The climate talks are back, this time in Bonn, Germany, where the United Nations is having a tough time escaping the aftermath of its failed negotiations in Copenhagen.
"The three layers of the cake collapsed and we were left with a muffin" is how Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change described the Copenhagen talks.
De Boer will be exiting his post July 1 to advise accounting firm KPMG on how best to profit from carbon trading. He was forced to kick things off with a plea for operating cash to keep the talks going.
Utter Failure Produces Plenty of Blame to go round
The talks also started off with a vigorous round of finger-pointing with U.N. officials blaming the collapse of the Copenhagen talks on the so-called, "Danish text."
Following a split between Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard and the Danish Government, this draft was leaked to the Guardian newspaper and greeted by the delegations of developing nations as evidence that they were being excluded from crucial decision making. They believed (with some justification) that Denmark was colluding with the United States and other developed nations to control the process.
De Boer revealed that the U.N. "failed" in its attempt "to prevent the paper happening" causing two years of negotiations to unravel in "one fell swoop."
Others attributed the failure at Copenhagen to a decision to bring in a large number of heads of state who once gathered, postured, argued, pontificated, and ground the faltering proceedings to a halt.
Pity the poor carbon trader
Carbon traders are one special interest group that are nervously doing all they can to propel the talks forward. The Kyoto Protocol established carbon markets that have already made some traders rich. However, those markets are set to expire at the end of 2012.
Unless a new agreement is reached to extend or broaden those markets, carbon traders including Mr. de Boer will be left without a chair when the music stops and forced to look for other work. Incoming U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica described the carbon trader's plight as a "harsh reality" with, "no entitlement" as it depends on a "political agreement that is as yet in the making."
Show us the money (and let us keep it)
Delegates of developing nations continue to ask the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) when the developed nations will be sending over $30 billion that was pledged under the Copenhagen Accord, which calls for payments to balloon to $100 billion per year after 2012.
However, this money has become contentious not only in that it has not yet been forthcoming, but in that some developed nations intend to divert money from their foreign aid budgets for humanitarian work to climate.
Developing nations would prefer that the climate money come to them in addition to other aid, rather than instead of it. There is a genuine risk that human needs such as education, nutrition and malaria control will no longer be met in the name of climate.
If recession is good for the climate, should we try depression?
Commissioner Hedegaard broke the "good" news that the EU recession has lowered the costs of carbon permits and could save 22 billion euros from the cost of reducing European emissions 20 percent.
Business leaders are concerned that this may lead Europe to try and strangle emissions down a more aggressive 30 percent while environmental campaigners are pushing for just that.
With Europe now in a harsh recession and showing zero growth, others fear that CO2 emissions policies could forestall a recovery, deepen the recession, or cause a depression. Since Commissioner Hedegaard offered her cost assessment, the euro has suffered a precipitous decline which should dramatically alter her numbers.
Are carbon credits a good hedge against inflation caused by profligate spending supported by unsustainable debt, or can they be purchased with soft euros, adjust the balance sheet and call it a day?
Land use abuse?
A proposal from some developed nations to count their land use: standing forests, peat bogs, and other vegetation as carbon storehouses and their burning of wood as renewables has caused controversy as it would allow them to meet much of their proposed carbon obligations through a trick of accounting. They would stand to receive 400 megatons in carbon credit for doing what they would do with or without a climate treaty.
Papua New Guinea has led the opposition to the land use plan and noted that countries such as Australia could hope to count CO2 absorption by its plants in place of expensive carbon sequestration, alternative energy, conservation and offsets.
A little creative accounting dressed up behind a few public relations wind turbines and the whole climate change treaty could become affordable after all.
Bolivia's 100 percent solution
The hard Latin American left: Bolivia, Venezuela, and Cuba are opposing President Obama's Copenhagen Accord and pushing even stronger emissions curbs. The Kerry-Lieberman global warming bill calls for a 17 percent reduction in American emissions below 2005 levels over 10 years.
Bolivia has put forth a lengthy proposal that calls for 50 percent emissions reductions by 2017 and 100 percent by 2040. In addition, Bolivia would have the developed world repay a "climate debt" they tell us we've been accruing since 1750. They have called for an "International Court of Climate and Environmental Justice" to prosecute the developed world.
Bolivia also rejects carbon and all other markets, considering markets an evil in themselves that prioritize "extreme competition for profits and growth, and that this has separated humanity from nature, establishing a logic of domination over it, turning everything into a commodity: water, earth, the human genome, the ancestral cultures, biodiversity, justice, ethics, rights of peoples, and life itself."
Bolivia demands there be no private funding and that all global warming funds come from public funds. Where exactly we are to get these public funds if not from taxing market activity they did not say. 100 percent reduction of CO2 emissions by 2040? President Morales should not hold his breath.
The U.N. staggers on
How do you get a bureaucracy to admit it is wrong and change its course? The case for global warming has been steadily eroding as demonstrated by the evidence of data fixing and suppression of dissent in climate science revealed by the Climategate e-mails and the revelations that Himalayan glaciers are stable as are sea level, polar bear populations, etc.
Every day scientists, meteorologists, policy experts, and the public continue to shy away from global warming. They no longer buy it.
The United Nations seems unable to re-evaluate and change direction. Incoming UNFCCC head Figueres predicts that it is unlikely she still be able to have a treaty signed by the end of the Cancun round of talks in December. She does, however, believe that Bonn will set the "pillars" of a climate agreement that will be adopted in Cancun with a treaty to follow next year.
Diplomatically, can she guide these delegates past their bitter disagreements? Can the U.N. remain deaf to the chorus of dissent outside their halls? Will developed nations cheerfully redistribute their citizens' earnings to carbon traders, alternative energy developers, and the governments of the developing world?
Hard lessons teach good sense
With the bureaucracy soldiering on, political leaders afraid to dissent, climate campaign organizations filling their coffers, radical governments seeking to hobble the free world, and profiteers bellying up to the bar, it is the delegates of the developing world who seem to offer the best hope of good sense.
It is they, despite the enticement of redistributed billions, who continue to question the proceedings. They want real development for their people. They are not ready to renounce things we take for granted like clean water, sanitation, refrigeration, education, good nutrition, and modern healthcare.
Ask the delegates from Ethiopia who told us at the CFACT display that they are, "devastated that the rest of the conference couldn't see how the policies enacted were hurting their country."
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