The US’s failure to legislate a domestic policy on climate change mitigation before the Copenhagen negotiations this December is handicapping the horserace, says Darryl D’Monte in a despatch from the Climate Action Network (CAN) International meet in Bangkok
At the conclusion of the first week of the UN climate change negotiations in Bangkok, the Climate Action Network (CAN) International , a coalition of 450 organisations around the world, awarded its Fossil of the Day prize to the US which was judged “best for blocking progress over the past day of negotiations”.
It had blocked a proposal by the European Union to come up with pledges similar to those in the Kyoto Protocol, the UN treaty, the first phase of which expires in 2012 and is now being reconfigured. “We would like to take this opportunity to remind the US that we can’t solve climate change without a clear picture of emission reduction by developed countries,” CAN stated.
CAN’s press conference on October 5 began with the projection of a photograph of the floods in India where, it said, 500,000 had been displaced and 200 killed. According to the Red Cross, these unseasonal downpours were caused by climate change.
Angela Anderson from US CAN reported that two key developments had taken place in the US recently. Firstly, two Senators had introduced an Energy Policy bill (not one which specifically referred to climate change), which was a step towards a national policy on climate change. It is well-known that even the present Obama administration is vehemently opposed to a UN Kyoto Protocol-type new treaty.
Secondly, the US Environment Protection Agency has laid down a policy limiting greenhouse gases by any major polluter -- a power plant or fertiliser factory and the like -- which emitted over 25,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, which constituted 70% of the US emissions. “This is a two-track policy,” Anderson said. “One is legislative and the other diplomatic.” The US is contemplating the formation of a single fund with multiple windows for financing climate change mitigation and adaptation measures.
She was questioned on whether the US was a laggard in the build-up to the final negotiations on climate in Copenhagen this December. Without its domestic policy being legislated, it was unlikely to sign a global treaty by that deadline and was thus “handicapping the horse race”, as someone put it.
Last week, the Pakistan delegation said that at the heart of deliberations in Bangkok were the figures for funding and technology transfer. The spokesperson said: “It is like we are sitting in a car and the driver is constantly putting holes in a tyre to flatten it and asking passengers like me to plug the holes. This is not the way to move forward. We can fix it, but we need political will.”
Another CAN representative described the US as “the big elephant in the room”. Developing countries were more forthcoming on coming forward with offers to reduce their emissions before the US and other delegations had.
Martin Khor, who heads the secretariat of the South Commission in Geneva (which Manmohan Singh presided over some years ago), said that it had become clear that “most developed countries are unwilling or unable to do their fair share in cutting greenhouse gas emissions. And they are pushing the burden and potential blame on to the developing countries, against the rules of the [UN] Climate Convention and its Kyoto Protocol.”
He cited how the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had estimated that industrial countries had to cut their emissions by 25 to 40% by 2020, compared to 1990 levels. “Developing countries are calling for an aggregate cut of at least 40%. The combined cut from national pledges made by these countries comes up to only 16-23%, if the US is excluded, and 11-18% if the US is included”.
John Ashe, who chairs the Kyoto Protocol working group, said last week that “we will be the laughing stock come December 18 [when the new treaty is due to be agreed upon in Copenhagen].”
China had the perfect riposte. Ambassador Yu Qing-tai, China’s Special Climate Change Envoy, told journalists today: “Unfortunately, there is hardly any stock to take!”
Infochange News & Features, October 5, 2009