A cli­mate deal that flat­ters to de­ceive

Amaz­ing, re­ally, con­sid­er­ing that our Prime Min­is­ter, in com­mon with al­most ev­ery other head of govern­ment, chose to stay away from un­sea­son­ably cool Can­cun.

The Pak Banker - - Editorial5 - Do­minic Law­son

How's this for up­beat re­port­ing? "The break­through - which Bri­tain and the Prime Min­is­ter did much to bring about - came amid un­prece­dented scenes of en­thu­si­asm and emo­tion in the early hours of Satur­day morn­ing, when tears flowed and thun­der­ous ova­tions from al­most all the rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the 194 na­tions gath­ered in the re­sort's sprawl­ing Moon Palace ho­tel com­plex drowned out the last re­sis­tance."

Thus, in The Daily Tele­graph, the doyen of en­vi­ron­ment cor­re­spon­dents, Ge­of­frey Lean, gave David Cameron star billing for ne­go­ti­at­ing the sav­ing of the planet at the Can­cun UN cli­mate change sum­mit. Amaz­ing, re­ally, con­sid­er­ing that our Prime Min­is­ter, in com­mon with al­most ev­ery other head of govern­ment, chose to stay away from un­sea­son­ably cool Can­cun. He ob­vi­ously has a won­der­ful tele­phone man­ner.

Yet what is this deal that had the del­e­gates, by Lean's on-thes­pot ac­count, shed­ding co­pi­ous tears of hap­pi­ness and re­lief? As far as I can tell, there was no ad­vance on the va­pid pledges made a year ago in Copen­hagen, and which were deemed at the time to be ret­ro­grade and al­most worth­less.

The UN mem­ber states agreed in Can­cun that they "shall aim to com­plete" fur­ther com­mit­ments by de­vel­oped na­tions to cut green­house gas emis­sions "as early as pos­si­ble".

The agree­ment dropped the ear­lier text that called on the world to cut emis­sions by 50 per cent and richer coun­tries by over 80 per cent by 2050; in its place, all concerned agreed to "work to­wards iden­ti­fy­ing a global goal for sub­stan­tially re­duced global emis­sions by 2050". Yada, yada.

Oh, and the del­e­gates re­peated their Copen­hagen com­mit­ment to set up a Green Cli­mate Fund of $100bn to "ad­dress the needs of de­vel­op­ing coun­tries".

We are given no clear idea of how this money is to be raised, de­liv­ered or al­lo­cated.

In short, ev­ery de­ci­sion which would ac­tu­ally in­volve in­vig­i­lated ac­tion by iden­ti­fi­able coun­tries has been kicked down the road to Dur­ban, the venue for the fi­nal UN cli­mate sum­mit to re­new the Ky­oto Pro­to­col be­fore it lapses in 2012. Strik­ingly, it was the coun­try which hosted that agree­ment, Ja­pan (gen­er­ally seen as the good guy in these cir­cles), which de­clared at the out­set of the Can­cun sum­mit that it now had no in­ten­tion of agree­ing any fur­ther cuts in emis­sions, un­less China and Amer­ica agreed to be bound by the 1997 Ky­oto tar­gets - which nei­ther of the two biggest emit­ters have shown any in­cli­na­tion to do in the in­ter­ven­ing pe­riod.

That they have not, owes more to rea­son than those nation's crit­ics are of­ten pre­pared to al­low. Even on the cal­cu­la­tions of the In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change (IPCC), full im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Ky­oto Ac­cord would have cost hun­dreds of bil­lions of dol­lars in lost eco­nomic growth, while help­ing to re­duce global tem­per­a­tures by less than one third of one de­gree Fahren­heit in 100 years.

It is hardly any won­der that there are no se­ri­ous econ­o­mists to be found who think that the best way to re­lieve global poverty, in the de­vel­op­ing world or any­where else, is in fight­ing the good fight against car­bon emis­sions.

Had the boom years of the late 1990s and early 2000s con­tin­ued, then their ar­gu­ments might have gained much less trac­tion; but at a time of deep fis­cal re­trench­ment and with a steep rise in fam­i­lies af­fected by fuel poverty (that is, those who need to spend over 10 per cent of their in­come on fuel) such cri­tiques have be­come much more com­pelling. No won­der the de­vel­oped na­tions were stu­diously un­spe­cific in Can­cun about the sources and method of col­lec­tion of the $100bn Green Cli­mate Fund for poorer coun­tries.

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