Nearly a month ago, even the normally unflappable chief of the UN’s climate change efforts, Yvo de Boer, seemed at wit’s end. He said a global climate pact at Copenhagen was “physically impossible.” If I had to bet now, I’d wager he’s right.
There are five months to go. The US is trying to lead by example, but it may be a dollar short (ACES’ 2020 mandated reductions are well-below EU’s proposals and the demands of “developing” nations) and a day late. It is clear that as of yet no one is following.
There was hope of some small progress when environment ministers and senior officials from the 17-member Major Economies Forum (MEF) met in advance of the G8 meeting this week and a UN climate conference was held in Bonn. Agreement was sought to a proposal, developed by the G8 countries last year, that supported a goal of reducing global emissions by at least 50% by 2050.
International agreements to support aspirational goals forty years down the road are usually the simplest to achieve among groups of negotiators in their 60s (indeed, so timid is this 2050 proposal that it was actually agreed to by the Bush administration). Not this time.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi . . . told a news conference that China was resisting progress on the climate.
“Europe wants to be in the vanguard, the Obama administration is in the same position, but there is strong resistance that I have encountered with the Chinese presidency,” said Berlusconi, referring to a meeting on Monday.
Can you image a meeting between Berlusconi and Hu? I’d pay money to see that.
Hu was essentially reiterating the position espoused by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, in Bonn in June (and by countless other Chinese officials before that):
China was still a developing country and its priority was to develop its economy, alleviate poverty and raise living standards. “Given that, it is natural for China to have some increase in emissions, so it is not possible for China to accept a binding or compulsory target,” he said.
So there you have it. Not a single word has changed from the shop worn talking points. Crucial hearings have started in the Senate on ACES, and China has already been cast as a bogeyman. Weak though it may be, the US is making some unilateral progress. The slightest hint of reciprocal movement by China would have been welcomed by many in the US and international community who have worked mightily to improve China’s climate image abroad. Instead, those toilers are now checking to make sure they have all their teeth.