American English. It sees itself bucking all frontiers and reaching to the stars.

This has as much chance of happening as George Bush becoming Superman, but it won't even make it to Mars unless it faces up to the reality of its own behaviour.

Like the spoilt child at the party who won't play unless everyone uses his rules, America threw a tantrum.

It is a sign of maturity when that child stops wailing and begins to see himself as others see him and accept responsibility for its own actions.

America has a very long way to go to do this [check Harold Pinter's Nobel Prize speech this week], but maybe it has just started to do so.

Kyoto enshrined

Yes, we're going the right way. The negotiators agreed that the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) will last beyond 2012 and nations have pledged to increase its finance from $6 million to $18 million for 2006-07.

This will give it more staff and resources to process projects faster, which is urgently needed.

If successful, this could channel as much as $100 billion in low carbon investments to the developing world.

"This puts the CDM process on a much more professional basis," said Andrei Marcu, president of the International Emissions Trading Association. "This represents progress and a basis to work on."

They've also agreed the rules for policing the Kyoto Protocol.

Any country that overshoots its targets will have to make up the shortfall, PLUS an extra 30 percent in the next period.

That's community service for offenders and then some.

Countries can also lose the right to trade emissions of greenhouse gases. You have to play ball or lose out.

These are big penalties.

According to the Financial Tiimes, businesses and poorer nations will gain more than €10bn by 2012 as a result.

The Low Carbon Kid reckons this is a very serious underestimate.

No comments: