Friday, December 3, 2010

Cancun Sumit update - China's Complaint

Though there is a glut of news out there that may distract us, we can not forget that the Cancun UN Climate talks are currently taking place. Also known as COP16, short for the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the talks have already showed some disparaging signs as to how effective they will actually be and seem to possibly be as small of a step as the Copenhagen talks were to having an international and legally binding Climate Treaty. We need to keep in mind that the last landmark climate treaty which was legally binding was the Kyoto Protocol, which the United States never actually signed onto under the Bush Presidency. With the Kyoto Protocol expiring in 2012 and the non-binding and weak agreement that came out of the Copenhagen talks giving no real replacements, time is starting to run out for anything of real value to be done about it in time to build upon Kyoto.

Currently, many are blaming the United States for the lack of effectiveness, and partially I cannot fault the detractors for that. The United States delegation seems to be doing little to push an effective and time efficient treaty and seems to be messing up the process from the background. As Sarah Laskow of the Weekly Mulch puts it (in an excellently researched piece);
What does seem certain is that if, at the end of this session, international climate negotiations have become so messy and tangled the world abandons them, and starts over, much of the blame will lie with the United States.
It actually looks like the Republican gains in the mid-term elections caused the US delegation to abandon plans to introduce its own climate change legislation. Currently they have only offered a weak pledge to cut emissions by 17 per cent, a stance that has weakened their position in the international talks and negotiations.

The United States should be eating some humble pie regarding effectiveness and leadership at home for these talks. Compared to China, the United States has been caught sleeping on the Climate Leadership job. While the legislation to cap carbon dioxide emissions died in Congress, China made pollution cuts and energy efficiency the law and even considered a CO2-trading system. In fact, while the U.S. attracted about $18.6 billion in renewable-energy investments in the last, China attracted $34.5 billion, nearly double. As stated in an article from Bloomberg news;
“China is in a stronger negotiating position now than they were in Copenhagen because the perception is the U.S. doesn’t have its domestic act together,” Alden Meyer, head of policy in Washington at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in an interview. “The Chinese public believes they are doing a lot more on the ground than the U.S., and they don’t think China should have to make any concessions.”
In fact China and other countries like Bolivia and Venezuela, have been accusing some developed nations at the talks of trying to kill the Kyoto Protocol pact and without America, or even Canada, taking the lead and presenting anything strong, the talks seem to be going towards a deadlock. As written by David Derbyshire of the Daily Mail;
Without American committed to taking action, other countries are reluctant to sign up to a legally binding cut in their carbon emissions - a cut that could put them at an economic disadvantage... China is equally reluctant to sign up to any legally binding treaty, claiming it is unfair that its economic growth should be restricted by the West.
The United States really needs to get their domestic act together. The current lack of leadership on the U.S.'s part is frightening, not just for the present but for 2012. Imagine a scenario for a moment. Obama and the Democratic leadership are so split that they are no longer an effective party and there is stagnation in the legislature which bolsters the Republicans. As a result of infighting and lack of unity, Obama is either met with a challenger (and loses to that challenger) or split from the major party effort causing the Republican candidate to win the Presidency and gain control of both the House and Senate. Imagine, on the best of cases, that the UN delegations can pump out something relatively binding and effective by 2012. That means that by the time a treaty agreement can voted on in Congress, there could be no Legislative support for it, causing us to not sign or abide by that treaty either. In the worst case scenario, no UN action comes about and as a result of the change in regime in the US, no delegation would be sent that would push for anything progressive. Sorry situations in either case.

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