Conflict at the Climate Change Conference

The UN Climate Change Conference is being held this year in Durban, South Africa, without the same noise and fury that characterized previous conferences. The conference is aiming to set tougher targets for carbon dioxide emissions but targets, like talk, are cheap and targets are not promises.

The main issue that has arisen is the conflict in the speed of emission reduction that the least developed countries are pushing for and the speed at with the major developing nations, like China, India and Brazil, joined by Russia, want emission curbs to come into effect. The least developed nations are poor and in places where climate change will threaten them much more quickly than the developed nations. The BRIC nations want to defer emission curbs to enable them their develop their economies more quickly.

The argument is whether atmospheric carbon dioxide can be reduced to 350 parts per million (compared with the present 400ppm) which requires emissions to peak by no later than 2015, and then fall significantly. There are 48 nations threatened by immediate climate change events, and they are pushing for this target, which they hope will reduce temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius, whereas the BRICs want to defer the time when emissions peak to 2020, which will almost certainly see climate temperatures in excess of 2 degrees Celsius much more quickly than has been previously predicted.

That is the big picture, but every big picture is made up of many small constituent parts, and the conference is trying to deal with some of those small constituent parts – such as forestry loss and methane leaks from natural gas distribution pipes – which will in effect be the low hanging fruit most easily gathered.

Politicians and policy makers like trying to fix big problems with big solutions, which is why many are aiming for world legally binding targets on emissions on a nation by nation basis. The BRIC countries resist this because in most of their cases their per capital emissions are much lower than those of the developed nations and therefore issues of what is fair between nations get in the way of what is fair for the planet.

There should be an new approach to the problem of climate change; instead of trying to impose massive and probably unattainable targets policy makers should concentrate on prohibiting certain types of behaviour and actions. There are plenty of low hanging fruit to be gathered here – car engine sizes, aviation fuel efficiency, coal burning power stations, using malignant sources of energy when there are benign sources available – and these can be enforced not so much by international treaty but by import taxes and carbon taxes so that the developed world pays the true cost of its emissions which are made outside its boundaries.

 

One Response

  1. Here is something related to ponder over which these kind of meeting talk about and who is going to be paying for the carbon prosac fixes in the future.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/8917737/Is-the-global-warming-scare-the-greatest-delusion-in-history.html

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