Volume 35, Issue 1
COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
|Copenhagen: Historic Failure That Will Live in Infamy|
By Joss Garman
most progressive US president in a generation comes to the most
important international meeting since the Second World War and delivers
a speech so devoid of substance that he might as well have made it on
speakerphone from a beach in Hawaii. His aides argue in private that he
had no choice, such is the opposition on Capitol Hill to any action
that could challenge the dominance of fossil fuels in American life.
And so the nation that put a man on the Moon can't summon the
collective will to protect men and women back here on Earth from the
consequences of an economic model and lifestyle choice that has taken
on the mantle of a religion.
Then a Chinese
premier who is in the process of converting his Communist nation to
that new faith (high-carbon consumer capitalism) takes such umbrage at
Barack Obama's speech that he refuses to meet - sulking in his hotel
room, as if this were a teenager's house party instead of a final
effort to stave off the breakdown of our biosphere.
Late in the evening, the two men meet and cobble together a collection
of paragraphs that they call a "deal", although in reality it has all
the meaning and authority of a bus ticket, not that it stops them
signing it with great solemnity.
then briefs the traveling White House press pack - most of whom, it
seems, understand about as much about global-climate politics as our
own lobby hacks know about baseball. Before we know it, The New York
Times and CNN are declaring the birth of a "meaningful" accord.
Meanwhile, a friend on an African delegation emails to say that he and
many fellow members of the G77 bloc of developing countries are
streaming into the corridors after a long discussion about the perilous
state of the talks, only to see Obama on the television announcing that
the world has a deal.
It's the first they've heard
about it, and a few minutes later, as they examine the text, they
realize very quickly that it effectively condemns their continent to a
century of devastating temperature rises.
the European leaders - who know this thing is a farce but have to
present it to their publics as progress - have their aides phoning the
directors of civil society organizations spinning that the talks have
been a success.
A success? This deal crosses so
many of the red lines laid out by Europe before this summit started
that there are scarlet skid marks across the Bella Centre, and one
honest European diplomat tells us this is a "shitty, shitty deal".
This "deal" is beyond bad. It contains
no legally binding targets and no indication of when or how they will
come about. There is not even a declaration that the world will aim to
keep global temperature rises below C. Instead, leaders merely
recognize the science behind that vital threshold, as if that were
enough to prevent us crossing it.
The only part
of this deal that anyone sane came close to welcoming was the $100bn
global climate fund, but it's now apparent that even this is largely
made up of existing budgets, with no indication of how new money will
be raised and distributed so that poorer countries can go green and
adapt to climate change.
I know our politicians
feel they have to smile and claim success; they feel that's the only
way to keep this train on the tracks. But we've passed that point - we
need to go back to first principles now. We have to admit to ourselves
the scale of the problem and recognize that at its core this carbon
crisis is, in fact, a political crisis.
Until politicians recognize that, they're kidding themselves, and, more than that, they're kidding us too.
Not all of our politicians deserve the opprobrium of a dismayed world.
Our own Ed Miliband fought hard, on no sleep, for a better outcome;
while Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva offered to
financially assist other developing countries to cope with climate
change, and put a relatively bold carbon target on the table. But the
EU didn't move on its own commitment (one so weak we'd actually have to
work hard not to meet it), while the United States offered nothing and
China stood firm.
Before the talks began, I was
of the opinion that we would know Copenhagen was a success only when
plans for new coal-fired power stations across the developed world were
dropped. If the giant utilities saw in the outcome of Copenhagen an
unmistakable sign that governments were now determined to act, and that
coal plants this century would be too expensive to run under the regime
agreed at this meeting, then this summit would have succeeded.
Instead, as details of the agreement emerged last night, we received
reports of Japanese opposition MPs popping champagne corks as they
savored the possible collapse of their new government's carbon targets.
It's not just that we didn't get to where we needed to be; we've
actually ceded huge amounts of ground. There is nothing in this deal -
nothing - that would persuade an energy utility that the era of dirty
coal is over. And the implications for humanity of that simple fact are
I know we Greens are partial to
hyperbole. We use language as a bludgeon to direct attention to the
crisis we are facing, and you will hear much more of it in the coming
days and weeks. But, really, it is no exaggeration to describe the
outcome of Copenhagen as a historic failure that will live in infamy.
In a single day, in a single space, a spectacle was played out in front
of a disbelieving audience of people who have read and understood the
stark warnings of humanity's greatest scientific minds. And what they
witnessed was nothing less than the very worst instincts of our species
articulated by the most powerful men who ever lived.
Joss Garman is a Greenpeace activist and co-founder of Plane Stupid.
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