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Posts Tagged ‘Copenhagen

Blowing hot and cold in Beijing

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Climate change. Image courtesy UNEPThe science of understanding climate change has long given way, among two big Asian governments, to the politics of nationalism. This was evident in December 2009, even through the rubble of the ruined Copenhagen summit on climate change, and it was just as evident months earlier when both India and China, separately, said that they would not subscribe to any form of emission controls that would jeopardise their economic growth trajectories.

That’s the main act, which the countries of the western world like not at all. In the forefront of the finger-wagging western club are the USA accompanied by Britain and Australia (its ready allies), Germany and France (whose moralising manner and hypocritical practice deserve all the scorn they receive and then some) and sundry others from north America and western Europe. They have charged India and China with sabotaging the Copenhagen talks, and their allegations have turned up anew in a tape recording obtained by the German news magazine Der Spiegel.

“Secret recordings obtained by Spiegel reveal how China and India prevented an agreement on tackling climate change at the crucial meeting,” said Der Spiegel. “The powerless Europeans were forced to look on as the agreement failed.” The German magazine, whose editorial instincts are about as sophisticated as the Spice Girls’ taste in clothes, lashed its reportage with large helpings of dime-novel suspense. “A hush came over the room. Even the mobile phones stopped ringing. It was Friday, Dec. 18, 2009, at about 4 p.m. That was the moment when the world leaders meeting in Copenhagen abandoned their efforts to save the world.”

India's GHG emissions 2007, in million tons CO2

India's GHG emissions 2007, in million tons CO2

Laboured drama apart, Der Spiegel was only repeating instructions given to a supine western media from the ruling cabals in Berlin, Paris, London and of course Washington. Of course. Blame it on those upstart Asians, whose economic growth and global ambitions now threaten western civilisation. It’s a tiresome re-run of how easily development patronage can become scolding xenophobia. But what really happened at Copenhagen (and its entertaining versions) is only the background to a more interesting opera that has swung merrily on, between New Delhi and Beijing, and with unrelated cameos from scientists and economists, two tribes usually disconnected from one another by both design and inclination.

First, the government of India announced with some fanfare a report, ‘India’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions 2007’ which is the work of the new Indian Network of Climate Change Assessment. Jairam Ramesh, India’s minister for environment and forests, heaped praise on the Network and on India’s climate related ‘achievements’. “More than 80 scientists from 17 institutions across India have contributed to this Assessment,” he said, and added that they did so in “record time” (which is definitely not good from a science point of view).

Climate change. Image courtesy UNEPHe went on: “India has become the first ‘non-Annex I’ (developing) country to publish such updated numbers. We will be the first developing country to do so.” (Some Asian one-upmanship there.) “Interestingly, the emissions of USA and China are almost four times that of India in 2007. It is also noteworthy that the emissions intensity of India’s GDP declined by more than 30% during the period 1994-2007, due to the efforts and policies that we are proactively putting in place.” Ramesh went on in such vein, but the report served to underline India’s basic stance on the subject: no, we will not cap or control our emissions based on your standards and recommendations for as long as we are a developing country.

Second, Jairam went to Beijing. There he became very much more the manager rather than the politician, and made a number of plain-speaking statements. “Chinese do not talk as much as Indians, but Chinese perform better, they do much more. I am full of admiration for the way that China just gets to work, whereas [in] India [we] talk and talk and keep on talking,” he was quoted by Xinhua as saying on May 7. Next, he said that India’s Ministry of Home Affairs should not be paranoid about China and take a “much more relaxed” approach to Chinese investments and remove “needless” restrictions. This won him all sorts of applause from the media in China, but provoked instant ripostes from red-faced and bristling Home ministry mandarins in New Delhi.

Ramesh thereby earned the rare distinction of being praised in the lead editorial of the ‘China Daily‘, which together with the Xinhua news agency (Ramesh gave them an interview) sent out the signal to Chinese media that there was a ‘Copenhagen spirit’, South-South teamwork to counter western powers and a sound model to strengthen India-China friendship. “I see climate change as an opportunity to change the political climate between China and India,” Ramesh had told Xinhua. Typically, as soon as Ramesh returned to New Delhi there were furious outbursts and calls for his resignation, which is a distinctly Indian political pastime, the overuse of which recently resulted in Shashi Tharoor being booted out of his ministerial post.

Third, far more serious and quite unnoticed in New Delhi (although Beijing I’m sure has) was the release of what is quickly being called the ‘Hartwell paper‘, a political economy statement on current climate policy of emissions targets, and an effort funded in part by the London School of Economics. The authoring group says that international agreements on reducing greenhouse gas emissions are doomed to failure and must be replaced by a drive towards low-cost green energy. “The bottom line is that there will be little progress in accelerating the decarbonisation of the global economy until low carbon energy supply becomes reliably cheaper and provides reliability of supply,” says the paper. Which effectively means, the successors to the failed Copenhagen summit are doomed, and we should now pay great attention to the Ramesh doctrine of climate change management.

Climate finance, the new fiscal frontier

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I’ve extracted two paras from a comment article published by Energy Bulletin, authored by me:

New frontiers in climate finance

"The audience comprises investment banks, corporate and oligopolistic investors, and major compliance buyers all of whom will focus on how they can profit today from an increasingly diverse range of carbon-related investment opportunities which are being designed to enter the markets from 2010"

The numbers being prepared for discussion in København are staggering by any measure, at least to those who struggle to find money for social programmes, city infrastructure needs and social sector essentials like health and education. For those accustomed to constructing enormous virtual edifices of dizzying interlinks, this is finance redux with a new set of fundamentals that are defined by the science of climate change and by the growing list of acceptable technologies used to provide adaptation and mitigation methods.

And…

The point here, after half a decade of carbon trading and emissions and climate exchanges, is whether in fact the principles of sustainable development, social justice, equity to all – and especially – respect to and protection for the poorest and most vulnerable has been helped by the CDM and its constellation of allied activities. The short answer is ‘no’, and because that is the short answer, the future of any successor system – many will be unveiled at the København summit – is equally bleak in the terms that genuinely concern us. The evidence of failure on a global scale is in fact all around us.

There’s more to be read here

The 15-minute Copenhagen trip

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This is a climate change survey that is worth your time and effort. It has been put together by the Center for Global Development (they’re also the people behind the excellent Carma global power stations CO2 database).

Climate change negotiations are almost on the rocks

Climate change negotiations are almost on the rocks

It is what the negotiators at the Copenhagen climate negotiations will have to deal with between 7 and 18 December. There will be many of them and it will take several days and cost quite a lot. This will take you 15 minutes and cost next to nothing. My wager is that the results will show that CGDev’s survey will prove that distributed decision making is more effective that international conferencing.

What’s nice about the survey is there’s enough space to express oneself about the choices made in the multiple choice questions. Here are some of my responses:

On funding models –

We need to recognise that the funding flow has followed a ‘market’ model. This is not the optimum solution for finding ways to encourage cities, towns and industrial settlements to manage their impacts. We also need to recognise that sub-national administrations can be politically motivated and outright corrupt, so monetary and tech support can be misallocated under these conditions. Finally, fees, auctions, permits, quotas etc will all find their way into a grey trading system which we will collectively have to guard against.

On reporting-

Reporting rules must apply fairly and equally to all countries. And must be at least annual, because administrative and corporate budgets are annual.

On spending priorities-

We know already how large the most vulnerable populations are and how inadequate their coping ability to the climate change events of the last two years. That alone gives us the best set of indicators about how to proceed.

On choosing a fund amount-

This is difficult to answer without evidence of how independent this funding can be (ie independent of trade for example or reciprocal tech transfer), Just as important, we don’t know enough about how to deal with the overlap, which is now large, of conventional development aid and climate change adaptation and mitigation.

On administering a financial process-

I favour a UN-managed system. (1) This will help standardise the administration of fund flows (2) It will support UN leadership in place of fractured regional system.

On a funding management model-

The problem is being framed in terms of per capita, of efficiency per unit of GDP, and that is why current UN, Adaptation Funds and CI Funds methods will not work. A combination of share + need voting would do best.

On funds being linked to trade-

It really is quite plain. Climate change methods cannot be linked in any way to trade access and markets. It is plain folly to do so. Trade and business are not the aims here. Planet-wide systems are being dangerously altered.

Written by makanaka

November 20, 2009 at 22:39