The movement to push through a binding international climate change treaty has lost most of its momentum in recent years, having failed at conference after conference, summit after summit, to reach any sort of consensus about how the world ought to respond to the pervasive threats brought on by our warming world. The reason all this chatter is proving futile is that the developing and the developed world are engaged in a showdown. The West’s industrialization is largely responsible for the emissions that have gotten us to where we are now, while the developing world’s intent to follow suit represents the bigger future threat. These two sides understand the importance of positioning in any potential Global Climate Treaty (GCT), and are quick to laud their own emissions-cutting accomplishments, especially in relations to their “opponent.” At a recent meeting between the so-called BASIC bloc, consisting of Brazil, South Africa, India, and China, a spokesperson highlighted this tension. The BBC reports:
“Our [climate change] mitigation efforts are more than developed countries,” Prakash Javadekar, India’s environment minister told the BBC after he held the meeting with his counterparts from Brazil, China and South Africa. “We are going ahead with our voluntary actions which will reduce carbon emissions and also bring about increased energy efficiency from 25% to 50%. We want the developed world to walk the walk.”
Of course, the developed world doesn’t see things in quite the same way:
But an official with the EU’s climate commission said figures showed an opposite picture.“The latest United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) emissions gap report clearly says that developed countries have cut more than developing countries when we use the same baseline,” said the official, who did not want to be named.
This he-said she-said bickering is typical of recent negotiations, which time and again have failed to produce anything close to even justifying the carbon emitted by the flights shuttling delegates to and from these summits. At least in this case, the two sides are focusing more on what they’ve done to curb emissions, rather than simply pointing the finger at the other party’s malfeasance.In China’s case, there have been some interesting and positive developments on this front lately, but also a lot of tip toeing around some nasty realities—like the plan to install huge carbon spewing coal to gas plants in the hinterlands while then burning natural gas in Beijing.China, like any other country, wants to reduce its dependence on imported energy for both economic and national security reasons. It also wants to reduce pollution that angers powerful domestic constituencies. Carbon reduction and climate change per se aren’t driving any of this, but China apologists will spin what they can, and greens, eager to hype a non-existent global consensus on climate policy, will happily let China spin silk for their comfy cocoons.There’s progress being made at the national level, and that should be encouraged, but attempting to reach a global agreement is the same as banging one’s head against the wall. The GCT movement wastes time and jet fuel, but sadly there’s no end to the charade in sight.