Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Copenhagen Scam

In a must read piece Johann Hari lists the many and sundry ways the backroom deals in Copenhagen are designed to look good, and accomplish absolutely nothing:

Trick One: Hot Air. The nations of the world were allocated permits to release greenhouse gases back in 1990, when the Soviet Union was still a vast industrial power - so it was given a huge allocation. But the following year, it collapsed, and its industrial base went into freefall - along with its carbon emissions. It was never going to release those gases after all. But Russia and the Eastern European countries have held onto them in all negotiations as "theirs". Now, they are selling them to rich countries who want to purchase "cuts." Under the current system, the US can buy them from Romania and say they have cut emissions - even though they are nothing but a legal fiction.

We aren't talking about climatic small change. This hot air represents ten gigatonnes of CO2. By comparison, if the entire developed world cuts its emissions by 40 percent by 2020, that will only take six gigatonnes out of the atmosphere.

Trick Two: Double-counting. This is best understood through an example. If Britain pays China to abandon a coal power station and construct a hydro-electric dam instead, Britain pockets the reduction in carbon emissions as part of our overall national cuts. In return, we are allowed to keep a coal power station open at home. But at the same time, China also counts this change as part of its overall cuts. So one ton of carbon cuts is counted twice. This means the whole system is riddled with exaggeration - and the figure for overall global cuts is a con.

Trick Three: The Fake Forests - or what the process opaquely dubs 'LULUCF' . Forests soak up warming gases and store them away from the atmosphere - so, perfectly sensibly, countries get credit under the new system for preserving them. It is an essential measure to stop global warming. But the Canadian, Swedish and Finnish logging companies have successfully pressured their governments into inserting an absurd clause into the rules. The new rules say you can, in the name of "sustainable forest management", cut down almost all the trees - without losing credits. It's Kafkaesque: a felled forest doesn't increase your official emissions... even though it increases your actual emissions.

Trick Four: Picking a fake baseline. All the scientific recommendations take 1990 as the dangerously high baseline we need to cut from. So when we talk about a 40 percent cut, we mean 40 percent less than 1990. But the Americans have - in a stroke of advertising genius - shifted to taking 2005 as their baseline. Everybody else is talking about 1990 levels, except them. So when the US promises a 17 percent cut on 2005 levels, they are in fact offering a 4 percent cut on 1990 levels - far less than other rich countries.

There are dozens more examples like this, but you and I would lapse into a coma if I listed them. This is deliberate. This system has been made incomprehensible because if we understood, ordinary citizens would be outraged. If these were good faith negotiations, such loopholes would be dismissed in seconds. And the rich countries are flatly refusing to make even these enfeebled, leaky cuts legally binding. You can toss them in the bin the moment you leave the conference center, and nobody will have any comeback. On the most important issue in the world - the stability of our biosphere - we are being scammed.

Note the dishonorable mention for Canada. The fake forest scam is of course, only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to our malign influence on this issue. Hari ends his piece with a note of hope that people will ultimately force their governments to do more.

I'm not sure anymore, if we have enough time for the deliberately narcotized sleeping giant of public participation to awaken.

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