We know a bit about the current situation on climate change. We know which countries are emitting the most global warming emissions. We know that the EU is actively implementing policies to get their emissions down and are serious about keeping climate change at the top of the priority list, even in one of the biggest economic struggles in history. We know that little nations like Tuvalu are working to address climate change. We know that ambitious and engaged countries are running into unseen problems and are unsure where to go in the future. We know that the US is looking to pass a climate bill for the first time and could change history in the process, and the USDA supports it but climate change groups, consumer advocate groups, and social equity groups are quite concerned about some of the changes made by the House of Representatives at the last minute. We know that China, India, and Brazil’s growth in greenhouse gas emissions have skyrocketed (several times faster than developed countries’ still growing emissions) in the past two decades.
Where are the big question marks now? We don’t know what the US will do in actual legislation. We don’t know what China, India and Brazil will do as rapidly developing countries. We don’t know what consensus the leading countries in the world will come to in December in Copenhagen (if they will come to any consensus at all).
How can our common future be the brightest, not the hottest and rockiest? How can negotiations between the biggest nations in the history of the world change our future and start global cooling instead of global warming?
The following is a brief summary of what world leaders on this issue are doing and saying.
Currently, top US administrators are running around the globe to discuss these issues with China and India, to try to bring these countries to some tangible climate change reduction goals. The troubles are:
1) China, India and developing countries have booming economies that they don’t want to risk losing — how can they have what the West has if they change their direction now?
2) The US is yet to show that it is changing direction. If it is not going to pass a landmark bill that changes climate changing emissions drastically, what kind of policies does that tell other countries to make?
3) Coming to a consensus on overall global targets and then determining the fair share for every individual country is about as difficult of a task as politics can bring to fruit. Who isn’t going to say that there is another country they think should do more if they are going to do more and risk more themselves? How will countries come to a consensus on these real world issues in December?
The outcome is up in the air.
Some recent remarks by various experts on the topic are as follows:
Yvo De Boer, head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) who will guide the discussions in Copenhagen, said last week that the start that needs to be made now is for the leading nations to put in $10 billion for climate change (in December). To balance out the needs with the capabilities, this money would go to developing countries to help them create new plans to limit emissions and to actually deal with climate change. De Boer said that a critical piece of success at the conference in December will be influencing China, India, Brazil, and other major developing countries to commit to creating national plans for emissions reductions. He says that persuasion is the way to achieve this.
In reference to the need for positive persuasion, De Boer said: “You can take one of two approaches, you can either try and herd (a large group of cats) from behind with a stick, which generally has them shooting off in different directions, or you can walk in front holding a tasty fish and that will get them to follow you more willingly.” China and South Korea are on a good path, he thinks, seeing the opportunities in these industrial and technological changes. However, there is still a great need for support and progressive international cooperation for these countries and other developing countries to jump on board.
De Boer had a less specific answer to the emissions cuts that leading countries need to commit to. He said that the 25-40% reductions by 2020 that some scientists are proposing is a “good beacon to be working towards.”
The big issue in the US, addressed continually by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN), is that President Obama and the citizenry really need to influence the Senate to pass a strong climate bill. Otherwise, all of the other efforts to send Hillary Clinton to India and US Secratary of Energy Stephen Chu to China and to cooperate with international partners of the G8 will just be a waste of time and more greenhouse gas emissions in the sky from the flights! If the US doesn’t lead by example, and practice what we are preaching, no one will listen and change their own path on this matter.
Keith Harrington at the CCAN writes, “if the best approach to climate leadership abroad is through climate leadership at home, then Obama’s best international lobby strategy must rest on a strong Senate lobby strategy.”
There are the issues. Here are the responses.
Developed countries need to provide developing countries with $10 billion in climate change support. China, India, and other developing countries need to get in the game. And the US needs to lead the world again (and for the first time on this issue) by passing a strong climate bill in the US.
Image credit 1: woodlywonderworks via flickr under a Creative Commons license
Image credit 2: woodleywonderworks via flickr under a Creative Commons license