Targets Debate ‘Largely Irrelevant’ says de Boer

To cries of ‘now you tell us,’ Yvo de Boer, the man perpetually dubbed ‘former UN climate chief’, has reportedly said ‘Discussions about [emissions] targets have become largely irrelevant in the context of the Copenhagen outcome.’ And, has reportedly also said,’ I don’t think that we’re going to see a dramatic increase in the level of ambition.’

His argument is one that will be familiar to regular readers of politicalclimate.net: Countries have made their best offers in the annexes to the Copenhagen Accord and are unlikely to revise upwards until political and economic conditions change. As we pointed out over on the Open Democracy website prior to Copenhagen, targets do not inexorably lead to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions (although if there’s a process like the UK’s Climate Change Committee in place, they certainly help).

‘What matters, however, is not a new UN treaty annex full of “targets” – but actual policies, plans, programmes, measures, actions and national impetus to stop the growth of emissions.’

So, while it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have frequent reminders of the potential consequences of delivery against inadequate targets – although even that looks a tall order at the moment – it’s not likely to be a game changer. By that token, there must be better ways to use valuable time and resources than continually reinventing the same intractable targets debate or producing further analysis to show how inadequate the Copenhagen Accord targets are.

Instead, why not focus on ‘actual policies, plans, programmes, measures, actions and national impetus’. Winning the high and low politics means demonstrating that a country, region, city or community can decouple its prosperity and people’s quality of life from emissions growth. Citizens need to see the benefits of low carbon; governments need to be more confident that the green arrows don’t only point to the exit.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Targets Debate ‘Largely Irrelevant’ says de Boer

  1. While a formal protocol could add some weight to different countries’ targets, what adds much more weight, as pointed out above, are the policies that countries implement to reduce their emissions. We have a curious situation in the current negotiations where developed countries talk about their targets and developing countries talk about their policies. Why can’t developed countries list their policies as well? Maybe we need a ‘schedule’, like the annex to the Copenhagen Accord, where any country can list targets and/or policies and measures. For everyone to be able to list their policies alongside each other would increase confidence that they are doing things to reduce their emissions.

  2. Amarjyoti Acharya

    The notion of justice (economic & social) amongst nations; the history of colonialism (often studies by citizens of former colonial masters that get cited along with being used to create a “new” voice by the under-developed/developing states); and human tenedency to procreate and run over the planet while interfering with its eco-systems often leaves out the crucial question of the eco-system and its ideal separation from human follies and foibles. Then one runs into the circular problem of the under-developed/developing states of poverty-illiteracy-under-developement! This circularity is sought to be outrun by many developing states by turning into statistical wonders, including the wonder of disciplines and the reality of certain truths. While it does smother academic honest-bugs along with other honest-bugs (that is what it is in most under-developed/developing states), it also kind of queers the discipline of semantics of the English language. While that may thrill the French, the separation of the eco-system of the earth from human follies & foibles remains a crucial area that should be above and beyond the circularity/honesty-bug eradication of the third world states that gets cited as their classical wooden leg syndrome. That patronization (in its abused sense) should envelop the developed states needs to be equally avoided while responsibilities are honestly taken about the proportinate damages that each state does and has done to the planet’s eco-system. Having developmental policies that have teeth and that take this basic concern as its core concern is lacking. Not easy to come by nor difficult. As it always is – it remains a matter of choice!

  3. Pingback: Never Mind The Targets, Feel The Stones « Political Climate

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