Money talks in Copenhagen
|Friday, 18. December 2009 0 comment(s)||
International Politics of Natural Resources and the Environment research programme
No, this isn’t a post about how American coal and oil interests have sidelined the US climate bill, nor about the influence of corporate lobbyists on UNFCCC negotiations here in Denmark. Rather it is about how America finally, after years of inactivity, committed itself to financing the global effort to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
On Thursday morning, a day when developed countries seemed to be under the impression that they could negotiate with climate science, rather than with the poorer countries calling for limiting warming to 2 degrees, numerous nations announced that they’d given up hope of a deal. But then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived to deliver a speech promising America’s participation in a plan to offer $100bn annually by 2020 to developing countries, thereby injecting new life and hope into the negotiations.
Yet, there are strings attached to this offer. The US stated conditions that the major developing economies must provide documentation, available to review, on their efforts to mitigate climate change. Given the significant amount of funding, this places the rapidly emerging economies in a position of ostensibly being in the way of a deal, demanding from them a positive response.
Indeed, later in the day China reaffirmed that it is not completely opposed to international verification of carbon accounts, signaling movement on a front that was previously at an impasse. Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei stated that China is open to “dialogue and cooperation that is not intrusive, that does not infringe on China's sovereignty”. India had also softened its stance on the issue of transparency. These two major emerging economies moving forwards on this matter is good news, as transparency itself is vital in making countries accountable for their efforts to tackle climate change. It also helps to ensure funding is used responsibly. However, this new development throws into sharp relief a major problem with how the negotiations are proceeding.
This tactic of putting the ball in the court of developing nations is one which the Americans, and other developed parties, persist in, despite their obligations under the Framework Convention on Climate Change based on historical responsibility, and distracts from the relatively weak mitigation targets put on the table by the US. Whilst the political realities domestically in the States severely hinder what US negotiators can promise in Copenhagen, it does not change the need for America to lead the world on such a crucial issue. In a century when the relationship between the United States and China is going to be paramount, this is interesting indeed.
Given these dynamics, as we head into the last hours of negotiations, any deal is going to be inherently weak and ignorant of the current scientific evidence. Much of the impetus and concessions seem to be coming from those less well-placed to deal with climate change. Those demanding a ‘fair, ambitious and binding’ agreement will, like the rest of us, likely be very disappointed to say the least.
Texts reflect the opinions of the individual authors