What is altogether new at this year’s climate summit is that even climate alarmism appears to have received a dose of cold water. The latest scientific research findings are certainly facilitating a growing number of climate delayers who are promoting an international wait-and-see strategy, a new diplomatic approach that is becoming increasingly fashionable among advocates of climate Realpolitik.
On Monday, another round of international climate negotiations opens in Durban, South Africa. Expectations are low. Few expect the United Nations summit will overcome the solidified deadlock that has lasted for more than 10 years. Time is fast running out for the Kyoto Protocol, which expires at the end of 2012.
Zulu women participate in a carnival procession in the streets of Durban, South Africa, on Friday in an event leading up to the United Nations COP 17 climate-change conference, which opens in the city on Monday.
At the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009, Western nations promised $30-billion between 2010 and 2012 — and $100-billion a year by 2020 — to help poor countries adapt to climate change. But this pledge by developed nations is conditional on China, India and other emerging nations signing up to an international agreement, something that is not going to happen any time soon.
In any case, the Obama administration — struggling with an astronomical debt burden and economic sluggishness — is refusing to sign up to any significant wealth transfer (a.k.a. climate funding) to its up-and-coming competitors in the emerging and developing world.
No wonder European government officials are playing down the chances of a legally binding treaty before 2015 or even 2020. Even within the European Commission, major concerns about its aggressive green targets have started to surface. The European Union is now seriously considering discontinuing its unilateral decarbonization strategy in the absence of a global agreement. In a draft of its Energy Roadmap 2050, the commission warns that “if co-ordinated action on climate among the main global players fails to strengthen in the next few years, the question arises how far the EU should continue with an energy-system transition oriented to decarbonization.”
Meanwhile, European consumers are facing up to the reality that their political leaders have already squandered more than €200-billion ($277-billion) on completely inane and ineffective climate policies. A new report by Swiss bank UBS reveals that the EU’s emissions-trading scheme has cost European consumers €210-billion for “almost zero impact” on cutting CO2 emissions. It warns that the EU’s carbon market, which has collapsed in recent days, is on the verge of annihilation once the Kyoto Protocol runs out next year.
In the run-up to the Durban summit, an increasingly desperate EU has made a new offer — trying both to overcome the stalemate and to prevent a looming carbon crash. The EU is offering to support an extension of the Kyoto Protocol, but only if emerging nations agree to start talks for it right away for a legally binding agreement by 2015.
But Europe’s clever plan has been shot down even before the start of the Durban negotiations by the BASIC countries — China, India, South Africa and Brazil. They have kicked the ball into the long grass by announcing that any future agreement must be based on the next report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which will not be published until 2014, and a review of the UN climate convention — not due to happen before 2015.
Behind closed doors, these strategic delaying tactics are not altogether unwelcome by many if not most of the key non-EU nations. Certainly Canada and the United States have shown little or no enthusiasm for swift and determined action in Durban.
What is altogether new at this year’s climate summit is that even climate alarmism appears to have received a dose of cold water. The latest scientific research findings are certainly facilitating a growing number of climate delayers who are promoting an international wait-and-see strategy, a new diplomatic approach that is becoming increasingly fashionable among advocates of climate Realpolitik. Even the IPCC, in its recent report on extreme weather events, is now reassuring the international community that there will be no detectable human influence on extreme weather events for the next 20 to 30 years. In fact, most scientists acknowledge that they cannot determine if mankind’s long-term influence will result in more, or fewer, extreme weather events at local and regional levels.
The overall message to both the delegates and international observers of the Durban summit is clear: The enduring gridlock of international climate diplomacy is almost certain to continue for many years to come. Many nations will go it alone with various plans and policies, but not without internal costs. Europe’s political isolation on CO2 emissions, for example, is a growing burden for families and businesses alike.
The European Union’s unilateral climate policy puts businesses and, in particular, energy-intensive users at a disadvantage with regards to cost and international competitiveness. It does not make any sense to make industry and manufacturing, in particular, increasingly uncompetitive — or to drive it out of the continent. Nor does it make sense to weaken Europe’s crisis-ridden economies by driving up energy costs and increasing fuel poverty.
Given the manifest reluctance of the world’s big emitters to accept any legally binding carbon targets and in face of our deepening economic crisis, Europe should undertake a comprehensive review of its economically damaging carbon targets and — in the absence of an international agreement — should consider the suspension of all unilateral climate policies that threaten Europe’s economic recovery.
Dr. Benny Peiser is the director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation.