There is little over a month to go before the climate change conference at Copenhagen, and it is, without question, more significant than the G20 meetings, as climatic destabilization will affect everyone in most walks of life. After all, if global systems were to go kaput tomorrow, we would not be able to eat the hoards of cash that were saved in solving the economic crisis.
But what will come of this meeting? Is it likely to fall flat on its face like Kyoto, all fart and no sh*t, or is a credible, viable path going to open-up for us to follow? One of the reasons for failure of the Kyoto Protocol was the fact that domestic legislatures were unwilling to act on international agreement. For example, the Clinton administration supported the agreement but Congress did not, thus rendering the Kyoto Agreement meaningless.
It seems, however, that the domestic arena is more organised than before; GLOBE International, the global legislators’ organisation, held a forum on climate and energy security in Copenhagen from 23-25 October. In total 100 legislators (parliamentarians) from the major economies and all major parties met to discuss climate issues and agree on guiding principles. Although legislators do not sign on the dotted line in Copenhagen in December, they do play a vital role in ensuring that the international consensus is followed through in the respective parliaments and that the domestic laws are ratified and implemented accordingly.
The Chairman of the last meeting was US Congressman Ed Markey – the co-sponsor of the US Waxman-Markey Bill (American Clean Energy and Security Act) that’s passed the House of Representatives, and is waiting approval from Congress before it can be signed by Obama. This Bill could make or break the international community as a whole, as if the US were to commit to improving the climate then it is likely that others will follow suit. The UK is strong on the commitment to reducing carbon emissions, and as too are Japan. However, the problem may come from emerging economies that feel they have a right to develop as they wish in order to catch-up to the developed nations. China plays an important role and have pledged to cut emissions by 20% by 2020, India and Brazil need to be included for any deal to work, however there commitments are still unknown.
The recent forum can also act, not as a template to how the international agreements may unfold, but more as a loose guide as to which direction a certain country may go. Also, it could be a dry run for delegates to see the potential limits and boundaries that a country may not be willing to exceed. It is held that there is some similarity between the UK legislators in the forum and the UK government’s official stance; this could be because Lord Stephen Byers (Labour Party MP) is President of GLOBE International, Lord Nicholas Stern (Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change was produced by a team led by Stern at HM Treasury) is heavily involved and, love him or loathe him, Tony Blair’s commitment to GLOBE International.
It is also encouraging to see that failing an international agreement there will be committed legislators in a number of countries determined to pass laws, which will benefit humanity in toto. As Markey noted:
“[T]here are many national policies and measures, particularly around energy efficiency in buildings, transport, industry and appliances, which do not require an international agreement to be introduced by legislators now. The reality is that we should and must implement these policies regardless of the outcome of Copenhagen.”
The legislators agreed on a joint statement for the Copenhagen meeting. Within which the following was included:
- Emission targets should be set at 10-year intervals to encourage each successive government to meet targets. Thus they are not able to duck out and leave emission reductions to other administrations
- Long-term incentives should be introduced to discourage countries from deforestation.
- Protection of intellectual property rights for developing countries
- International monitoring should be applied to all countries – they call for more accurate information that uses surface and aircraft-based measurements, rather than economic measurements that UNFCCC currently use.
- A financial assistance fund of $100bn per year should be established to meet the costs of adaption, perhaps a Tobin Tax?
It is heartening to learn that behind the scenes concerned policymakers are uniting in an effort to get their message across to the higher echelons of government for immediate implementation of policies to correct a global problem; I hope this momentum to reach a consensus is not lost in the mêlée of political point scoring.