Monday, December 21, 2009

A Target To Set Targets

After all of the hot air expended at Copenhagen it seems that there is very little result to show for it. Despite widespread calls for urgent action on climate change, and a general consensus that global warming should be contained to within 2 degrees, the final result of the conference appears to be a vague agreement for everybody to go away and draw up a wish list. Each country can nominate its own voluntary target and the means by which it will be achieved, and the lists are all due to be handed in by February. After dire warnings that ambitious and binding targets of 25 to 40% must be set to avoid climate catastrophe, we have instead a target to set targets next year.

There was some discussion about finance to assist poorer countries in dealing with the cost of climate change policies, and agreement for a supposed $100 billion fund, but no real plan on just how the money will be raised or whence it will come. Even assuming that the money is found somewhere, it amounts to about half of what is said to be required for the task. This is such a vague compromise that it would have been impossible to draw up a treaty or even a formal agreement. Instead, the conference has resulted in a “statement” by a handful of countries which has been “noted” by the other nations, whatever that means. In fact, what it appears to mean is that nobody has committed to anything.

So, after two weeks of gasbagging in Denmark the final outcome is an underfunded plan with no clear source of finance to achieve targets which have not yet been set. It would seem to be just possible that the net result of the entire exercise has been to fail to achieve sufficient emissions reductions to even offset the carbon footprint of the delegates burning all that jet fuel to get there in the first place.

Here at home, opposition leader Tony Abbott has been claiming vindication for his position that the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation should be delayed until after Copenhagen. He claimed that the scheme would be not only useless, but actually damaging, if it went ahead in the absence of a global agreement. Now that the outcome of the Copenhagen conference has turned out to be exactly that, it can be expected that the opposition will again reject the legislation when it returns to the Parliament in February. One way or the other, the next election will be dominated by climate change policy.

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