December 18, 2009
The Copenhagen PR scam
For those stressed by news that negotiators from 192 countries may not reach a comprehensive global-warming deal in Copenhagen before the Earth summit ends Friday, we say ... stop worrying. These extravagant UN get-togethers always produce some sort of a final accord. Witness Kyoto in 1997, where an all-night session produced a compromise deal -- even if all the signatories have spent the last 12 years ignoring it.
As for those who are stressed by the possibility that negotiators will reach a last-minute agreement containing bona fide emission caps that will beggar industrialized nations for the benefit of developing ones, we also say stop worrying. While delegates might sign away the moon amid the giddy glitter of Copenhagen, the realities of domestic politics they face when they return home-- recession, unemployment, budget deficits --mean their pledges will quickly fade to nothingness.
Prospects of a deal have looked bleak all week. First, developing nations scoffed at a European Union offer of an $11-billion fund to help them tackle climate change over the next three years. Lumumba Stanislaus Dia-Ping of Sudan, who has become a sort of de facto leader of developing and underdeveloped nations at the conference, said the EU offer was the equivalent of "providing no finance whatsoever."
We're pretty sure $11-billion is more than $0-billion, but Mr. Dia-Ping's graceless and ungrateful point was clear.
Then the G-77 group of poor nations -- which only at the UN could, in reality, actually be a group of 130 nations, including China, India and Brazil -- staged a brief walkout to emphasize their point that rich nations must agree to even deeper emissions cuts than they agreed to at Kyoto, while also ceasing to insist G-77 nations commit to any hard cuts at all.
The irony is that, amid all this chaos, the environmental ends of the Earth summit have been largely abandoned. Instead, both sides seem focused on negotiating what amounts essentially to a straight-out inter-regional transfer of wealth.
In fact, it became obvious as early as August that we would see no deal that might actually trim carbon emissions enough to have an impact on global warming. In Copenhagen, there is still grandios e talk of saving the planet by reducing emissions by such-and-such a pie-in-the-sky percentage from 2006 levels, or 2000 levels, or even from 1990 levels (the benchmark at Kyoto). But because developing nations were adamant in pre-conference talks that they would not accept binding caps until they were as rich as developed nations, and because developed nations were unwilling to accept Kyoto-plus cuts in their own emissions until developing nations agreed even just to slow their CO2 production, negotiators let slide the science-based environmental issue and focused instead on the money.
The UN and G-77 decided, effectively, to measure the developed nations' concern for the planet in dollars rather than CO2 concentrations and global average temperatures. Canada's government is one of the few that has been openly skeptical of this scheme from the start -- a fact that Canadians should take as a point of pride, no matter how many mocking "Fossil" awards the environmentalists give to Ottawa.
One reason why the EU's aid offer was rejected out of hand is that the UN and G-77 are demanding $11-billion or more each year beginning immediately, jumping to between $100-billion and $200-billion annually by 2020.
In their analysis of this plan, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has calculated the burden on each Canadian household at $3,000 a year, a burden we suspect few Canadians would welcome just to assuage their climate consciences. (Last week, anti-war activists were scandalized to learn that Canadian military spending works out to $75 per taxpayer per month. What is being discussed at Copenhagen is four times as much--and with absolutely no way of determining whether it has any impact on rising global temperatures.)
Not that there aren't any Canadians who wouldn't pay this amount -- if what they were buying truly was a cooler, more thermodynaically stable atmosphere. But that isn't what's on offer in Copenhagen. Instead, the conference has become a sort of PR exercise, in which cynical Third Worlders try to extract the highest price possible from guilty First Worlders for a symbolic agreement that both sides secretly know will do little except bloat the budgets of poor nations --including dictatorships such as the one that employs Lumumba Stanislaus Dia-Ping.
What we wouldn't give for a leader who understands the Copenhagen fraud for what it is.
Oh wait, we do. His name is Stephen Harper.