Thursday, December 10, 2009

Why Copenhagen must fail

Looking at the leaked secret Danish document, Copenhagen seems more about money (carbon markets) than about climate change

By Zafar Anjum

I am not a climate change denier. Climate change is a reality because climate is meant to change. It is a dynamic phenomenon of nature and it has been changing ever since it came into existence.

When we talk about ‘climate change’, we refer to the phenomenon of global warming due to the greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a major component of the greenhouse gases.

The question is whether it is the humans that are emitting the excessive carbon dioxide that is polluting the earth and making it an unsustainable place.

For years, this was the main question in the climate change debate: one group blamed the humans, another the sun (the sun argument being that the sun was getting hotter and hence was the main culprit behind the earth’s rising temperatures.)

Proponents of both sides of the argument have been championed and funded by vested interests. The ‘humans being responsible for the climate change’ side has been championed by the green brigade. Some political groups even brand them as “the green fascists” who want “to impose their de-industrialisation agenda to kill people”. The other side, the climate change deniers, are often backed up by the traditional energy—oil and coal—industry.

There are climate change scientists in both camps to argue for or against the motion. The common man was confused, not knowing which side to support. Until Al Gore walked into the picture.

Due to a concerted global media campaign, the climate change sceptics kept losing the ground. Once Al Gore went around the world with his documentary An Inconvenient Truth, the room for scepticism shrunk considerably. From AP to the New York Times to CNN, the world’s agenda setting media spoke in one word: Climate change was real and we humans must do something about it! The world’s timid and copycat media repeated what their leaders asked them to print and speak. The global consensus on climate change was thus built.

It didn’t take long for the Nobel Committee in Sweden to award a Nobel Prize to Al Gore and the IPCC, the United Nation’s body studying and building global consensus and policies on climate change.

A few months ago, when Obama won the Nobel Prize for Peace, I was reminded of Gore’s Nobel. True to my gut feeling, within a few weeks of winning the Nobel, Obama ordered a 30,000 troop surge in Afghanistan. More war for peace—the classic Orwellian doublespeak!

Sorry for the digression but I couldn’t help making the remark.

Once the consensus on climate change was built, the world’s most influential people started using the IPCC to push through their agenda. Kyoto happened. It was decided that all countries of the world will have to cut CO2 emissions and a quota system was developed. That’s when climate change stopped being about climate change.

Copenhagen: About climate or about money?

Weeks before world leaders would meet at Copenhagen in December this year, e-mails from scientists working on data gathering for the IPCC at the University of East Anglia (UEA), UK, were leaked. The leaked e-mails, among many other despicable malpractices, established that scientists at UEA were tweaking the data to suit the argument that the temperature on earth was rising.

The leaked e-mails created a brouhaha, casting deep mistrust on the science behind the climate change movement. Regrettably, it didn’t change much at Copenhagen. Only Gore had to cancel his ticketed speech.

But that is not my point. No matter what the science says, we all know that greed is not good. As Mahatma Gandhi has said, there is enough on this earth for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed. Unfortunately, in today’s world of globalised corporatism, we live through the constant cycle of consumption and production. We can’t afford a slowdown and it means we have to keep consuming and keep growing. That means more pollution for the earth.

One quick little example: In New Delhi, the government has tried to combat the pollution problem through CNG (compressed natural gas) buses for public transportation. What it achieved in eight years was washed away by the pollution generated by the cars that joined the roads of New Delhi in just one year! But can you ask the Delhiites not to buy cars? That is against the idea of growth.

So, under Copenhagen, countries such as India and China will continue to grow and pollute. So will the developed countries. Only they will have to buy some carbon credits from poor nations where people don’t have enough money to buy cars and run factories. The rulers of poor countries don’t mind this arrangement as long as they get their dirty hands on the moolah! Enter the world of carbon credits and carbon money managed by the World Bank!


Danish text leaked


The leaked “Danish” text, that became available to UK-based newspaper, The Guardian, clearly points out what the world is going to achieve at Copenhagen. The paper reported: “The agreement, leaked to the Guardian, is a departure from the Kyoto protocol's principle that rich nations, which have emitted the bulk of the CO2, should take on firm and binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gases, while poorer nations were not compelled to act. The draft hands effective control of climate change finance to the World Bank; would abandon the Kyoto protocol—the only legally binding treaty that the world has on emissions reductions; and would make any money to help poor countries adapt to climate change dependent on them taking a range of actions.”

The text’s main points include:

• Force developing countries to agree to specific emission cuts and measures that were not part of the original UN agreement;

• Divide poor countries further by creating a new category of developing countries called "the most vulnerable";

• Weaken the UN's role in handling climate finance;

• Do not allow poor countries to emit more than 1.44 tonnes of carbon per person by 2050, while allowing rich countries to emit 2.67 tonnes.

That’s why it is not surprising that James Hansen, the world's pre-eminent climate scientist, said “any agreement likely to emerge from the negotiations would be so deeply flawed that it would be better to start again from scratch.” He is “vehemently opposed to the carbon market schemes—in which permits to pollute are bought and sold—which are seen by the EU and other governments as the most efficient way to cut emissions and move to a new clean energy economy.”

“Hansen is also fiercely critical of Barack Obama—and even Al Gore, who won a Nobel peace prize for his efforts to get the world to act on climate change—saying politicians have failed to meet what he regards as the moral challenge of our age.”

Hansen says climate change allows no room for the compromises that rule the world of elected politics. "This is analogous to the issue of slavery faced by Abraham Lincoln or the issue of Nazism faced by Winston Churchill," he said. "On those kind of issues, you cannot compromise. You can't say let's reduce slavery, let's find a compromise and reduce it 50 per cent or reduce it 40 per cent."

I don’t see any reason why one shouldn’t agree with Hansen. If we can’t throw the politics and greed out of Copenhagen, then it must fail for the good of the larger humanity.

(Published as a blog at www.mis-asia.com)