Benny Peiser: Indefinite Climate Moratorium

  • Date: 20/12/09

The Observer: I hate to say I told you so, but I have predicted the failure of the Copenhagen summit to agree to binding commitments for over a year.

The Copenhagen fiasco was not just foreseeable, it was inevitable. The inability of the international community to break the climate deadlock reflects the incompatible national interests and demands that divide the west and the rest. This is now a permanent feature in what is likely to become an indefinite moratorium on international climate law-making.

In light of the Copenhagen non-agreement, there will be increased pressure by EU members states to water down unilateral emissions targets that are conditional on an international treaty. Just like Japan, it will be impossible for Europe or, indeed, the UK to continue with policies that are burdening national economies with huge costs and damaging their international competitiveness.

Climate politics face a profound crisis. Revolts among eastern European countries, in Australia and even among Obama’s Blue Dog Democrats are forcing law-makers to renounce support for unilateral climate policies. In the UK, the party-political consensus on climate change is unlikely to survive the general elections as both Labour and the Tories are confronted by a growing public backlash against green taxes and rising fuel bills.

However, the biggest losers of the Copenhagen fiasco appear to be climate science and the scientific establishment who, with a very few distinguished exceptions, have promoted unmitigated climate alarm and hysteria.It confirms beyond doubt that most governments have lost trust in the advice given by climate alarmists and the IPCC. The Copenhagen accord symbolises the loss of political power by Europe whose climate policies have been rendered obsolete.

It is a remarkable irony of history that when the leading voices of the radical environmental movements of the 1960s and 70s occupy governmental power in most western nations, their political and international influence is on the wane. The weakening of global warming anxiety among the general public and the marked decline of western influence and authority on the international stage is a clear manifestation of the green slump.

• Dr Benny Peiser is the director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation

Not bad: My Copenhagen prognosis exactly one year ago

Transport Xtra, November 2008: Efforts to reach a global deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol are supposed to culminate in a United Nations conference in Copenhagen next December – one that Stern has described as the “most important meeting since the Second World War in shaping the planet’s future”.

The basis of the deal was outlined this summer in a declaration by the G8 group of major economies who set a goal of achieving at least a 50% reduction of global emissions by 2050 (which, says Stern, translates into an 80% reduction for developed nations such as the UK on the basis of burden sharing).

Peiser is sceptical that a global deal containing mandatory emission reduction targets can be struck even if President Barack Obama gives new impetus to emission reductions in the US. “He will be the green president and you will see a lot of changes in the rhetoric,” he says.

Obama has also pledged to implement an Emissions Trading Scheme similar to Europe’s but Peiser doubts it will be a high priority in the current economic climate. “Obama’s advisers have already announced that any US climate legislation will have to be delayed until the new administration has solved the economic and financial crisis. In other words: let’s wait and see.”

“Do I believe there will be a global agreement? No. This is where the runaway train crashes into the buffers.” The problem, he says, is that the price of a deal is too high for all sides. The developed world insists that developing countries such as China and India must commit to emission reductions.

“Can they afford to cut emissions? No, there is no way. Their economies are booming, the energy demand is increasing at astronomical levels, they’re scouring the planet to find resources. Can they cut CO2 emissions? No. Impossible.” Meanwhile, China says that if developing nations are to cut emissions than the developed nations must devote a massive 1% of their GDP to help them do so.

“It’s a blame game now,” says Peiser, and he sees the G8 declaration as part of that. “No one will say this has collapsed. They’ll say, ‘OK, well, we’ll meet again in a year – there will always be another conference.’”

There may even be an agreement on aspirational reduction targets. “But a target in its own right doesn’t really matter if you don’t have a solution to get there. And the solutions are not there.” And so, emissions will keep on rising, and atmospheric concentrations will go up far beyond the 450-550ppm CO2e that people such as Stern say should be the limit.

“If you want to know what I think is going on inside Prime Ministers’ offices around the world, it’s ‘Let’s kick this into the long grass.’ Because that is what it will take to approach the problem. The short-termism is gone.

Full interview here




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