In the aftermath of the Copenhagen conference Conor Murphy criticises the inactions of developed and developing countries alike to take meaningful action
Ah, Copenhagen, you were filled with such hope. A time when all the world leaders came together to discuss what to do about this global warming. Things really looked up when our great world leader considered it worthy enough for him to drop in on the last day. And the world sat on the edge of its seat.
They emerged with the Copenhagen Protocol, announced and headed by the U.S. It started by stating proudly that they had agreed that Science was right, and that yes, ‘according to science‘, something should be done about climate change. They mentioned a few semi-desirable targets such as capping the temperature increase at two degrees, and that this would be nice to be stabilised by about 2050. And that was it. That took three days. And thousands of planes and people.
Now after the politicians had finished glancing flirtingly at the handsome American, they managed to release this fantastic work to the public. The world looked up, then down again, then up again in confusion, before finally coming to the realisation that yes, this self-inflated Post-It note was the agreement, then they started to get really angry. It was three A4 pages long. And most of that was filler.
But there was an agreement. We now all agree that deep cuts are required now. That’s nice, isn’t it?
One of the most damning aspects of the talks was that the USA went in offering a 1.3 per cent cut from 1990 emissions levels by 2020, and came out promising even less.
Sadly the main conductor of this genocide of common sense was our new age Superman, Mr Obama, who has the unenviable position of now doing as little for the international environment as George W. Bush. Questions must now seriously be asked about when he will begin to fulfil the hype so carefully crafted fifteen months ago. An international agreement would be perfect, allowing him to go back to his Senate and say, ‘We have to do it now’. But no: he bottled it.
Also big in the shame charts with this agreement is our new favourite rising son, China (though in fairness, you must remember that it is now accepted internationally that ‘climate justice’ has to be given to China. Yes, that’s right: since China missed developing its country when we rich folk did, it must be given its turn to burn a trillion tonnes of coal). It’s the East’s turn to ruin the environment merry go round.
Not all countries entered so limply into the talks. Norway offered a 40 per cent cut. The EU total said up to 30 per cent. Even the developing countries offered promise: China had extraordinarily hopeful targets, yet soon backed away from commitment to them. Brazil offered a seemingly meagre zero per cent drop, although its 1990 emissions levels are a lot lower than the West’s. In the end, however, there was no commitment. No single binding agreement. It is telling that the only positive comments came from our Obama, and the head of China’s delegation.
An even more frustrating situation became clear in a reading of the agreement’s aftermath. The countries that proposed strong targets still don’t push on ahead on their own. This is because cuts in carbon have the unfortunate effect of hitting economies hard.
The international debate on this matter can be seen as a giant 194 man race to the bottom. And if someone does sprint out from the starting blocks early, their economies are going to take a hit while everyone else stands still, wondering if there was a starting gun at all, because they didn’t hear it. Everyone needs to start together, or nobody significant will start at all.
Another conference takes place in Mexico City in a few months, and perhaps something can happen there – indeed, there are signs that Mexico could be the starting gun we need. There are hopeful noises that Obama may be willing to agree to legally binding targets, and all EU leaders have said that a legally binding framework must be found.
Of course, we could all just start living efficiently right away, without having to be told by our leaders and get some things done ourselves. But that’s too difficult, right?