Friday, December 09, 2011

Some hail the failure of UN climate talks

The latest jamboree to 'save the planet' and bring together a package of deals to seal a treaty on tackling 'global warming' and 'climate change' looks set to fail, but there are some that are in a mood of celebration.

The COP17 has this year convened in Durban, South Africa bringing together leaders and interested parties to debate environmental policy. But with another looming economic crisis set to affect the globe, the potential effects of global warming seems far from the agenda of many nations.

There are some that look at the whole UNFCCC gatherings as a farce, a gravy train upon which many groups take advantage, swanning from one conference location to another. Last year's gathering was in sunny Mexico's plush resort of CancĂșn while previous meetings have been held in a wide range of locations including Copenhagen, Milan, Buenos Aires, New Delhi and Milan.

One could easily become sceptical in thinking that many of those involved are far less interested in 'saving the planet' than they are is seeing the world, while being funded by environmental groups, NGOs and government departments.

The carbon footprint of each COP meeting is many thousand tonnes, one that could be easily dispensed by using electronic communication and conference calls over the Internet. Of course that would not be as much fun as drinking champagne cocktails at after speech gatherings, swanning off on safari days out in between debates, or relaxing by the pool at the end of a long day discussing how to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Such meetings are frequented not only by the believers, but also the non-believers or climate change sceptics. James Inhofe an Oklohoma republican, is a strong critic of the scientific consensus that climate change is occurring as a result of human activities. Though not actually present in Durban, he delivered an address to a side event at the COP17, by way of a video presentation.

In it Inhofe gave a stark message that the attendees of the COP17 were being brushed aside by the United States. "The message from Washington to the UN delegates in South Africa this week could not be any clearer: You are being ignored," Inhofe said, "And you are being ignored by your biggest allies in the United States, that's President Obama and the Democratic leadership in the Senate."

His assessment was based on the fact that while Obama and several members of Congress travelled to Copenhagen, Denmark to attend the COP15 in 2009, this year the president remained at home, as did all members of Congress and the president's Cabinet, citing busy year-end agendas.

The COP15 failed to yield a new treaty on emissions, but a voluntary agreement on national emission-cutting targets and funding known was brokered. However, as many noted, the Copenhagen Accord was not legally binding. The COP15 was also the scene of much bickering between countries with blame being apportioned to all sides in blocking agreements.

Growing disinterest in the talks became apparent at the COP16 in Mexico as few world leaders attended, with many countries sending only representatives. Coverage of the event was also scant. Blinked and you'd have missed it, as many surely did.

And Durban looks to become yet another farce, with the US paying little interest, while China makes loud noises claiming it is ready to make deal if everyone else plays along. In such a climate it is not surprising that Infohe sees the whole idea of a legally binding treaty going up in a puff of hot air.

Expectations are low that a deal will be reached. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, speaking earlier this week, conceded that an all-encompassing climate deal "may be beyond our reach for now." Some believe such a failure will lead to the death of the Kyoto Protocol, the only binding multilateral treaty on climate change. And of course there will be those who blame either side for such a failure, be it China or the US.

But there are others who will be celebrating the collapse of another expensive round of talks. Infohe, for one, seemed almost ecstatic at the prospect of the talks failing. "Tossing out any remote possibility of a UN global warming treaty is one of the most important things we can do for the economy," the senator said in his video address.

"During the tough economic times people are facing, this victory is especially important today as families around America and around the world continue to face really tough economic times," Inhofe continued.

"You should know that global warming sceptics everywhere wish we could be with you celebrating the final nail in the coffin on location in South Africa," he said. But Inhofe remains angered that Obama's administration is still using the climate change argument to impose regulations which will hit many in their pocket.

"Even though cap and trade regulation is gone done and dead forever, President Obama is going full force to pass these destructive regulations through the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] … so it's not over yet" [Video via LiveLeak / YouTube]

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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