Posted by: carbonara | September 4, 2012

UN climate negotiations: last few optimists abandon hope

An optimist contemplates changing his mind

[Bangkok, 4 September]  Stark new facts have emerged concerning the international climate change negotiations  process, causing the last few diplomatic optimists to despairingly abandon any hope of an eventual successful outcome. A raft of new reports on unprecedented declines of Arctic sea ice this summer have appeared at the same time as the climate negotiating positions of key countries become ever more entrenched and regressive. The clarity of the data led to some of the only remaining optimists to publicly declare that they have had no choice but to change their long-held views to fall into line with majority of scientific and diplomatic thinking. Although small in number, this last bastion of believers numbered a few loyal employees of the UNFCCC Secretariat, dogged government delegates from small vulnerable countries and a smattering of well-meaning environmental NGO workers.  Speaking of his newly declared pessimism, one UNFCCC official said: “For many years I had been convinced that the UN negotiation process was an effective means to prevent global climate catastrophe. But my latest empirical analysis of the data shows that, beyond reasonable doubt, this is no longer the case. The facts have changed and so must I change my opinion”.

Delegates arrive at the conference, shepherded by carefully attentive police

Negotiators at the latest “informal” session of negotiations in the Thai capital – sporting a distinct lack of ties and jackets as well as any noticeable intention to agree on anything – were quick to lament these findings. Said all negotiators from every country, “It’s a terrible state of affairs. We realise how serious the climate change situation is, and how lamentable progress has been in these negotiations. But it’s not my country’s fault – it’s the fault of all the other countries and their unreasonable negotiation positions”. All agree that their own position is perfectly reasonable, and they would be keen to do so much more if it wasn’t for the insufficient pledges of all other countries.  All agree that the important time to discuss this is not now but at the next negotiating session.

The public change of heart of these final believers comes on the back of other recent U-turns from prominent figures in the climate change arena, such as Prof Richard Muller who also made a sudden and public reassessment of his views based on new data.

All is not totally lost however. As the international process continues to falter, many are turning their attention to the national level, pointing to  relatively progressive policy-making in countries as diverse as Australia, China and Korea. Not to mention the world’s 8th largest economy, where a binding cap-and-trade regime is on the cusp of being implemented (California).

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