Europe has clashed with the US Obama administration over climate change in a potentially damaging split that comes ahead of crucial political negotiations on a new global deal to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
The impasse is said to threaten the goal of limiting global temperature increases to no more than 2 degrees celsius, by 2015. Another Guardian article quotes UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon:
“We are deeply concerned that the negotiation is not making much headway. It is absolutely and crucially important for the leaders to demonstrate their political will, leadership, and to give clear political guidelines to the negotiators. They should be responsible for the future of this entire humanity,” Ban told the Guardian.
Ban, newly returned from a trip to the Arctic, sees action on climate change as his personal legacy as UN chief. He said he hoped the unprecedented size of the climate meeting, the high level of representation and an unconventional format would transform the talks.
“Have you ever seen any such international conference at the level of so many leaders coming at one time and one place? In any summit meeting you have not seen such a highly political, highly motivated meeting. That is where we have to find some political strength.”
But as elucidated in the first Guardian article, the problem is this:
Europe has been pushing to retain structures and systems set up under the Kyoto protocol, the existing global treaty on climate change. US negotiators have told European counterparts that the Obama administration intends to sweep away almost all of the Kyoto architecture and replace it with a system of its own design.
European officials acknowledge the obvious: that the Obama Administration is engaged on climate change in ways the Bush Administration wasn’t. But that’s like saying any being with a pulse is alive in a way that a rock isn’t. And simply scrapping the previous agreement, while trying to push one of its own invention, wouldn’t seem to be the best way to build consensus. The Guardian’s source says the U.S. proposal would be effectively fatal to Kyoto, and starting over would mean nothing new would be in place by 2015 or 2016. Which would be just a slight problem.
According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), world emissions need to peak by 2015 to give any chance of avoiding a 2C rise.
In other words, to those who think climate change is an imminent crisis, starting from scratch would seem to be a disaster. Literally.
The major sticking point is Kyoto’s lack of demands on China, but there would seem to be no reason that can’t be renegotiated within the Kyoto framework.
The US is yet to offer full details on how its scheme might work, though a draft “implementing agreement” submitted to the UN by the Obama team in May contained a key clause that emissions reductions would be subject to “conformity with domestic law”.
Legal experts say the phrase is designed to protect the US from being forced to implement international action it does not agree with. Farhana Yamin, an environmental lawyer with the Institute of Development Studies, who worked on Kyoto, said: “It seems a bit backwards. The danger is that the domestic tail starts to wag the international dog.”
That’s called a loophole. A loophole so vast you could drive a global disaster through it. And it once again seems to suggest an attitude of disastrous unilateralism. As explained by another Guardian article, from last week:
Reports by international groups of researchers – to be presented at a London conference next week – will show that climate change, caused by rising outputs of carbon dioxide from vehicles, factories and power stations, will not only affect the atmosphere and the sea but will alter the geology of the Earth.
Melting glaciers will set off avalanches, floods and mud flows in the Alps and other mountain ranges; torrential rainfall in the UK is likely to cause widespread erosion; while disappearing Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets threaten to let loose underwater landslides, triggering tsunamis that could even strike the seas around Britain.
At the same time the disappearance of ice caps will change the pressures acting on the Earth’s crust and set off volcanic eruptions across the globe. Life on Earth faces a warm future – and a fiery one.
Which would seem to suggest a need for some urgency…