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The Major Hitters Forum

Much as, in principle, progress could be made in having an 80% majority push through commitments on Global Warming, as part of the United Nations Climate Change negotiations process, some commentators feel highly uneasy that important voices from the international community, based around the emerging Science, could be drowned out by these “big hitters” :-

“July 19-20 2010 : The first-ever Clean Energy Ministerial will bring together ministers and stakeholders from more than 20 countries to collaborate on policies and programs that accelerate the world’s transition to clean energy technologies.”

“UN in fresh bid to salvage international deal on climate change : Campaigners welcome plans to amend the way Kyoto protocol resolutions are passed : The Guardian, Thursday 22 July 2010…If the UN’s [United Nations] suggestions are adopted, decisions will be forced through if four-fifths of the protocol vote in favour, after all efforts to reach agreement by consensus have been exhausted. The amendments would come into force after six months…”It is surprising and a big, big deal that the UN is suggesting such considerable reforms as a change in the consensus rules,” said [Mark] Lynas…In a further attempt to galvanise the climate change body into motion, the UN also suggested that countries could be forced to opt out of any amendments, as opposed to the current arrangement whereby they must explicitly agree to any decisions tabled…The amendment, which will be presented in Bonn in August, reads: “An amendment would enter into force after a certain period has elapsed following its adoption, except for those parties that have notified the depositary that they cannot accept the amendment.”…But Lynas warned that any changes to the current consensus situation would cause “fury, angst and consternation”. It could, he said, exacerbate the deep mistrust between rich and poor countries that has already bedevilled the global climate talks.”…Ed Miliband, the shadow energy secretary, acknowledged that the current deadlock has to be broken. “We know there needs to be reform of the UN process around tackling climate change,” he said. “We saw at Copenhagen how some countries blocked progress and we can’t allow that to happen again.”…The amendment was welcomed by Farhana Yamin, research fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex. “The stalemate in negotiations has gone on for 15 years,” she said. “This consensus arrangement is an extraordinary and ridiculous anomaly in the make up of Kyoto that exists in few other UN organisations…”This is a positive way of forcing laggard countries who hold out and play their veto hand the whole time, to engage in constructive talks,” she added. “Under this new system, they will realise that unless they are constructive, they will lose their voice altogether.”…”

Although this manoeuvre could ensure traction is built for the forthcoming successor to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Kyoto Protocol (“Kyoto”), the negotiations may sideline the “minority report” – calls for stronger Carbon control than are currently being considered in the international conferences.

It looks as if the calls from the emerging peoples’ movement will be confounded :-

“Developed countries’ GHG [Greenhouse Gas] emission reduction commitments under the Kyoto Protocol must be an adequate contribution towards achieving a limit on global emissions sufficient to return GHG concentrations to well below 300 ppm CO2eq [parts per million atmospheric Carbon Dioxide equivalence of all Greenhouse Gases combined] and limit average temperature rise to well below 1 degree C with a view to returning concentrations and temperatures as close as possible to pre-industrial levels in the longer term. The current pledges under the [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] Copenhagen Accord would lead to a global temperature rise of around 4 degrees C.”

Whilst severe, there is some science that backs the Pachamama Cochabamba call for 300 parts per millions of Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere, to keep the Climate safe, within the limits the Earth has experienced for a long while.
“In Defence of Pachamama”

“…For all of human history until about 200 years ago, our atmosphere contained 275 parts per million [ppm] of carbon dioxide [CO2]…275 ppm CO2 is a useful amount—without some CO2 and other greenhouse gases that trap heat in our atmosphere, our planet would be too cold for humans to inhabit…Beginning in the 18th century, humans began to burn coal and gas and oil to produce energy and goods. The amount of carbon in the atmosphere began to rise, at first slowly and now more quickly…the planet [now] has 392 parts per million CO2 – and this number is rising by about 2 parts per million every year…Scientists are now saying that’s too much – that number is higher than any time seen in the recorded history of our planet—and we’re already beginning to see disastrous impacts on people and places all over the world. Glaciers everywhere are melting and disappearing fast—and they are a source of drinking water for hundreds of millions of people…Drought is becoming much more common, making food harder to grow in many places…The oceans are growing more acidic because of the CO2 they are absorbing, which makes it harder for animals like corals and clams to build and maintain their shells and skeletons. Coral reefs could start dissolving at an atmospheric CO2 concentration of 450-500 ppm. These impacts are combining to exacerbate conflicts and security issues in already resource-strapped regions…The Arctic is sending us perhaps the clearest message that climate change is occurring much more rapidly than scientists previously thought. In the summer of 2007, sea ice was roughly 39% below the summer average for 1979-2000, a loss of area equal to nearly five United Kingdoms.”

The strength of the Climate Change Science is building, and yet the international diplomacy has not got enough muscle.

Part of the problem is that those with vested interests, such as Oil and Gas companies, and their supporters in the governments, have been trying to avert their potential liabilities – the costs of de-carbonising the energy supply. They are very interested in the advancement of “money solutions” including Carbon Trading, Carbon Taxation and the emissions offset capability of the Clean Development Mechanism. BP, for example, appears keen on planting trees in the Antipodes, but not giving up on deepwater oil production.

Another part of the problem is that consensus between 192 countries party to the UN Climate process is almost impossible while there is no “solution for the poor” – measures that protect economic development for the Global South.

This has lead to an inertia of truly mid-16th Century glacial proportions. The 21st Century glaciers are moving much faster, or have melted significantly away, but the Climate negotiations are not keeping pace with the Change.

The good news is that action on Climate Change is being taken very seriously indeed by the governments of those nations that host the corporations and companies with the largest power bases and economic production capabilities, and the correspondingly high consumer markets.

The countries that represent 80% of the world’s energy consumption, the countries responsible for 70% excess Carbon Dioxide Emissions, have got together on Clean Energy :-

“World’s first Clean Energy Ministerial wraps up :, 2010-07-21”

“16 July 2010 : Clean Energy Ministerial to Help Accelerate Green Economy”

“Turning Energy Promises into Action : Secretary Chu Brings Together 20 Nations for Clean Energy Ministerial : By Julian L. Wong, Arpita Bhattacharyya, July 16, 2010 : Energy ministers and stakeholders from over 20 countries will come together in Washington next week for the first-ever Clean Energy Ministerial. U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu is hosting the event with the objective of helping major emitters develop more concrete global energy policies that they can bring to the next round of U.N. climate negotiations…The ministerial takes place at a critical time in the United States. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is expected to introduce new energy and climate legislation later this month in the final days before recess and going into election season. Yet consensus among the international community is that a binding global deal on combating climate change is at least another year and a half away. The success of clean energy initiatives in individual countries, including the United States, depends on the global development and exchange of clean energy technology. And the ministerial should help reframe the highly contentious global negotiations in terms of tangible, job-creating clean energy solutions rather than allocating blame and focusing on the burden of implementation…A report put out by the Global Climate Network identifies as many as 19.5 million energy-related job opportunities that policies to reduce carbon emissions could create between now and 2020. The ministerial’s focused discussion on actions that major emitters need to take should help build international momentum from the bottom-up through the technology action plans, paving the way for more productive and effective negotiations at the U.N. climate conferences that include all 194 countries…Each year of delay in coming to a climate negotiation adds an additional $500 billion to the investment needed in the energy sector between 2010 and 2030, according to the International Energy Agency. The U.N. climate conferences have failed after two decades of negotiation to deliver the kind of global treaty that will ignite a clean energy revolution. The MEF [Major Emitters Forum] and now the Clean Energy Ministerial serve as a necessary supplement to the U.N. climate change conferences.”

The problem with compromises is that they can often turn into a “race to the bottom”, the lowest common denominator policies.

Will the United Nations Climate negotiations stay open to emerging Science ? Will the framework be flexible enough to adjust targets and commitments as Climate Change data helps build the full picture of what is required ?

The Kyoto Protocol drawn up in 1997 had weak targets and many “flexible mechanism” loopholes to allow major emitters to avoid taking real action. Nations (and their embedded industries) have not even met the low bar of Kyoto. With the new Major Emitters Forum focus on Clean Energy, will the drive train of the global economy create some progress ?

Will addressing Climate Change become the preserve of the wealthy nations, and their parasite businesses, from now on, a profit-making raft of solutions that the rest of the world cannot afford ?

Can the international community accrete around a Climate Change Framework that works for everyone, creating gravity for the major players to meet their significant obligations ?

And will the undeveloped countries be driven off the side of the road ?

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