Why climate talks in Cancun failed miserably


3:53 pm - December 15th 2010

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contribution by Kirsty Wright

After two long and dispiriting weeks, the Cancun climate talks drew to a close in the early hours of Saturday morning. Expectations for the Cancun meeting were always low after the disaster that was Copenhagen.

So what did this supposed “deal”, that lead some to calls of “we can can can in Cancun” as the talks drew to a close, actually produce?

» What we have essentially ended up with is a list of non binding promises, that leave the World Bank, one of the world’s most discredited and undemocratic institutions, that even last year beat its own records on climate wrecking fossil fuel lending, as the trustee of a much heralded new ‘Green Climate Fund’.

» And that any money the World Bank holds will simply be reinvested into the most profitable areas, all too often, fossil fuel lending that, as even recent history tells us, will only further exacerbate the global warming we are trying to halt.

» Meanwhile the pledged emissions cuts, which would lead a 4 degree global temperature rise at best, sit outside the only legally binding framework on emissions cuts that currently exists, meaning no one is obliged to follow through with them.

» At the same time, this leaves the Kyoto Protocol, the only existing legally binding framework within the UN framework on cutting emissions, to be hung out and left to die. This supposed ‘deal’ is little more than a betrayal of the people who are already being impacted by the horrors of a changing climate they played no part in causing.

» Another nail in the coffin has been the Wikileaks revelations that rich countries are using climate finance as a bribe to get developing countries to agree to weak rich targets for reducing carbon emissions. Continued pressure by rich countries for funds to be channelled through the World Bank, an institution deeply mistrusted by developing countries due to it undemocratic structure, its history of damaging projects, and its role as a major financer for fossil fuel based climate destroying development, have knowingly created a deeper divide in the negotiations.

The politics at play in Cancun has been more attune to children in a playground than countries serious about averting a climate crisis. First, the Mexican government handpicked 25 heads of state, like sides in a lunchtime football game. Most refused the invite.

In yet another bold move from the Bolivian government, Evo Morales, one of the champions of a strong just deal amongst the developing country groupings, decided to come to the party anyway, without having an invite, breaking the usual diplomatic protocols.

Before the talks had even started, the United States had already threatened they would walk out if they didn’t get their own way, like the spoilt child. Japan stated that they didn’t not want to sign a new commitment period under their native Kyoto Protocol, shortly followed by other countries like Russia who, said that if Japan didn’t agree to the second commitment period then neither would they. So there.

In spite of strong pressure from the US, some developing countries and campaigners attempted to cling to the ‘two track’ system, determined to keep at least the already inadequate Kyoto Protocol, that they are aware is riddled with carbon trading loopholes. Why? Because they know that things have already sunk so low and that this was the only legally binding document on emissions cuts on the table, that also states the need for developing countries to take the lead in cutting emissions.

Cancun’s main success has been to lower expectations to the point where the delegates feel so little hope and expectation that people are feel compelled to celebrate a document that is, at best, little more than a list of hollow promises that countries have no legal obligation to fulfil.

This is hardly a reason to be cheerful in the face of a climate crisis that is already killing hundreds of thousands of people a year.


Kirsty Wright is a climate campaigner at WDM

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Reader comments


“climate crisis that is already killing hundreds of thousands of people a year”

Evidence please.

“climate crisis that is already killing hundreds of thousands of people a year”

Massive floods in Pakistan; freak flash flooding across Europe over the summer.. extreme weather grips the US:
http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/13/on-our-radar-extreme-weather-grips-u-s/

There’s plenty more if you actually look for it. But I suspect you don’t really care.

3. Dick the Prick

Could it be because everyone is slowly starting to understand that it’s all expensive, uneccesary bollox?

God, I despise the dreary predictability of the vile denialist trolls!

@ 2: All due to climate change? There is strictly NO proof of that.

I supppose the current cold weather is also a result of cliamte change.

On a separate issue, “Kirsty Wright is a climate campaigner at WDM” – bound to be completely impartial then.

“But it’s freezing cold outside! rofls”

oh ffs, beaten to it.

Damn, I was just about to do the ‘but it’s so cold outside’ joke too 🙁

I do love how the “OMG he said the cold outside thing!” mockery sits with the “Couple of weather events in a single year prove AGW”.

Completely right Falco, the fact that:

November actually turned out to be the hottest November on record globally, according to the latest data from NASA, and 2010 is looking like it will be the hottest year on record after all, despite the fact that we are in the deepest solar minimum in a century.

Additionally, this is despite La Niña, which should be cooling things down considerably.

…doesn’t prove anything! It’s all just freak accidents!

11. Dick the Prick

Okay – fair play, i’ll go along with it being AGW – we move straight into corruption, massive deforestation in Pakistan, bothched drainage projects that were meant to happen a decade ago. At what point can any international ‘agreement’ legal or otherwise prevent industrialisation of China, fraud, massive population explosions etc etc.

It’s a truly noble objective but I just think it’s bollox is all. Feed the dudes first then talk afterwards.

Weather does not equal climate.

Except when Sunny says it does.

Please keep up.

If it’s so bad in Pakistan and other places, best move the people somewhere better.

I saw a documentary about the floods in Pakistan last night, and it was clear that poverty was the problem, not a bit of heavy rainfall and flooded flood plains

Sunny the point, which I suspect you are being deliberately obtuse about, is that it’s no good mocking people for claiming over significance for events that support their point of view while doing exactly the same thing yourself. Where ever you sit in the debate, that tactic is puerile, boring and worse than useless when it comes to convincing others.

Sunny,

Just a quick point about La Nina – it should cool things down, but you might want to consider the fact that since El Nino died down this year, La Nina has not yet actually started to dominate the climate.

Anyway, GISS is now out of line with all other world temprature records in recording regular records. HadCRUT (the met office/UEA system) for example, which supplies much of the data for GISS and does not have the same questions over its ever increasing tempratures has not set any records this year. So you are in fact just (probably unwittingly) cherry-picking data. From the organisation (NOAA, the agency within NASA that handles climate and weather) that is run by one James Hanson, a self-avowed environmentalist, which is not something that can be said about the scientists at CRU and the met office for example.

And since weather is not climate, as we were regularly told during last year’s cold spell (and which I actually believe), you cannot take freak weather events of any sort to be evidence of climate change. For climate to have changed, rather than for an event to be a freak, the change in the weather has to be regular, which none of your examples happen to comply with. They are by definition, freak.

Still at least the “forecast” (ie scaremongered) increase in hurricanes seems not to have happened.

http://www.coaps.fsu.edu/~maue/tropical/graphics/global_running_freq_12.jpg

How many freak events does it take until it becomes climate in your eyes? Will denialists only admit there’s something to AGW when the Sahara comes to Southampton? Practically all scientists studying climate agree there’s a problem but the Daily Express champions the truth so they must be right?

Who said that people are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts?

hey cjcjc – just about of our bet about general temperatures…. could you remind me again which direction the temperatures are moving in again? I seem to have forgotten. And you’ll pay a thousand pounds to Greenpeace when you lose, yes?

Falco: Sunny the point, which I suspect you are being deliberately obtuse about, is that it’s no good mocking people for claiming over significance for events that support their point of view while doing exactly the same thing yourself.

I think this demonstrates your own lack of comprehension, sadly. The climate is no doubt being affected by temperature changes. That then has real impact on people through flash floods and extreme swings in temperature.

That is completely different to to right-wing dimwits pointing to the cold outside and saying it’s somehow indicative of global temperatures.

Cherub,

For something to stop being freak it has to be regular. Say flooding in Bangladesh (although that has not really happened this year that I’ve noticed (which might just be it is so regular no-one considers it newsworthy)). It has to be something more than one in a hundred, or (as with our cold winters) more than one in ten for something not actually that unusual.

I don’t think that our current (or at least recent past and forecasted future) weather is particularly significant. Because it is not clearly a change in climate rather than the result of a particular climatic trend (the Artic Oscilliation) acting as it sometimes does.

Sunny,

I think this demonstrates your own lack of comprehension, sadly. The climate is no doubt being affected by temperature changes. That then has real impact on people through flash floods and extreme swings in temperature.

Unfortunately without a proposed mechanism to support this, this is speculation. If you can propose a mechanism then it becomes a hypothesis and worth considering. Just saying ‘is no doubt’ is not proof unfortunately.

Haha – dumbass moi – I forgot to check where we were in the El Nino cycle before proposing the bet – though of course I shall honour it should I lose – there are a few years to go yet.

Let’s see where La Nina takes us first though, shall we?!

I see there’s still no evidence to support the claim that thousands die each year because of climate change. But then, what sort of repeatable, objective “hard” scientific data could possibly reveal such a thing? What’s the margin of error? What other factors are involved? How can we be sure that “climate change” is responsible and, furthermore, how can we be sure that it is non-natural climate change? I’d actually quite like to see a convincing case for this.

Another thing that’s a little strange about this article is the attack on the World Bank for being an “undemocratic institution”. In the fight against man-made climate change, this is surely a good thing. In general, the population drives cars, objects to tax increases, travels by plane, and only cares about energy efficiency when it saves their own money. And they view climatology with suspicion, if only because they don’t understand it. You really have to ensure that the people get no opportunity to vote about anything of any relevance in this matter. Undemocratic institutions are *exactly* what you want.

“climate crisis that is already killing hundreds of thousands of people a year”

I’d be interested to hear the methodology that manages to attribute particular deaths to climate change.

We ‘deniers’ would be far more apt to believe this AGW garbage if the solution was “Let’s put our scientific heads together and build a series of machines to scrub carbon from the atmosphere”. Instead, the solution is “Give us your tax money so we can distribute it to people whom we think are more worthy of it than you.”

To me, that’s the crux of the argument.

Instead, the solution is “Give us your tax money so we can distribute it to people whom we think are more worthy of it than you.”

You mean those ‘jungle bunnies’ right?

Anyway – iot seems the science doesn’t really matter to you, only the worry that someone might tax you. Which sounds about right for more right-wingers.

And Matt Munro – given that you’ve been soundly discredited and exposed on climate science practically everytime you’ve tried to peddle your denalism in the blog, it’s a wonder you still try and pretend anyone is listening.

@ 18 “The climate is no doubt being affected by temperature changes. That then has real impact on people through flash floods and extreme swings in temperature.”

So there were no flash floods, anywhere, ever, before (insert random date that equates to “when records began” here) ? And extreme swings in termperature are generally known as “seasons”.

And I won’t even start on the self evident “the climate is being affected by temperature change”

@ 17 What “freak events” ?? Just because a particular climate pattern is outside your personal lifetime experience it does not mean it is in any way unusual.

Mike – CCS (carbon capture and sequestration) has recently-ish come onto the agenda in terms of strategy. The problem is that getting the carbon out of the atmosphere in any kind of scale is remarkably expensive.

ISTR the Scandinavian countries are much more advanced than the UK on this – general strategy is putting the emissions from coal plants, etc. through carbon scrubbers before releasing them into the atmosphere. Actually liquefying CO2 from the general atmosphere and storing it away.

In terms of practicality and potential to make a difference, it’s not a huge distance away from the crazy geoengineering (is that the right term?) projects that are also being poked at with reluctance by some policymakers. Sunshields, that kind of thing.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could use sunlight and water and CO2 from the general atmosphere to produce hydrocarbons? Well. We can do it right now (and there are some GM organisms that can do it too) – it’s just far more expensive (and harder to scale) than digging a hole and collecting black gold. Shame.

Isn’t it funny that whenever I see any article about global warming on the internet. The comments page underneath is always chock a block with armies of deniers vastly out of proportion to their actual numbers.

Could this have something to do with it:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2010/dec/13/astroturf-libertarians-internet-democracy

That sounds about right!

You forgot it might also involve more regulation and government intervention in the economy.

Global warming is all a clever left-wing conspiracy you see. All those climate scientists are all closet communists plotting to bring down capitalism!

As far as having some sort of schadenfreude about climate change, I’m quite the opposite. I hate the idea and the changes we are having to make. I love big cars, noisy engines and the like and I like to travel. My favorite car was a 1968 Shelby Mustang, a thing of great beauty! I would sadly miss replacing my 2.5l turbo with a Prius so I make offsets where I can and it’s challenging.

The fact is that we need to curb our greenhouse emissions. It makes sense any way as we are wasteful in our exploitation of the dwindling oil resource and coal is a very dirty fuel. We’ll see about CCS, it’s probably in the same future as fusion.

Why haven’t the smart tories bought shares in alternative energy companies instead of sticking their heads in the sand and crying conspiracy? Oh, they probably have. It’s the dickheads who troll around trying to look like a groundswell of public opinion who haven’t.

Mike @ 24

Eh? How can you say that science is only believable if the solutions are palatable? Anyway, I thought you Tories are all about self-reliance and taking responsibility for your own actions and that actions have consequences etc? All of a sudden, when we have a situation where YOUR actions have consequences and YOUR self-reliance is required you want ‘big government’ to step in and save you from your own mistakes. Well isn’t that a surprise?

This is exactly why I consider your average Tory voter to be backward, despicable scum.

“We ‘deniers’ would be far more apt to believe this AGW garbage if the solution was “Let’s put our scientific heads together and build a series of machines to scrub carbon from the atmosphere”. Instead, the solution is “Give us your tax money so we can distribute it to people whom we think are more worthy of it than you.”

And just how exactly are these machines scrubbing carbon from the atmosphere going to be paid for?

Planeshift,

By redistributing money to those who invented them. Which would be an excellent incentive to invent a device which takes carbon dioxide and turns it into something relatively harmless like oxygen. It might spur inventors on…

Apart from the fact last time I checked, plants already existed and were probably a lot cheaper (I got a tree for £7 for my garden last year) and better looking (sorry, but the Prius is an ugly car (and doesn’t do anything very useful anyway)) than most of the measures suggested to combat climate change.

Because Cancun was hit by its coldest temperature in a hundred years? At the global warming conference?

Jim,

This is exactly why I consider your average Tory voter to be backward, despicable scum.

Although maybe you should at least allow the “average Tory” the accolade of not being so stupid to assume that someone who takes on the label “denier” (I think with a pinch of salt judging by the inverted commas) is therefore automatically a Tory, when the Conservative Prime Minister is actually pushing for more measures to combat climate change. Your views on climate change may actually be related to science, not politics, you know.

I suggest therefore that your post would be, by your logic, a good reason to consider your average Labour voter to be backward, incapable of logic and deeply embittered. Apart from the fact that I doubt you are typical of anyone other than those with a pathological grudge and no understanding that a different opinion does not make you evil…

“By redistributing money to those who invented them.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_rider_problem

@30. Sunny Hundal

You make a lot of assumptions for someone who has never met me. And I think it’s very funny that you should use such a vile, detestable racist term in trying to paint me as one. Just because you put something in quotes, doesn’t make it any more palatable to people who would feel offended by it.

My ‘only worry’ is that the government (and I’m American, BTW) is taking a larger and larger share of the limited pie of financial resources. And, instead of using that ever larger slice to fix the problem, the solution are ALWAYS ‘give us more money’, ‘you’re using your own wages for purposes we don’t approve’ and ‘you don’t need it anyway’.

So, I’d suggest that, rather than name-calling and pigeon-holing people with whom you have an honest disagreement, it might be time to look past your own prejudices and realize that there are thoughtful, intelligent and compassionate people on the right. The main difference is that I’ve always taught my children that you can never lift one person up by knocking someone else down. Words to live by.

Sunny – I don’t actually consider being shouted down by a load of trustafarian middle class hypocrites on this blog to constitute “discredited” – especially when they always manage to avoid adressing any question that sceptics raise.
Science is about asking questions and scrutinising, rather than blindly accepting the orthodoxy of the vested interest.

@ 39 “the solution are ALWAYS ‘give us more money’, ‘you’re using your own wages for purposes we don’t approve’ and ‘you don’t need it anyway’.”

Of course it is – think about it – if “global warning” is the answer, then what the question ?
Maybe it was “How can we try (again) to introduce global socialism without calling it global socialism”


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