If you are a normal person – not a politician, activist or negotiator – you might imagine that, at the international talks on a climate-change deal that took place between 31 May and 11 June in Bonn, people were coming together to fight a common enemy and get the best possible deal for humanity. Ha! In fact, the participants were counter-briefing and whingeing about each other from the beginning.
Looking back, it feels as though Copenhagen was the moment that the assembled forces – lacking an actual, invading climate-change army to fight across the Danish flatlands – finally went mad and started laying into each other instead. Days of bitter fighting took place in the confines of the Bella Centre, all sense of a common enemy completely lost by the sleepless delegates. As the sun rose over the battlefield on the final day, it fell upon the bodies of delegates, security staff and journalists, with only a stammering Ed Miliband still breathing, the singed pages of the Copenhagen Accord (CA) fluttering in his hand.
Now we’ve had Bonn, the first big UN climate meeting since the Place That Shall Not Be Named. Has the situation improved? Frankly, no. In the intervening months the guerra sucia continued, with huge pressure exerted by the US to have the CA accepted as the core text for any agreement. (The CA, by the way, is the most milquetoast agreement imaginable, with no national targets and lots of “working parties” and “time frames” where numbers and schedules should be: in other words, perfect for the US.)
In fact, Washington has been throwing its weight around and refusing to give promised aid to countries such as Bolivia and Ecuador that refuse to sign up. As a result, relations are not exactly cordial.
So it’s depressing to note that the developing countries, on going through the figures in one of the current drafts of a possible agreement, have spotted that rich countries had come up with a few accountancy fiddles that would allow them to cut their emissions even less. Under the new rules for calculating emissions from forestry and surplus carbon allowances, rich countries, in fact, could even increase their emissions. By 8 per cent! How on earth does that work?
Outside the talks, activists continue to push as hard as possible for parts of the Cochabamba People’s Agreement to find their way into the final agreement. But much as I would love to see the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change recognise “Mother Earth as the source
of life”, I can’t believe it’s going to happen. When I think of the people arrayed, supposedly to save us from disaster, I see two groups increasingly divided by an ideological gap that will never be bridged.
What we need now is a bit of hard-headed realism. The US and Chinese negotiating teams are made up of those who take the same approach to Mother Earth as a record company takes to a young band starting up: how can we milk this for maximum possible profit? It’s pointless to hope we can make these people more cuddly – we can’t. How can we make it financially imperative for them to get real? Some proper strategic thinking, please, so that we can get this army all fighting the same enemy.