We’re Not Done Yet

Copenhagen was a complete and utter shambles. No doubt about it. Various commentators and participants have been fishing around since it dribbled away to its weak conclusion, looking for someone or some organisation to blame.

The British blamed the Chinese, the Africans blamed the North Americans, the socialists blamed the elitist imperialists, and the NGOs blamed the international companies who had a corporate interest in swaying the whole deal their way, protecting business interests.

One story, much repeated by Climate Change Denier sources, blames the United Nations in effect, or at least the whole of Denmark, for allowing 30,000 Non-Governmental-Organisation (NGO) people to be registered, when the Copenhagen Bella Conference Center could only accommodate 15,000 people.

But besides the pressworthy narrative, something else was going on. Younger people from around the world were learning how to communicate effectively with their peers, setting up alliances that will underpin foreign diplomacy for decades to come.

The current batch of shortsighted people who control everything with an ideology based on money and trade will eventually retire, lose their grip or shuffle off.

With the knowledge that close dialogue and consensus-building achieve far more than competitive press briefings and secret deals, the up-and-coming generation of negotiators, official or otherwise, will string together a policy of natural pearls, making everyone smile.

Here’s a clue about what the jewel in the crown of successful and universally acceptable international climate policy centres around : fair shares.

Let me explain.

So, there I was discussing the current awful weather and the ice and snow problems with an older relative. Because I have aging and infirm neighbours, I took it upon myself about a week ago to tool myself with a spade, some brushes and salt, and I went out and starting chipping away at the skating rink that once was a pavement (sidewalk).

People started to thank me as they came by. Neighbours called round to wish me well. An older gentleman suggested I be recommended for an OBE. I could have been made proud, but it was a public service that anybody could have done. Why had not people taken it on ? And why was it that only when I started doing it, other people came out and started doing it ?

One neighbour offered some builders sand and another offered sea salt. We had an upwelling in neighbourliness and an outpouring of common resources.

My older relative said that years ago, everybody would have made an effort to keep pathways clear of ice and snow, but wondered why not, now.

I said : people cannot be forced to change, or forced to care. You cannot guilt-trip people into helping their neighbours. You cannot force people to shovel snow. You cannot instil in people a social conscience, especially if they once had it, but have given up and have lost it.

I clear snow on the pathway to the gritted main road in the hope that we can all keep it clear for everyone; prevent people being injured or shut-in through fear. I do it for my own benefit as well as for others’ sake. I need to walk around safely as much as the next person. Plus, I clear ice for my elderly neighbours in the hope that one day, somebody will do that for me.

But one person is not enough. If people do not collectively possess “enlightened self-interest” in snow and ice clearance, then it won’t happen.

As for social duty in Winter, so for Carbon Emissions. You cannot force people to drive less, even if you increase the price of fuel. You cannot force people to accept that they don’t need to use so much Energy – they don’t realise they are wasting Energy. If you raise the price, they will still waste it.

All the financial mechanisms, instruments, pressures and measures in the world cannot control Energy use and Carbon Emissions. At some point you need to introduce Quotas.

“Carbon Rationing ?”, asked my relative. “Exactly”, I said.

It doesn’t matter what cost you place on Carbon. The only way to control it is to constrain it.

Nowhere in the Copenhagen Accord of a Small Group of Richly Endowed Trading Nations does it mention any of the words “permit”, “quota”, “allowance”, “allocation”, “ration”, “right(s)” or “share” in relation to the control of Carbon Emissions.

The whole of the Accord is based around the notion that it is up to individual countries to make their own commitments on Carbon Emissions Reductions.

However, these will not be related to the scientific requirements to control Carbon – they will just be related to each country’s own internal economic assessment.

The sums will just not add up to the right kind of stack to be sure to avoid very dangerous Global Warming.

The Copenhagen Accord will definitely fail.

The only way forward is an admission of environmental limits and setting a Global Cap on Carbon Emissions, and sharing out the Carbon Rights within that Cap.

A Carbon Bank. Not a Money Bank.

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