The Dernogalizer

June 2, 2009

The Global Treaty Landscape

BBC News has a very accurate and well rounded article that does a good job of summing up the status of a global agreement on greenhouse gas emissions reductions, and ties it back to the climate bill in the US as it should.  The only weakness is when they state the concerns here about job losses and higher energy prices, there isn’t quite enough balance given to the fact that these concerns are rendered near-mute by the consumer rebates on their electric bills, and that jobs created will far outweigh jobs lost.  I’m going to quote some parts of the article that I feel are important for readers to know, and I’ll add a little context to them if I see the need.

“He added: “We really do recognise and appreciate the significant steps China has already taken. Anyone who says China is not doing anything on climate change is wrong. They’ve done a lot – but they have to do a lot more.

“They have to commit to it and it’s got to be broadly in line with what the science is telling us the world needs to do in order to deal with this problem. Those are very challenging principles.”

It’s important to realize that China is not an irrational actor.  They understand that climate change is going to be absolutely devastating for their country.  I did a research paper for one of my international relations classes on how climate change and environmental degradation is currently impacting China, and what’s in store for China in the future.  It is not pretty.  A lot of the reports I referenced were from China’s government themselves.  They realize they have a problem, they’re taking steps to address it, but they’ve got a long way to go.  A U.S. China climate deal is possible.

“On developing countries, Mr Stern said clauses on emissions trading in the Waxman-Markey Bill being debated by the US Congress would provide $15-$20bn a year in allowances annually to poor nations, based on a carbon price of $15-$20 a tonne.

“We don’t know the final shape of the bill – but that’s just one provision. I can’t say it’s going to be the same amount developing countries have called for – and some of those (sums) aren’t realistic – but we are talking about significant amounts for sustainable development.”

It’s good to see some ballpark numbers regarding what we’re talking about in adaptation funding from the US climate bill alone.  While $15-20 billion isn’t what developing nations are calling for, it’s still a very good bit of money, and more than some governments spend in a year.  I think if we want better numbers out of other countries, we will want to offer more aid for adaptation.  At the same time, the dilemma is that additional money we provide to others could be going to reduce US emissions.  One issue called into question is whether or not it’s more valuable for the US to spend it’s dollars on adaptation for others, or on reducing emissions to reduce how badly others will need to adapt.  I have an idea for a way to bridge this difference, which would be to take some of the $26 billion we’re already giving in foreign aid, and redirect it to adaptation funding.

“The emissions caps in the Waxman Markey Bill will bring cuts of a few percent from the US economy by 2020, based on the UN’s agreed 1990 baseline.  Developing countries say the US should be cutting 40-60% in light of recent science. They say that America should not be excused by the inaction of the Bush administration.”

This is going to be a sore sticking point.  Politically, a bill about what Waxman-Markey does is the ceiling.  Scientifically and based on the demands of other countries in the negotiating process, we’re going to come up short.  Right now we’re coming up real short with our 17% below 2005 levels target.  However, if the full potential of the bill is recognized through the energy and offset portions of the bill, as I mention here, then the numbers get closer to something that can make for a strong treaty.  What impressed me with this article is that it actually made this point, and few have…

“But US emissions cuts look much more impressive if you count cuts in agricultural pollution, the contributions to preserving forests in developing nations and buying emissions allowances from poor countries. The World Resources Institute estimate that if all the credits were translated into genuine pollution cuts it would lead to the equivalent of perhaps 23% American reductions on 1990 levels, which is very much in line with Europe’s 20% offer.”

I think there is one sentence which sums up the need for the US to pass a strong climate bill here by Copenhagen in order for this to happen..

“Meanwhile, the rest of the world can only watch and wait.

I’ll repeat what I wrote last December…all eyes are on us.

**Update 6/3/09**: The Guardian has an article about how Obama factors into this process.

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