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Copenhagen Summit: A Greener Planet?

December 18, 2009

What is this jamboree all about? These talks about climate change and a whole lot of heads of states descending at Copenhagen, the innocent me is star struck. What a bloody congregation, nothing like this has ever been seen for something so unfathomable. You see, if the temperature of our planet rises by just two degrees, we are doomed. It is all about gas – yes emissions and ways and means to reduce them. There are a whole lot of very committed young men and women out there fighting the Danish police every time there is a press photographer around. And then they sit around and drink coffee till they spot another blighter with a camera, and the routine is carried out solemnly. The police throw them around, and they try to push the cops back – a hugely committed lot I must say! These are the green terrorists. They think that the planet is going to seed because of the callousness of us all. They have a point, but I see a larger reason behind these ferocious and sometimes not so loud demonstrations that have been going on outside the venue of the talks.

Inside the venue, people are walking around very purposefully and seem all business till one finds that very little is being actually achieved. The ones that matter like the representatives of the developed and the BASIC countries are the first to admit that the talks are still at a very nascent stage. But the crowds of people inside the venue seem to be so purposeful and busy as if the burden of humanity has fallen on their frail shoulders. This sure is some gathering!!!!

I am not a skeptic by nature. I like new ideas and people with a mission. But the Copenhagen summit looks like one big carnival with little purpose. Do they really care about the planet? Most of the dignitaries including Prince Charles, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, President Obama and others have flown in on a chartered flight – a personal plane. How much were the emissions per person- carbon footprint? Copenhagen as of now must be the most overcrowded polluted city in the whole of Europe. And they are talking about climate change.

The Americans have very magnanimously put forward a sum of 100 billion dollars by 2020 for the developing countries as their contribution towards climate change. Magnanimous – is it not? India is saying that they will sign the agreement if they double the amount. Ridiculous! Why is the US so eager for the climate talks to fructify? Are they really keen on this? Do they really believe in the theory that this planet is in peril? To me it seems more about economics than about any real concern for the environment. If we know anything about the Americans it is that they will invest in anything only if it benefits them. Why are they so keen on a legally binding treaty? And why are countries like India and China not too eager to commit themselves? The Americans want to trap the developing and the least developed countries, especially those that have abundant natural resources. What kind of a trap is this? Well, once the developing and the least developed countries commit themselves on legally binding emission norms then they will have to ensure that they follow that in letter and in spirit. They will then be made to import western ‘green technology’ that will reduce the emissions to the levels that they have promised. That includes nuclear power plants and technology to reduce emissions in thermal power plants, and solar technology and others that they shall insist these countries import. So what they are putting forward as monetary compensation will all go back to the west in the form of imports that will be incumbent on these countries to ‘reduce emissions’. Obama is not a fool to bring hundreds of his top bureaucrats and officials to Copenhagen for nothing. John Kerry and many other Senators make up the American entourage. The west is not ready to put a cap on their emissions and even if Obama did sign a ‘Copenhagen declaration’ he may not be able to get it ratified in the Senate. The Kyoto protocol was set aside and was never accepted by the lawmakers at the Capitol Hill.  So why is Obama so keen on a Copenhagen pact? He is hedging his bets, that if they can get the developing nations to sign on a legally binding emissions cut, he would then be able to sell the deal back home. That is why there is so much pressure on countries like India, China, Brazil and South Africa. The Chinese played a smart move when they ensured that the African countries withdraw from the talks en masse. The Chinese have leverage with the Africans as they are the largest investors in Africa. This was the Chinese way of putting the pressure back on the west. The crowds jostling with the police outside the venue are also a pressure building tactics on the part of the western nations to make sure the developing countries fall in line.

India has been trying to play the role of a mediator between the western countries and China while making sure its own interest is not jeopardized. In that the interests of the BASIC countries are closely linked and India is on the same page as China. Yet India would not be totally averse to an agreement at Copenhagen. For one, India really believes that the right way forward is the green way. The other more compelling reason is that India believes that it will benefit from this agreement as India has some very useful green technology in companies like Suzlon who are in a big way into solar and wind energy and could benefit from these international norms. India also has the expertise of making small nuclear power plants that can be useful for some of the smaller underdeveloped and least developed countries. So, India sees itself not totally out of sync with what the west is aiming at. Most of these least developed countries and some of the small island nations that have tourism as their main source of income can also afford some of these green technologies that should be useful for them and which India can provide. Other least developed countries have natural resources that the west and the developing world could use. At Copenhagen what all countries are looking at is; what they are giving and what they will benefit. Can we say that they have anything to do with climate change?  Copenhagen is more about economics than any real concern for the planet. Obama and the Europeans hope to be able to steam roll over all those who are resisting the west’s agenda. Manmohan Singh was not too keen to go to Copenhagen, but he was almost dragged from Delhi on a flight to Copenhagen. The Danish prime minister taking over as the head of the Summit showed as to which way the winds were blowing.

The world is decisively moving towards greener future. The only caveat is that what these big monoliths are doing should also percolate down to the ground. Basic things like the use of plastic bottles for soft drinks and mineral water must be banned. These are non-biodegradable and a big burden on the ecology. This should not be too difficult. Planting more trees must be a way of life. Use of cars and trucks must be curtailed and mass transport must be encouraged. Cities must be planned in such a way so as to facilitate this lifestyle. Solar and wind power must be harnessed. Planes must adhere to strict emission norms. Ships must have wastage recycle system so that they do not dump everything into the sea. Sea lanes are becoming more and more congested and in these areas there are hardly any fish left and the marine life is endangered. Off shore drilling must be done in such a way that marine life is not affected. If we are really serious about saving this planet we must learn to conserve energy and resources so as to reuse what we are using. Ecological awareness should be a way of life. Copenhagen is not about climate change – it is more about economics. And at the end of the day, I am not sure the agreements that these leaders take back home will be ratified by their respective parliaments and law makers. Copenhagen is about lobbyists jostling against one another, and I am not even mentioning East Anglia.

Addendum: There was a association of emerging economies which went by BRIC (Brazil,Russia,India and China), but for the climate change summit BRIC has turned to BASIC (Brazil, South Africa,India and China). Obviously, Russians feel that their interests are better served if they club themselves with the western countries here, as they are eying a multi-billion dollar nuclear energy market worldwide. It is all about economic interests at the end.

It may be added that the west finds that they can do business with Russia and therefore NATO is seriously looking at a ‘strategic alliance’ with Russia. It is both economic and strategic interests that they find converge and therefore Mr. Rasmussen, the NATO chief is pushing for this alliance with Russia. Russians are game as long as their interests are not hurt.

Update 19.12.2009: There has been a deal between the US and the BASIC countries. It is a non-binding deal and while the international community will be allowed to verify and inspect where there is foreign technology installed, they will not be allowed to conduct a MVR (measurable, verifiable and recordable) indiscriminately. It is hoped that the temperature will be checked to a 2 degree increase. This is where scientists are not in total unanimity and there is a lot of bad blood. There is no conclusive scientific evidence that there will be a global warming of either 2 or 3 degrees over a period. The G77 nations are up in arms though the EU and the African Union have welcomed the deal. The deal will have to be passed at the plenary session unanimously to be accepted. Obama is back in Washington and has left the details to be handled by his core group. The west has used the BASIC to further their interests and Obama was in no mood to leave Copenhagen without something to show back home. The green lobby was solidly behind him at the time of elections and this is payback time. Obama can say now that he tried his darn best to get things moving. The MVR is the fundamental document as these parameters will decide as to how emissions are verified and recorded. Nobody is talking about these fundamental parameters and how foolproof they are. The BASIC countries have had an extended engagement with the US and the EU and I guess at the end of the day this has led to greater respect and understanding for one another. Whether the Copenhagen summit is a success or a failure, this long discussion and interaction itself will lead to a closer planet, socially and hopefully economically and politically. In that, this summit has been a resounding success.

Jairam Ramesh, the Indian environment minister at the summit gave an insight into what was going on there behind closed doors. He said that there had been a marathon 36 hour long negotiations and added that while President Obama was understanding about India’s position and Chancellor Angela Merkel was also supportive, President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Gordon Brown were talking tough and that he had a few sharp exchanges with them. It was the good old ‘good cop, bad cop’ routine being played by the western countries trying to brow beat the BASIC countries into submission. Imagine trying to do that to two of the oldest civilizations in the world – India and China. They do not understand that we have been there done that, and that these juvenile tactics only invite derision from nations such as India and China. But it was interesting to know as to how things were being played out behind closed doors. The west wants to annul the Kyoto Protocol and that is unacceptable to most nations and Manmohan Singh has made this amply clear. The talks on the acceptance of the final draft are still going on. The west has used BASIC countries to further their agenda. I just hope India has extracted some meaningful assurance from the western countries before going forward on this one. India must have her slice of the pie, otherwise these negotiations have little meaning.

As I write this there are reports that a Copenhagen Accord has been reached and the salient features of this accord are the following:

  • No reference to legally binding agreement
  • Recognises the need to limit global temperatures rising no more than 2C above pre-industrial levels
  • Developed countries to “set a goal of mobilising jointly $100bn a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries”
  • On transparency: Emerging nations monitor own efforts and report to UN every two years. Some international checks
  • No detailed framework on carbon markets – “various approaches” will be pursued Source: BBC

    Update 20.12.2009:
    It is a horrible weather on the East Coast and Washington DC is under snow – a few feet of snow.  Europe is experiencing similar weather conditions. The president must be ensconced in the White House. I would urge him to draw the curtains and have a look outside and then break into a soliloquy on global warming. The president is a consummate speaker and I have no doubt it will be riveting stuff that he will dish out.
    Update 21.12.2009:

‘The climate secretary, Ed Miliband, today accuses China, Sudan, Boliviaand other leftwing Latin American countries of trying to hijack the UN climate summit and “hold the world to ransom” to prevent a deal being reached.

In an article in the Guardian, Miliband says the UK will make clear to those countries holding out against a binding legal treaty that “we will not allow them to block global progress“.

“We cannot again allow negotiations on real points of substance to be hijacked in this way,” he writes in the aftermath of the UN summit in Copenhagen, which climaxed with what was widely seen as a weak accord, with no binding emissions targets, despite an unprecedented meeting of leaders.’ Source: The Guardian, UK

It is clear that there are severe divisions in the world polity as of now. The west is aiming too high when they insist on legally binding cuts because that will mean on site verification, which will further mean that China and other closed countries will have to give access to industries and installations that they will be very uncomfortable doing. This is impractical and shows a kind of arrogance that the west could well do without. The Eastern Bloc is dead and they see in that a victory for themselves. It is true that a free, democratic world is the desired aim, but such aggressiveness will boomerang for the west. They have access to the Chinese market and they should go slowly but surely, and give them time to change. This is more than just a climate change issue, this is an ideological tussle and the west must give them space to reform and address such fundamental issues. As for India, it suited us that China had such deep reservations, as even India would hate to commit to a legally binding draft. Some of the negotiators from the Indian side had a strong left-of-centre bias. They have come home triumphant and that says it all.

One cannot but help notice that again the US has left it to Britain and France to do the tough talking. I do not intend to rub it in, but not too long ago during the times of Blair and Bush, Britain was called the poodle of the US. This was derogatory and uncalled for, be as it may, the semantics of this relationship have evidently not changed. The difference now is that the world can read it all and it is well known that what emanates from London is the stated stance of the west and not of Britain alone.

Update 25.01.2010: Claims that Himalayan glaciers will melt by 2035 are now being attributed to a little known scientist named Syed Hasnaian of the JNU who has now moved on to TERI where Dr. Rajendra Pachauri is the director. The Times, London has started a crusade against Dr. Pachauri and there are claims that the exalted professor is not an environment expert at all but has been trained as a railway engineer!! This big ho-ha about climate change seems to be misplaced. Dr. Pachauri has since threatened to sue the Times, but there are no reports of his having taken any such action. Remarkably, the world climate change advocates are mum and the proposed summits will be held as per schedule. There are trillions of dollars at stake and no one wants to topple the apple cart. One expert from Innsbruck university said that there were reports of glaciers melting by 2335 and not 2035 as reported!!! A small clerical error of some 300 years. Imagine millions of dollars spent at the various climate change summits and when one looks closely at the facts, there is so little to go by. By the way, Syed Hasnain has also remarked in retrospect that he found some ‘glitches’ in the IPCC report on climate change!!!

Update 25.04.2010: There has been a major oil spill near Louisiana, US when an oil rig went under after burning for more than 36 hours. There was an explosion after which the rig caught fire. These massive environmental disasters are a grave danger to the environment. Obama has given the green light to off shore drilling and this will increase chances of an oil spill. The Louisiana disaster was reported by the BBC as follows:

Oil is leaking from a damaged well feeding a rig that sank off Louisiana on Thursday, in what US officials are calling “a very serious spill”.

The well is estimated to be leaking at a rate of about 1,000 barrels (42,000 gallons) of oil per day.

Although the US coastguard said on Friday that no leak was detected, the latest evidence suggests a spill. Bad weather has hampered efforts to fix it.

Eleven workers are still missing after an explosion and fire on Tuesday.

All those who take high moral ground on issues such as climate change need to seriously think about the issues at hand, otherwise all will come to nought.

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3 Comments leave one →
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