One of my earliest posts on this blog, on December 12, 2007, was headed ‘There is no Plan B‘. The headline was taken from a quote from the then new Australian PM, Kevin Rudd to delegates at the UN climate conference in Bali.
The line re-emerged earlier today, when British PM, Gordon Brown said in London: “This is the moment. Now is the time. For the planet there is no plan B”. He outlined a catastrophic scenario of heatwaves, flooding and droughts if an ambitious new deal is not secured in Copenhagen in December.
This landmark event gets underway in just 46 days, and right now, the omens are not encouraging at all. The breakdown earlier this week of talks among EU finance ministers on trying to agree how much the EU will pony up to allow poor countries to both adapt to climate change and also to acquire lower-emissions technologies.
This is a seriously not good time for the EU to be dropping the ball. The EU leaders’ summit takes place in Brussels in the next week or so, perhaps things can be put back on track by then. At the weekend, Obama’s climate envoy, Todd Stern warned that pre-summit talks had been moving too slowly, saying it was “certainly possible” there would be no deal at the December summit.
“This is a tough negotiation”, said Stern (not to be confused with Nicholas Stern of the eponymous 2006 report). “What we need to have happen is for China and India and Brazil and South Africa, and others, to be willing to take what they’re doing, boost it up some, and then put it into an international agreement – where they’re standing behind what they say, just the way we’re standing behind what we say we’re going to do”, he told Channel 4 News.
Meanwhile, Gordon Brown outlined his fears at the Major Economies Forum in London on Monday that international disagreement over emission cuts could result in deadlock.
Brown warned world leaders they could not compromise with the planet so “must compromise with each other” and reach a deal “to make the world safe for human survival”.
He went on to caution that: “Once the damage from unchecked emissions growth is done, no retrospective global agreement, in some future period, can undo that choice” That’s a pretty good way of putting it. Scientists have been trying to tell us for years that you can’t negotiate with physics. Great to hear this from a government leader. Let’s earnestly hope he means it.
“In every era there are only one or two moments when nations come together and reach agreements that make history – because they change the course of history”, said Brown. This is most assuredly one of them.
And in case you missed it last night on RTÉ, the concluding part of David McWilliams’s three-episode series, ‘Addicted to Money’ went out last night, but is now available to view on the station’s excellent Player service. Last night’s episode was called ‘Peak Everything‘, a title perhaps borrowed from Richard Heinberg’s book.
As I’ll be exploring in tomorrow’s column in more depth, the trick to ‘getting’ climate, sustainability and the various profound issues that now confront us is paying attention – really paying attention – to what’s going on in our biosphere. After that, it’s virtually self-explanatory.
I’ve talked at length with McWilliams both ahead of last night’s broadcast and immediately after it concluded, and am pretty clear that he has fully bought into this issue (unless of course, now that the TV series is over, he now promptly drops it – but unless he’s just fed me a monumental line in bullshit, I don’t think so).
It’s long been my contention that environmentalism is far too important to be left to ‘proper’ environmentalists. For all their many virtues, some environmentalist oppose wind power on aesthetic grounds, while the whole lot seem determined, come what may, not to even debate the option of nuclear power – no matter what they say, or how they spin it, this is a dogmatic stance, and I for one don’t believe we have the luxury of clinging to ideology, be it capitalist, ecological or otherwise. This is just too serious, too urgent.
Enough of the gloom. Below is a favourite clip, taken from the Discovery Channel series, Planet Earth, and featuring the glorious ‘Comptine d’un autre eté by French composer, Yann Tiersen. It’s barely two and a half minutes long, but my guess is it’ll stay with you for a long, long time: