As we write, it appears that the UN climate summit is ‘on the brink’ of a deal. A bloc comprising the US, Japan and Canada have been working together to block any agreement that imposed any actual deadlines or any actual targets, in other words, their clear objective has been to sink the summit in a sea of fudge.
The EU negotiators want the “Bali roadmap” to contain a firm commitment that industrialised countries (the main polluters over the last 50 years) will cut their emissions by 25-40% compared to 1990 levels by 2020. The US-led bloc on the other hand, favours a voluntary, non-binding agreement that, once the photo ops are completed, allows the world’s major polluters to continue with full-steam-ahead emissions.
One really positive thing to emerge from the Bali negotiations is a plan to pay poorer nations to protect their forests. Market forces dictate that if a tree is worth more dead than it is alive, forest clearance will continue, legally or illegally.
Paying poorer nations to safeguard their forests also gives them the resources to combat illegal loggers. Under development is a framework that would allow richer countries and corporations to earn “carbon credits” by paying for forest protection in developing countries.
“We need to find a new mechanism that values standing forests,” Andrew Mitchell, executive director of the Global Canopy Programme, an alliance of research institutions, was quoted in a BBC news report from Bali.
As Bali draws to a close, the prospect of a deal has to be welcomed. However, bestselling environmental author George Monbiot in a recent article warns that our best efforts may not be nearly good enough. Monbiot starts from the agreed premise that it is crucial that global temperatures do not go more than 2°C over their pre-industrial levels.
Beyond that point, we are facing into an altered world of collapsed ecosystems, sharp sea level rises, widespread droughts and famine, as well as human displacement on a never-before imagined scale. In short, we all need to stay on the shady side of 2°C.
Monbiot calculates that at present, an average of 3.58 tons of CO2 is being generated annually for every human on the planet. For people in the UK and Ireland to get their carbon emissions to a level that may prevent crossing the 2°C threshhold, he reckons we need to achieve a 94.4% cut in emissions per head. In the US, they need to somehow manage to get their per capita emissions down by a staggering 97.7%.
The enemy of emissions control is economic growth. A 3% annual growth in an economy causes it to actually double in size in just 23 years. At 10%, it doubles in 7 years. With economic growth comes growth in consumption, and with consumption comes pollution and emissions. A few lightbulbs here and there merely slow down the rate of increase; global economic growth continues to outstrip every effort to rein in emissions.
As long as we the public demand ‘growth’ as the benchmark by which the judge our politicians, they will continue – until the bitter end – to facilitate this growth-led ideology.
RTE’s Margaret Ward had an excellent piece on yesterday’s Morning Ireland. She recently visited a new coal-fired plant in Inner Mongolia. It provides one third of Beijing’s electricity. This one plant emits 32 million tons of CO2 a year – half of Ireland’s total emissions (not that we have anything to boast about).
The most chilling detail in Ward’s report was that this plant burns 40,000 tons of coal A DAY – and it hasn’t yet reached its full capacity. If you can imagine a pile of around 800,000 8-stone bags of coal, that’s what this monster consumes every 24 hours. In the next year, this one plant alone will burn almost 15 MILLION tons of coal, and put up as much again in CO2 into the atmosphere.
As the lad in the Des Kelly ad shouts on the radio: “Dis madness must end soon!”.
While RTE produces some fine journalism, especially from its radio division, the odd dud slips through. Yesterday evening one Diarmuid McDermott delivered a radio ‘column’ on the Drivetime programme.
“What will Gormley’s green army and the rest of the planet savers decide after their intense talks?”, mocks McDermott. China is the demon of his piece. “What Mr Gormley and his ilk seem to forget is: there is no Green Party in China”. We also learn that the Chinese government don’t give a damn about carbon emissions, and “you can forget about anything they sign up to at Bali”
The Green movement is, we also learn the “product of the guilt-ridden middle classes in western Europe, and their constant preaching about climate change won’t actually change anything. The Greens have replaced old-fashioned religion for a new cult based on guilt, piety and sanctimony”.
Nowhere does he mention that in the so-called free world, we have been polluting at a far greater intensity than those murdering communists he is worried about ever managed.
In McDermott’s wacky world, our carbon intensive lifestyles have somehow replaced Original Sin. He concludes with another undergraduate cheap shot at Bali and the Environment Minister on his bicycle – you know the kind of thing.
McDermott’s words say far more about the mocker than the mocked, but it is still depressing that RTE is giving a high-profile platform to such banal ignorance and cheap cynicism.