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Down To Earth

Friday Quote

"One of the frustrations for me was the lack of a global body with the sole responsibility for environmental stewardship. I believe that in 2010 we will need to look at reforming our international institutions to meet the common challenges we face as a global community."  This from UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown days after the Copenhagen conference.  “Never again should we face the deadlock that threatened to pull down those talks. Never again should we let a global deal to move towards a greener future be held to ransom by only a handful of countries," he continued.  Read more about this from Brown in the London Times HERE and in Business Green HERE

And on the subject of Copenhagen, the Economist recently attempted to spin two positive angles from the conference.  Right or wrong (right now we're having a hard time seeing any good in it), the Economist's postivie attitude in optimism is a nice way to start the new year.  Cheers Economist.  See what they had to say after the jump, and you can read more of their thoughts HERE. 

First, the UN’s climate process has for more than a decade been bedevilled by a binary split between developed and developing countries. Under the Kyoto protocol, only developed countries committed themselves to cutting emissions; developing countries made no such promises. That was the main reason why Kyoto failed, because America would not accept a treaty that required nothing of countries such as China, and China insisted that the rich world should bear most of the necessary costs of constraining emissions. At Copenhagen developed countries were determined to move beyond this structure; many developing countries to hang on to it. That was the obstacle on which the conference foundered.

Yet the Copenhagen accord makes some progress towards closing this split. Developing, as well as developed, countries signed up to it, and have agreed to an international role in monitoring any cuts they commit themselves to. That is a crucial concession.

The second reason for hope is that Copenhagen’s failure may have encouraged the development of political structures better suited to the challenge. Climate change is not just an unusually grand problem. It is also an unusually complex one, which crosses and confounds the boundaries that normally define our world; from farming to forestry, shipping to sovereignty, all sorts of interests are brought together in new ways that demand new actions. Trying to deal with all the sources of the many gases involved in a single set of negotiations, in a forum of 193 countries, was always a tall order.

The Copenhagen accord edges towards allowing negotiations to take place in new forums. Some of its provisions, notably on mechanisms for funding mitigation efforts in developing countries, can take effect outside the UN process. That could mark a new pluralism in climate politics, allowing coalitions of the willing to form for specific purposes—such as slowing deforestation, or stemming emissions from shipping.

There are risks to slicing up the problem into smaller pieces. Bundling everything together, so that all parties need to offer some give in order to get their take, is a time-honoured format for negotiations; and stepping back from doing everything in one forum may mean doing less overall. But the world has twice, at Kyoto and at Copenhagen, tried to deal with the problem in one go, and failed. Smaller groups such as the G20 or the Major Economies Forum offer a better prospect for haggling over difficult issues. The UN process still has a role, in ensuring a workable and trusted system of accounting for carbon, and in debating and approving or rejecting agreements whose details will largely be worked out elsewhere.

Down To Earth

The DTE blog is committed to reporting and sharing environmental news and sustainability information from across the Inland Northwest.