There will not be a global climate deal this year, there may, however be US climate legislation. A bet on the first rather than on the second of these statements would be more likely to trouble the cashier at William Hill. However, neither is going to have the bookmakers quaking in their boots.
In a meeting of EU foreign ministers, Connie Hedegaard has acknowledged the difficulties of getting a binding agreement before the South African climate summit in December 2011. Judging by the pugnacious determination of many to stick to the Bali negotiating modus operandi – see Martin Khor’s article in the Malaysian Star as an example – even this would seem optimistic. Khor advises developing world negotiators and is keen to see the Accord killed in favour of the UN twin track negotiations.
I’ve said in previous posts that the impasse is still currently unbreachable as developed countries (principally the US) want to see developing countries (principally China) take on some form of binding commitments to reduce emissions while developing countries are steadfastly unwilling to do this. This remains the case. So why bother trying?
Many negotiations supporters’ answer to that question will be that it lies in the US politics. Movement on a US climate bill might be made easier if China did sign up to something more concrete than the Copenhagen Accord, even though Senator John Kerry, “completely contrary to any conventional wisdom” thinks some form of bill may still be possible anyway. But isn’t it a good start to have China already giving the US a good hiding in clean energy markets, especially as US voters are more afraid of China than they are of climate change?
It’s not if your goal is absolute environmental integrity via a ‘fair, adequate and binding’ global climate change agreement. But, as many analyses of the history of delivery against climate promises made at the international level illustrate, targets are not in themselves going to bail out the atmosphere.
I still hear lots of talk about the finer points of the negotiations but nothing that convinces me there’s any real hope of a major breakthrough, even within Hedegaard’s timeframe. So it really is time to shift the focus away from the policy and onto the politics.
By that I don’t mean the overblown geo-political theory that followers of the UN process employ to try and work out who needs to do what by when. I mean the underlying politics that make a very conservative Senator such as John Kerry appear outlandish when he suggests a watered down and possibly pretty useless US climate bill may still be on the cards.