Up, Down, Appendices, Dénouement, Postscript.
Three letter expressions I like: KKK for k-k-Kanada, aka Killingly Komplacent Kanada, FFF last week for fcuk fuct fcof, and HHH this week for Faith Hope and Love (and the greatest of these is Love). Presto-whiffo! All that AND eggnog too (see below)!
Just a few more words from/about/around Cancún: Jens Stoltenberg says, "I believe that many things might happen in American politics in a period of 10 years." Todd Stern says, "I don't think that's going to happen right away." The quotes are taken slightly out of context, you can see the original below.
The UNFCCC brass wants to arrest some protesters and they don't want photographs so they expel Mexican photographer Jorge Silva of Reuters. He doesn't go easily. Good on 'im! They don't call it the Moon Palace for nothing I guess. Call in the Moon Dogs - with eyes as big as saucers, with eyes as big as mill-wheels! ... with eyes as big as the Round Tower of Copenhagen!
Teamwork, that's the proper procedure for paranoid pathological polity: big muscle, medium muscle, frightened functionary, and really big black muscle. Like I said last week, Cancún wasn't about climate - it was about security. Practicing how to keep the hoi polloi under firm control because sooner or later even our dim Joe The Plumber is going to figgure it out. By that time it will probably be too late to do anything about it and he may very well be somewhat pissed; he may even begin to get 'restive' and 'act out'.
Daniela Chiaretti tells us, Cancún dá três passos, mas fica longe de salvar o planeta / Cancún takes three steps but is far from saving the planet. In another piece she changes the headline, a bit more sanguine: Cancún salva negociação sobre clima / Cancún saves climate negotiations. The second article is inaccessible because Valor Econômico S.A. keeps it locked up tight for subscribers, but the abstract (should be on the link) makes the content look about the same. She says, "... não foi suficiente para esconder que a conferência do clima de Cancún terminou sem resolver nenhum dos grandes impasses da área." / ... was not sufficient to hide that the Cancún climate conference ended without resolving any of the big sticking points. I guess Brasilian pundits like to have it both ways too - but at least it's just in the headline for our Daniela at least.
I wasn't going to do this ... but when I find that David Suzuki has been having roughly comparable thoughts ... well. And in the process I can't help finding out more and more that really, I just don't want to know anymore. What the UNFCCC/UNFCUK/UNFUCT does is a big fcof to me. But here's the story:
On December 6 Scott Reid says this; Suzuki waits a week or so and says this; next day people are arriving back in k-k-Canada and get spoken to by CBC; there is a chorous: Jane Taber; Kelly McParland; Margaret Wente.There is a pernicious ideology of positivity that grew up among the hippies and early new-agers, and moved on by osmosis & bryophyte asexual reproduction (commonly known as 'death from behind') into the general left-lib population including so-called 'progressives'. It is one of the few points of agreement bridging to the successful greed-head right-wingers as well. I came up against it early. If it is hard to argue with progress, it is even harder to argue with what people believe is success; but it becomes downright impossible if you can never use the merest negative. Couple this ideology of positivity with complacency and you have just about hermetically sealed yourself off from anything resembling reality. I am thinking now of a picture by the Brasilian photographer Araquém Alcântara ... on the cover of his latest book, Terra Brasil ... ok, here it is; cute eh? Look again. Or, if you want a more intellectual approach, consider Yeats' "... slouches towards Bethlehem to be born." The poem was written in 1920 - the beast has long ago been born, has grown up, and has taken over the store already.
Oh, and I had lovely email messages from May Boeve at 350.org and an anonymous minion at TckTckTck (aka gcca) telling me "progress has been made," and that Cancún "represents great progress."
It was a FIASCO!
here is little Effie's head
whose brains are made of gingerbread
I cannot see how to grab the CBC clip; the way it is you can't watch it without seeing ads - I'll keep trying, but in the meantime you had better watch it if you want to because it will disappear. I don't know a thing about the damned UNFCCC, totally & wilfully ignorant & uninformed obviously; and agreeing with Margaret Wente chokes me; but yeah, it sure looks like some kind of gross collective hypocrisy is at work. Linda Duncan has such a nice big square head - it's hard to imagine that it is full of warm air, not so hard maybe ... whatever ...
About the only one in this menagerie who gets my attention at all anymore is David Suzuki. He's old now. You can hear it in the prose in his latest (last?) book The Legacy; you can hear it in this article. I'm not blaming him at all.
He reminds me of Lear, King Lear that is, who hands his empire off to the lame publishers and the lame marketeers and finds himself almost without voice in the end. There's even a Cordelia in it.
Do not go gentle into that good night.I don't really know what went on at Cancún. At Copenhagen there was a website where you could watch it all. Maybe there was a website for Cancún too - I didn't even look for it. I'm just about done eh?
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
My friend Adriana was there. I only know what she has written in her blog. One day she says, "A whole lot of nothing is happening in Cancun," and the next it's, "Something truly magical is happening in Cancun. ... it give [sic] me profound hope."; and to me this is nothing but maudlin maudeleyne mawdlin mewling nonsense.
That kind of thing has happened to me before; it took me several decades to get over a communications seminar I went to one weekend in 1968 - no drugs involved but it was Jesuits y'unnerstan'; Rochdale came close but even there it was 'close but no cigar' with the best of 'em sliding off to rural communes in Québec & BC. Now I get tired easily; when the good-looking asshole economist starts explaining how growth is inevitable I just get up quietly and leave the room. Unfortunately I cannot seem to find a way to leave the city.
Ten years!? Not right away!? Hell, these damned Americans are moving almost as quickly backwards-in-reverse as k-k-Canada is! And since Canada claims to be riding on American coat-tails I guess it must be one'a them cosmic relativistic effects from the old E=mc2 er sommat? Is that how they do it?
Poor Shawn Garvin: of course all of Arch Coal's considerable inertia is against him; the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is against him; the Coal Miner's Association (naturally), the Chamber of Commerce ... the list goes on. I hope he doesn't go to Sweden anytime soon or they'll have him up on a rape charge.
What about Lisa Jackson? What about Barack Obama? A report in the NYT makes it sound like Obama is backing down (again). Hard to say, well ... hard to believe, something like that ... might just be obscurantist pundit jizz. ... who knows? Does God know?
I was one of the dimwits thinking Barack Obama was really going to pull it out in Copenhagen - right up 'til the very last minute ... and he sure didn't. The power of bourgeois inertia is so huge. A good man who loves his wife and family; a smart man able to do mental 'capoeira'; but still and all he ain't Quinn The Eskimo - Nobel peace prize doesn't change that.
I'm no better - my old Dell crashed this week and I went straight out and bought a new one, some other brand of shitbox 'laptop' (keeping in mind that very few of these laptops ever end up on laps - they mostly live on tables); and how many Congolese rapes are on my ticket now I wonder? Is Euphrasie Mirindi lookin' at me? And Jeanne Mukuninwa and their countless ruined sisters?
It's risky to go around saying BAH HUMBUG! I guess; next thing you know you're being visited by ghosts.
I dreamed of death after the post last week. My father was in it; I was dying in his arms; and when I turned and kissed his hand I found myself waking in tears. His hand seemed very real - liver spots and all.
I'm waiting for the other two to show up now. Something to look forward to.
Maybe one of 'em has already hit; in the form of a personal conumdrum, a quandary I woke with today: how to distinguish KKK (Killingly Complacent Canada) and associated pretence & pretend, hatred of bureaucrats &etc., from a predeliction for literature, fiction, ficção? Funny how vaguely remembered lectures from English 101 come back around with neither meat nor bones; and a reference from Northrop Frye which will take some digging to find.
Do Euphrasie Mirindi & Jeanne Mukuninwa count as ghosts of Christmas Present? If so my dance card is about filled eh?
I know I learned this a few years ago and must've forgot - No more'a'dat rum fer you me sonny bye, no sir! None'a that Lamb's Navy no, nor es-specially none'a that London Dock over-proof stuff; but Single Malt is ok; a bit odd in eggnog, true, but ... no gout attack the next day so it's all good; a bit more pricey-er and all; gotta love it! All good, and the Alzheimer's is kicking in nicely too.
Jorge Amado wrote a story, a good one. The tone is reminiscent of Kipling's Just So Stories and you have no idea what is going to happen until the very last page. O Gato Malhado e a Andorinha Sinhá / 'The Swallow and the Tom Cat' written in the late 40s after the war but not published until the 70s and not translated to English until the 80s. A few small climatic inconsistencies are resolved when you understand that he wrote it when he was living in Paris. Some reasonably priced copies at Abe's in English, and in Português the cheapest I could find is at Amazon.ca of all places, go figgure.
Illustrations by Carybé; some aproximately anatomically correct cats; this is good.
I hate to put the Cancún candle away. It's still burning here on my table. The Dollar Store downstairs sells candles. It makes a bit of a mess on the table-top but that's glass and easy to clean.
The new pack of Belmonts tells me, "TOBACCO USE CAN MAKE YOU IMPOTENT." That must be it. Do you think?
Be well gentle reader.
A few cartoons that seemed apropos.
And this: Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling; in particular
The Elephant's Child; and what called it to mind, being the line, "Then the Elephant's Child felt his legs slipping, and he said through his nose, which was now nearly five feet long, 'This is too butch for be!'"
This version by Jack Nicholson irritates me because he needs glasses I guess and mistakes 'curtiosity' for 'curiosity, and because hearing Bobby McFerrin makes me sick ... but still, I recommend it because he gets some of it right.
That's it. That's all you're getting for Christmas.
1. On Climate, The Elephant That's Ignored, Charles Hanley, December 11 2010.
2. Cancún dá três passos, mas fica longe de salvar o planeta, Daniela Chiaretti, 13/12/2010.
3. E.P.A. Delays Tougher Rules on Emissions, John Broder & Sheryl Stolberg, December 9 2010.
4. Liberals can't be nobodies on Cancun, Scott Reid, December 6 2010.
5. UN climate talks: Who gives a damn?, David Suzuki, December 12 2010.
6. NDP, Liberals call outcome of climate talks positive, Jane Taber, December 12 2010.
7. David Suzuki’s Brave Old World, Kelly McParland, December 13 2010.
8. Great news from Cancun!, Margaret Wente, December 14 2010.
On Climate, The Elephant That's Ignored, Charles Hanley, December 11 2010.
CANCUN: The latest international deal on climate, reached early Saturday after hard days of bargaining, was described by exhausted delegates as a "step forward" in grappling with global warming. If they step too far, however, they're going to bump into an elephant in the room.
That would be the U.S. Republican Party, and nobody at the Cancun meetings wanted to talk about the impending Republican takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives. It essentially rules out any new, legally binding pact requiring the U.S. and other major emitters of global warming gases to reduce their emissions.
In endless hours of speeches at the annual U.N. climate conference, the U.S. political situation was hardly mentioned, despite its crucial role in how the world will confront what the Cancun final documents called "one of the greatest challenges of our time."
Not everyone held his tongue. Seas rising from warming, and threatening their homes, got Pacific islanders talking.
Marcus Stephen, president of Nauru, spoke despairingly of "governments deadlocked because of ideological divisions." Enele Sopoaga, Tuvalu's deputy prime minister, referred to the "backward politics" of one unnamed developed nation.
A U.S. friend, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, told a large gathering here, "The key thing for us is not whether the American Congress is controlled by this or that party," but that richer nations help the developing world with financial support — for clean energy sources, new seawalls, new water systems and other projects to try to stem and cope with climate change and the droughts, floods, disease and extreme weather it portends.
"Which party" does matter, however. Many Republicans dismiss scientific evidence of human-caused warming, citing arguments by skeptics that the large majority of scientists are wrong or that the consequences of warming are overstated.
Early in the two-week conference here, four Republican members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton demanding a freeze on about $3 billion in planned U.S. climate aid in 2010-2011.
The senators said some findings of the U.N.'s climate change panel "were found to be exaggerated or simply not true" and said that at a time of record U.S. budget deficits, "no American taxpayer dollars should be committed to a global climate fund based on information that is not accurate."
The leader of the protest, Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, called the financing an "international climate change bailout." What will they call the long-term finance plan embraced at the Cancun conference, for $100 billion a year in U.S. and other international climate financing by 2020?
Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who with Zenawi co-chaired a U.N. panel on climate financing, was asked how this U.S. opposition can be overcome.
"I believe that many things might happen in American politics in a period of 10 years," he replied.
Such long, wishful views have dominated the climate talks for two decades, as the U.S. remained outside the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the modest mandatory reductions in emissions that other industrial nations accepted.
For the world to agree on a new, all-encompassing treaty with deeper cuts to succeed Kyoto, whose targets expire in 2012, the U.S. Congress must pass legislation to cap U.S. industrial emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
"I don't think that's going to happen right away," Todd Stern, chief U.S. negotiator, said with understatement here early Saturday.
Instead, the Cancun talks, waiting for another day, focused on small steps on climate: some advances in establishing a system to compensate developing nations for protecting their forests, for example, and in setting up a global clearinghouse for "green" technology for developing nations.
Cancun's chief accomplishment was to decide to create, with details to come, a Green Climate Fund that will handle those expected tens of billions of dollars in climate support.
This slowly-slowly approach began at the climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, last year, when the U.S., China, other big emitters and some small one pledged to carry out voluntary reductions in emissions.
Some say this will be the way global warming will be addressed, not with "topdown," legally binding treaties, but with self-assigned targets, bilateral deals to help create low-carbon economies, aspirational goals set by G-20 summits. If the world busies itself with such voluntary activities, this thinking goes, it may all add up to climate protection.
But scientists do numbers better than politicians. And the latest U.N. scientific calculation shows that the current emissions-reduction pledges, even if all are fulfilled, will barely get the world halfway to keeping temperatures rising to dangerous levels. The U.S. pledge — based on executive, not congressional action — is for a mere 3 percent reduction of emissions below 1990 levels.
If too little is done, the U.N. science network foresees temperatures rising by up to 6.4 degrees Celsius (11.5 degrees F) by 2100. In a timely reminder of what's at stake, NASA reported last week that the January-November 2010 period was the warmest globally in the 131-year record.
At that rate, climate will become the elephant no one can ignore.
Cancún dá três passos, mas fica longe de salvar o planeta, Daniela Chiaretti, 13/12/2010.
Fonte: Valor Econômico (locked).
Apesar da euforia provocada por ter conseguido dar três passos no enfrentamento ao aquecimento global, a conferência do clima de Cancún terminou sem resolver nenhum dos grandes impasses da questão. Criou-se um fundo climático que não tem dinheiro, as promessas de cortes maiores de emissão continuam promessas e o futuro do Protocolo de Kyoto depois de 2012 não foi resolvido - só se concordou em continuar discutindo. A comunidade internacional ainda não conseguiu formular uma resposta convincente ao desafio do aquecimento global.
Cancún não salvou o planeta. Cancún salvou o processo de negociação do acordo climático internacional, que quase foi a pique em Copenhague, em 2009. Nove entre dez diplomatas que falaram na madrugada do sábado, no encerramento da conferência mexicana, diziam que era preciso restaurar a confiança no processo multilateral. A voz destoante veio do embaixador Pablo Solón. O boliviano pode ter soado radical, mas colocou o dedo na ferida: "Estamos criando um fundo verde e um comitê para trocar tecnologia, mas onde estão os recursos para financiar isso?", e seguiu apontando as fragilidades do que se estava por aprovar, criando constrangimentos. Foi o embaixador coreano quem definiu em plenário o que realmente estava em jogo: "Vamos parar com a inércia do multilateralismo."
Na prática, as decisões de Cancún sobre finanças foram "convidar" (o termo usado é este mesmo, "convidar") os países industrializados a informarem ao secretariado da convenção do clima das Nações Unidas em maio de 2011, 2012 e 2013 sobre os recursos financeiros do chamado "fast track money" - US$ 30 bilhões prometidos em Copenhague para ajudarem os que mais sofrem os impactos do aquecimento global, como Bangladesh ou as pequenas ilhas. "Isto é novo porque dá alguma transparência a este fluxo de recursos que não sabemos se é dinheiro novo ou já prometido na cooperação internacional" diz Antonio Hill, especialista em clima da Oxfam.
Outra decisão foi criar o Fundo Climático Verde. O que se fez foi estabelecer a composição do conselho (24 membros com participação igual entre países desenvolvidos e em desenvolvimento e representação das pequenas ilhas e economias vulneráveis) e definir que será administrado pelo Banco Mundial. O dinheiro são aqueles US$ 100 bilhões ao ano, a partir de 2020, prometidos em Copenhague. Mas o fundamental - quem dá quanto, de onde vêm os recursos, com qual periodicidade e a partir de quando estarão disponíveis - sequer foi mencionado.
O acordo criou um Mecanismo de Tecnologia que terá um Comitê Executivo e um Centro e Rede de Tecnologia Climática, o que é positivo. Listaram-se escopos e funções, o estímulo à colaboração com o setor privado e academia, o desenvolvimento e transferência de tecnologias limpas, as oportunidades para cooperação Norte-Sul, Sul-Sul e assim por diante. Mas a operacionalização desta arquitetura ficou para 2012.
O planeta, na verdade, está longe de ser salvo. Cancún não conseguiu novas e mais ambiciosas metas de cortes nas emissões dos gases-estufa - e também não era isso que se esperava da conferência. Depois da alta expectativa em Copenhague e do fraco e polêmico resultado, a estratégia mexicana era conseguir um pacote de decisões em tecnologia, adaptação, na arquitetura financeira e no mecanismo de Redd, que define a Redução nas Emissões de Desmatamento e Degradação. Isto foi obtido e levou o nome de Acordo de Cancún. Mas se há detalhamento, a linguagem diplomática é fraca e ambígua. Lê-se muitas vezes que as nações concordaram em "facilitar", "estimular", "identificar", "recomendar". Decidir, colocar dinheiro, agir, são termos que pouco ou nunca aparecem.
Por pouco Cancún não reverteu a posição que o Japão tornou pública nos primeiros dias da CoP-16, de não concordar com o a continuidade do Protocolo de Kyoto depois de 2012, já que os maiores emissores mundiais, a China e os Estados Unidos, não estão no barco. Cancún não conseguiu assegurar a continuidade do Protocolo, só logrou consenso para que se continue discutindo o assunto. Kyoto continua agonizante, mas ganhou sobrevida.
O texto garante que não haverá intervalo entre o primeiro período do Protocolo (que, por ora, termina em 2012) e o segundo período de compromissos. O documento avança em uma tecnicalidade - estabelece que o segundo período de compromissos de Kyoto tomará 1990 como ano-base (e não 2000, como queria a Austrália ou 2005, como pretendia o Canadá) e acalma a ansiedade dos mercados de carbono. Mas se Kyoto continua mesmo, em que bases, que países farão parte da lista e com quais metas, são pontos cruciais e continuam todos em aberto. "Cancún pode ter salvo o processo mas ainda não salvou o clima" disse Wendel Trio, diretor de política do clima do Greenpeace Internacional. "É mais um atraso de um ano em decisões-chave", completa seu colega alemão Martin Kaiser.
E.P.A. Delays Tougher Rules on Emissions, John Broder & Sheryl Stolberg, December 9 2010.
The Obama administration is retreating on long-delayed environmental regulations — new rules governing smog and toxic emissions from industrial boilers — as it adjusts to a changed political dynamic in Washington with a more muscular Republican opposition.
The move to delay the rules, announced this week by the Environmental Protection Agency, will leave in place policies set by President George W. Bush. President Obama ran for office promising tougher standards, and the new rules were set to take effect over the next several weeks.
Now, the agency says, it needs until July 2011 to further analyze scientific and health studies of the smog rules and until April 2012 on the boiler regulation. Mr. Obama, having just cut a painful deal with Republicans intended to stimulate the economy, can ill afford to be seen as simultaneously throttling the fragile recovery by imposing a sheaf of expensive new environmental regulations that critics say will cost jobs.
The delays represent a marked departure from the first two years of the Obama presidency, when the E.P.A. moved quickly to reverse one Bush environmental policy after another. Administration officials now face the question of whether in their zeal to undo the Bush agenda they reached too far and provoked an unmanageable political backlash.
Environmental advocates are furious. They fear a similar delay on the approaching start of one of the most far-reaching regulatory programs in American environmental history, the effort to curb emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
But in a striking turnabout, the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Petroleum Institute — which have been anything but friendly to Mr. Obama — are praising his administration.
“Clearly, the agency has heard the calls from manufacturers,” said Keith McCoy, vice president for energy and natural resources at the manufacturers’ group. “We hope this week’s announcements signal that the E.P.A. is slowing down on overly burdensome and unnecessary rules that will crush economic growth and job creation.”
White House officials said that no plan was under way to retreat from the president’s aggressive environmental agenda. And some Democratic policy analysts said the environmental agency was simply exercising its usual caution, albeit in a new political climate.
“The E.P.A. always operates under the caricature of environmental zealots, and the reality is that economic concerns and the ability for business to continue operating is always a significant consideration,” said Joshua Freed, director of the clean energy program at Third Way, a centrist Democratic group. “The administration’s number one goal over the next two years is going to be expanding economic growth. The environmental regulatory process has always played out in that context, and that’s not going to change.”
The delays come as the president is reaching out to a newly empowered Republican Party on tax policy, a move that is angering his own Democratic base. He must now decide whether to make similar efforts on environmental issues.
“Obama has already signaled that in his quest for re-election he’s more than willing to turn against his base in order to make a compromise with his adversaries,” Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, an advocacy group, said in an e-mail, responding to the rules delay.
Mr. O’Donnell said the administration was clearly “running scared” from the incoming Congress and said he suspected that it was willing to moderate its stand on a variety of environmental regulations, including pending greenhouse gas rules aimed at reducing the pollutants that contribute to global warming.
The E.P.A. has said that it will begin regulating carbon emissions from power plants and other major stationary sources on Jan. 2, as a prelude to broader regulation of carbon dioxide in future years. Delaying that program would undercut much of what officials are trying to do in international negotiations like the United Nations climate talks now under way in Cancún, Mexico.
“Look, in January there will be appropriations battles and a whole lot of other tough fights,” said Jeffrey Holmstead, head of the E.P.A.’s air quality office in the recent Bush administration and now a lobbyist for industry. “The administration is going to be feeling a lot of pressure, and they would be better off to do some sort of a deal acceptable to the Republicans to delay this rather than having to threaten a veto.”
The delayed smog rule would lower the allowable concentration of airborne ozone to 60 to 70 parts per billion from the current level of 75 parts per billion, putting several hundred cities in violation of air pollution standards. The agency says that the new rule would save thousands of lives per year but cost businesses and municipalities as much as $90 billion annually.
The boiler rule would affect 200,000 industrial boilers, heaters and solid waste incinerators and is intended to cut emissions of mercury and other dangerous pollutants in half.
Lisa P. Jackson, the E.P.A. administrator, described the rules delay as a technical and tactical decision. She said she was delaying them for a matter of months merely to get “further interpretation” of scientific and health studies of their effects. An agency official said the delays were not a response to Congressional threats to curb the agency’s power or cut its budget.
Still, the threats are looming. Representative Fred Upton, the Michigan Republican who is in line to become the new chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has made limiting E.P.A. authority one of his main objectives and has promised a steady round of hearings questioning the basis of agency actions.
Mr. Upton suggested recently that Ms. Jackson should be given her own parking place on Capitol Hill because she would be testifying so frequently in the coming year.
In a statement on Wednesday, Mr. Upton called for the environmental agency to “stand down altogether” from the rules, which he said would “send a devastating economic shockwave coast to coast.”
Mr. Upton and Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the highest-ranking Republican on the Senate panel that oversees the E.P.A., followed up Thursday evening with a letter to Ms. Jackson in which they said they were “gravely concerned” about the direction the agency is taking. They vowed to conduct a thorough oversight investigation of the new rules.
Liberals can't be nobodies on Cancun, Scott Reid, December 6 2010.
A total of 192 nations, including Canada, are gathered in Cancun this week as part of the 16th United Nations Climate Change Conference. And nobody seems to give a damn. Not the Obama administration. Not China. Not the Harper Conservatives. Not even David Suzuki.
The Liberal Party of Canada, however, should give a damn. More importantly, it should be seen to be giving a damn — particularly by those who count themselves among the roughly 25 per cent of likely voters who say they will support either the New Democrats or Green Party in the next election.
Steeped in skepticism, Cancun has long been written off as a non-event. With each successive COP failure (that’s UN-ese for “Conference of Parties”), the prospects for a breakthrough dwindle. Observers handicap the potential for progress at somewhere south of a Beatles reunion. The gasping last hope for actual action was choked by a Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in the U.S. midterm elections on Nov. 2.
Even Canada’s best-known environmentalist, David Suzuki, was quoted as saying he was fed up and had little time for Cancun, assuming the political will to respond to the pressing threat of climate change at this forum was all but nil.
All this plays nicely into the hands of the Harper Conservatives, who can quietly avoid being held to account for their own lacklustre performance. The Conservatives have not only done less than nothing on the climate change file, they've also done less than they even promised.
Indeed, on his second tour of duty as environment minister, John Baird 2010 might want to avoid bumping into John Baird 2007. His younger self boldly charged that under Stephen Harper, Canada was set to "pull a U-turn" and start cutting greenhouse gas emissions, including mandatory cuts in industrial emissions.
Cancun's Bond villain
Baird's mantra then was that Canada would harmonize its efforts with those of our American neighbours — meaning that as the U.S. took measures to regulate its big industrial carbon emitters, we would do likewise.
But it seems now that harmony is in the eye of the polluter. Baird 2010 maintains that Canada will not impose mandatory emission cuts on big business even though the U.S. has taken steps to do exactly that.
As for Cancun, Baird arrives like a Bond villain, determined to do whatever it takes to sabotage even the dim possibility of progress. In these early days, he’s been working with Russia to ensure the Kyoto Protocol is declared dead once and for all. (Doesn’t that sound just like something Blofeld would do?)
What’s at stake for the Liberals? Well, begin with the fact many of them have children who, in all likelihood, would appreciate the ability to walk outside without the benefit of a hazmat suit. Beyond public policy reasons, however, there exist compelling political arguments for the Liberals to rub the Conservatives’ nose in their environmental failures.
Pointing to a middle class preoccupied with bread-and-butter issues like job security and household debt, the Conservatives imply there is no penalty to be paid for ignoring their own promises on climate change. Similarly, the Liberals might doubt whether championing limits on industrial emissions will win them any favour among those willing to switch their support from the Conservatives.
However, there are two flanks to the Liberal fight for an improved electoral outcome. A pre-condition for Michael Ignatieff’s success at the polls is to drain NDP support by roughly half and hold the Greens to below the five-point mark. This is particularly important in Ontario and B.C., where seat gains must be harvested.
That goal won’t be achieved through silence on Cancun, although a focus on climate change may seem a tad removed from the daily cut-and-thrust of Parliament. Although it may be hard to fight through an uninterested national gallery armed only with critiques such as “Where are the emissions caps?" there is plenty of reason to engage on the issue. Certainly, a narrowcast strategy aimed at reminding NDP and Green voters that the Liberal Party can be counted on to care about climate change could pay future dividends.
At some point in the next election campaign, it will prove necessary for Ignatieff to ask NDP and Green supporters to help oust Harper by voting Liberal. Securing a positive response begins now, not then. And it requires a commitment visible to those voters on issues like Cancun. Maybe nobody gives a damn. But that doesn’t mean the Liberals can afford to be just nobody.
UN climate talks: Who gives a damn?, David Suzuki, December 12 2010.
In a recent article on CBC’s website, political commentator Scott Reid wrote that I don’t “give a damn” about the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico.
Reid, who was former prime minister Paul Martin’s communications director, is correct that I was “fed up and had little time for Cancun, assuming the political will to respond to the pressing threat of climate change at this forum was all but nil.”
But there’s nothing that concerns me more than the threat of climate change and the necessity of world leaders to deal with the crisis. I’ve just seen the futility of trying to get our current government to act in any meaningful way at the UN talks, and I agree with David Suzuki Foundation staff that our efforts are better placed elsewhere.
In the lead-up to last year’s climate summit in Copenhagen, we rallied more than 14,300 Canadians to send letters and cards, make telephone calls and post videos online to demand that the federal government take action on climate change. Although it was great to see that support, it didn’t budge the government. World leaders failed to deliver the fair, ambitious and binding agreement we need to fight global warming, and Canada was seen as obstructing progress at the talks.
Canada’s record since hasn’t increased our hope. Our government has made “law and order” one of its platforms, yet it ignores that the Kyoto Protocol, which Canada signed, is international law. And last month, the government used the unelected Senate to kill, without debate, the Climate Change Accountability Act that the elected House of Commons had passed.
Worse perhaps, we recently learned that Canada’s government teamed up with the oil industry to secretly lobby against climate policies around the world, including California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, even though the government’s own bureaucrats reported that the California policy would “have a negligible impact on the Canadian oil industry” and that it is consistent with Canada’s goals.
It wasn’t the first time the government ignored its top officials to help the oil industry. In September 2009, leaders of G20 nations, including Canada, agreed at the Pittsburgh G20 summit to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. A leaked document from Canada’s Department of Finance later spelled out two approaches for meeting this commitment. The first was to “take action toward an immediate phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies.” The second was to “minimize the obligation.” Canada went against the advice of top officials and the environment minister and chose the latter.
The upshot? Our government — or rather, Canadian taxpayers — now subsidize the oil and gas industry to the tune of $1.4 billion a year, $840 million in the form of special tax breaks.
As for Cancun, just as UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change chair Rajendra Pachauri was telling the world that more research is needed into the release of potent greenhouse gases into the atmosphere as Arctic ice and permafrost melt, the 10-year-old Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences was winding down its operations after the government cut its funding.
And from Day 1 at Cancun, Canada’s Jurassic reputation has continued to grow. On opening day, our country took all three “fossil of the day” awards at the UN climate change negotiations. The dubious awards were given by environmental organizations to Canada for using the unelected Senate to kill the Climate Change Accountability Act, gutting climate change programs, and making the least constructive contribution to the negotiations.
What can you do about a government that fails to live up to its international obligations and that cares more about protecting and subsidizing the wealthiest industry in history than about protecting its own citizens from the impacts of pollution and climate change?
International negotiations are crucial, and through our alliance with organizations such as the Climate Action Network, we will continue to support efforts to get a fair, ambitious and binding international agreement on climate change. We hope that the current talks will at least form the basis for movement at next year’s negotiations in South Africa.
In Canada, though, we can accomplish more by working with municipal and provincial governments, and with thousands of concerned citizens, than trying to get the federal government to act on global warming. Our work around clean-energy solutions and other ways to resolve climate issues — and help steer Canada toward the emerging clean-energy economy — is more in line with initiatives such as Ontario’s plan to phase out coal power and create incentives to attract clean-energy technologies, B.C.’s implementation of a carbon tax that increases over time, and the City of Vancouver’s bold Greenest City initiative.
Of course, that’s not enough to confront a global problem like climate change, but if leadership is lacking at the top, we must build from the ground up.
I do give a damn about the UN climate talks. I only wish our government did.
NDP, Liberals call outcome of climate talks positive, Jane Taber, December 12 2010.
The verdicts are in, and all parties are calling the Cancun climate talks a success although the meeting concluded with no binding agreement for reducing greenhouse gases.
The NDP’s environment critic Linda Duncan arrived in Ottawa early Sunday morning, just hours after the environmental summit had wrapped up, calling the agreement that was reached a “breakthrough.”
She told CTV’s Question Period that people had come to the summit with “great cynicism” but emerged with a view that progress was made.
A year from now, when the political and environmental worlds come together again in Durban, South Africa, all countries will approve a binding agreement, she predicted.
“Not every country will have to reduce the same amount, but we’re all in this together,” Ms. Duncan said. “It’s a real breakthrough.”
And Liberal environment critic Gerard Kennedy, who had also been in Mexico for part of the meetings, said the accord should be “taken seriously,” although he was critical of Environment Minister John Baird, saying that Canada was “almost marginalized” at the meetings.
“His [Mr. Baird’s] statements sounded almost like an undersecretary from the U.S. We didn’t have the full engagement from Canada that I think people were expecting,” said Mr. Kennedy. “But there was a sense of relief and a sense of progress.”
And, he characterized the accord as “consequential.”
The opposition has been critical of the government for having a “part-time” environment minister. Mr. Baird, the Government House leader, was called on to serve as environment minister, a job he has held previously, after Jim Prentice stepped down to go to work for a Bay Street bank this fall.
Meanwhile, the parliamentary secretary for the Environment Minister, Mark Warawa, who also appeared on Question Period, said “huge accomplishments” were made in Cancun.
“A year from now, our hope is that in Durban there will be a new binding international agreement that deals with climate change and reduces greenhouse emissions ... and everyone is involved,” he said.
David Suzuki’s Brave Old World, Kelly McParland, December 13 2010.
David Suzuki has a piece in the Toronto Star about the climate change talks in Cancun.
Here’s the link but you can guess what he has to say: The Conservatives don’t care about global warming; the government’s in bed with the oil industry; Canada is a laughingstock around the world; green jobs are the future of the economy …
It’s all familiar stuff and it would be silly to expect anything different from Mr. Suzuki. But if he’s hoping to get his message to anyone beyond the core of true believers who already take his word as holy scripture, he should probably update some of his arguments.
1. The government cares more about the oil industry than about climate change.
When are folks like Mr. Suzuki and the climate industry going to learn that shutting down industries and costing tens of thousands of people their jobs is not viewed by most people as desirable, even in pursuit of a noble goal? Poll most Canadians and the majority will agree that reducing greenhouse gases is a good thing. Ask them if they’d trade their livelihood for it, and their opinion changes. If the Suzuki-ites want to get any traction they have to get realistic: working with the oil industry to dramatically reduce emissions is reasonable and achievable. Suggesting people risk their homes and incomes for it is not.
2. Canada is viewed as a laggard on the world stage, or, in Mr. Suzuki’s words: “Canada’s Jurassic reputation has continued to grow.”
With who? The U.S., which talks a good game about climate change but is far more dependent on dirty old coal for its energy and hasn’t passed any of the carbon-reduction legislation promised by Mr. Obama? China and India, whose climate-change policies consist of demanding exemptions from any programs imposed on the West? Developing countries that see “climate Change” as a big piggy bank to demand reparations from wealthier countries? Just because Canada’s gimmick-addicted coterie of attention-seeking activist groups can’t bring themselves to look beyond their own narrow horizons doesn’t mean the horizons aren’t there.
3. Canadians want Ottawa to act.
True. As long as it doesn’t cost them anything. Mr. Suzuki cites B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell’s imposition of a carbon tax, and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s pledge to phase out coal-generated power. He conveniently ignores the fact Mr. Campbell has been driven from office by voters angry at being hit by the carbon tax and HST, and that Mr. McGuinty, despite seven years in office, has failed to deliver on his coal pledge, regularly pushing it off into the future. Meanwhile, Mr. McGuinty has committed his government to a host of starry-eyed plans set to boost home energy costs by 45% over the next five years, and will be very lucky to survive next year’s election thanks to his free-spending ways. As if those examples aren’t enough, Mr. Suzuki might ponder where Canada’s demand for action disappeared to when former Liberal leader Stephane Dion offered them a chance to defeat the government and embrace his “Green Shift” policies, which were everything Mr. Suzuki advocates. If Mr. Suzuki really thinks Canadians back the sort of actions he recommends, perhaps he could put them in policy form and seek election on that basis. I’m sure Mr. Dion would help — he’s not very busy these days.
4. The world is moving towards an “emerging green energy economy.”
If activists like Mr. Suzuki have an identifying trait, it’s the belief that something is true because they say it is. So, by constantly stating that there is a “green economy” out there waiting to be seized on, it becomes fact. Except, economies don’t spring into existence like that. “Green jobs” will appear when someone finds a way to make them pay, without mass government subsidies. The “green economy” beloved by Mr. Suzuki et al consists of artificial, massively-subsidized government programs that will continue exactly as long as the government keeps the money flowing. Abandoning industries that make a profit and create jobs, in favour of ephemeral replacements dependent on never-ending transfusions of taxpayer cash, is the sort of impractical surrealistic idealism that has made left-wing economics the irrelevancy it is today.
Great news from Cancun!, Margaret Wente, December 14 2010.
In a rare burst of tripartisan hypocrisy (oops, unity), all three of our national parties are declaring the Cancun climate talks a great success. “A real breakthrough,” announced the NDP’s environment critic. “Consequential,” affirmed the Liberals, despite the fact that Canada was “almost marginalized” by the awful record of the Harper government. As for the government itself, a spokesman assured us that the talks produced “huge accomplishments.”
International officialdom added to the cheery unanimity. The Union of Concerned Scientists said that, even though the Cancun accord “wasn’t enough to save the climate,” it did “restore the credibility of the United Nations as a forum where progress can be made.” Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, declared: “This is not the end, but it is a new beginning.”
Translation: Nothing happened, but we need to save face. See you next year in Durban! Actually, something happened. There were lots of parties with Mexican music and free booze. At the end, everyone agreed to agree next time. One thing they did agree on was a $100-billion transfer of money from rich countries to developing countries – just as soon as they can figure out where the money’s coming from and where it’s going to. If you seriously believe that will ever come to pass, then you probably believe in Tinkerbell.
Why does no one tell the truth? Maybe they believe that, so long as they keep clapping, Tinkerbell won’t die. Even worse, they’d be forced to admit that the hopeless UN climate process, in which they have invested so much lip service, is a ridiculous boondoggle that benefits no one but the vast bureaucracy needed to support it.
Besides, events such as Cancun are an inexpensive way for politicians to show they really care about the planet. If you’re in opposition, they’re a great excuse to bash the government for not caring enough. If you’re in government, they’re a great excuse to pretend you’d gladly do more if only the rest of the world would get its act together.
What impresses me most about these mash-ups is the willful ignorance required to keep them going. I’m not talking merely about the futility of seeking to negotiate a top-down global deal that’s actually enforceable, or the hubris of believing we have the knowledge or the means to control the global temperature in 2050. (King Canute, come on down!) I’m talking about the refusal to acknowledge the most basic facts about global energy demand and energy technology.
Please note: This has nothing at all to do with climate-change denial. Many knowledgeable people believe that human activity affects the climate in important ways, and also that we can’t do much about it.
Other people don’t like to hear this. They insist we have a moral duty to “do something.” But they underestimate the challenge. The global population is set to grow by another three billion, and the consequent explosion in energy demand is unstoppable. Even if somebody discovered how to make cheap solar power by tomorrow, the world’s energy infrastructure would take several decades to rebuild.
Some day – after we’ve invested stupendous amounts in energy innovation – the world will be powered by clean, green energy. But that day is a very long way off. Meantime, the world’s most pressing energy problem will be finding a lot more of the old stuff. But who wants to think about that? Way more fun to think about next year, in Durban.