Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Diplomats Fiddle While Planet Burns?

Are the world's political leaders starting to accept the 'last chance' logic that argues for major substantive agreement at the Paris conference in December? Diplomacy is a shifty business, where appearance counts for more than reality, but there is a real flurry of activity out there, which may be putting some actual deals in place before the Paris COP becomes a Götterdämmerung. Here's a quick round-up of current initiatives:

  • G7: the energy ministers finished talks in Hamburg last week in preparation for the June meeting of the world's largest capitalist economies, where two of the protagonists--President Hollande and Chancellor Merkel--are promising substantial commitments. Merkel, who will chair the G7, has pledged action on the $100 billion annual Green Climate Fund to help developing countries adapt and mitigate, while Hollande declared his support for legally binding agreements in Paris--a sticking point for the US, among others. Within the G7 itself, Canada and Japan--along with the US--are seen as the recalcitrants, in need of 'peer pressure' from their more enlightened European counterparts. 
  • Meanwhile ministers from 35 nations are meeting in Berlin today at the 6th Petersberg Climate Dialogue, hosted by Chancellor Merkel. At the session, a pre-meeting for the Paris COP-21 conference, Merkel affirmed her support for strong carbon pricing measures.
  • Plans are taking shape for the 3rd International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa in July. This meeting is seen as a way to build pressure for the wealthier nations to direct new development funds to the Green Climate Fund proposed in Copenhagen 6 years ago but not yet properly funded. 
  • The Addis Ababa meeting will prepare for  a UN-sponsored conference on Sustainable Development to be held in New York in September. The intention is to renew the Millennium Development Goals, drafted by the international community in 2000 with little reference to the climate issue, in a framework which will peg development to climate-related goals, both for mitigation and adaptation.
  • And the Paris conference itself? National proposals (INDCs) have been overdue for several weeks now. Liechtenstein and Andorra have come through with proposals for major reductions in their absolutely minuscule greenhouse gas emissions, as has Gabon, the first African nation to submit a plan, whose national carbon market, though small, at least represents an admirable prototype. Of the larger economies, since Russia's duplicitous proposal to count its forests as a carbon-reduction system, only Canada has arrived on the scene, with plans to reduce the methane leakage from its deplorable tar sands production fields. Canada's overall plan got a 'substandard' rating from the World Resources Institute.Will the large and significant economies use the remaining months to improve their attitudes?  
In short, the production of hot air in international forums is increasing steeply, while actual commitments are still sluggish. Will the former encourage the latter? That is really the Big Question for our time.

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