The climate, our business too! How do we go from here after the climate summit in Copenhagen? Part two.

4 03 2010

The results of the climate summit:

In the second part of his lecture I will give you, as I mentioned before, a summary of the results of the climate summit in Copenhagen and the conclusions that we can draw from them. The climate summit did not result in a new and ambitious climate treaty, as the original intention was, but in an agreement. This agreement is the follower of the Kyoto protocol that has applied since 1997. In the Kyoto protocol it was agreed that in the period of 2008 – 2012 the emission of CO2 would be lowered by 5 percent as regards to 1990. The treaty was signed in 2002 by the EU and was not implemented until February 2005, when 55 countries had ratified it. Negotiations are still going on about the reductions of emissions after 2012. China and the US, who between the two of them account for 40% of the emission of greenhouse gases, are not joining however. After a conference that went with difficulty, long discussions and extremely difficult negotiations the 193 participating countries officially took cognizance of the agreement of Copenhagen. With it the UN have a document by which countries are free to accept and execute the agreement or not.

If we are honest and realistic, we can reach only one conclusion: The climate summit of Copenhagen is a failure. What happened there? Without being complete, I will give you nine results:

1. The participating countries didn’t come any further than the recognition that the earth is not supposed to get warmer by more than two degrees and a declaration of intent about the policies to be carried out.
2. The ambition to work towards ‘legally binding’ objectives of reduction was not fulfilled. Not all countries signed the agreement. Important decisions have been passed on to the future.

3. No practical actions for the benefit of solving the climate problems were recorded in a formal and binding way. The result is a list of promises, made by individual countries and without agreements about compliance and monitoring of that. The few promises and agreements that were made are all without obligation.

4. The amounts of money that had been promised largely come from budgets that already exist for development aid and therefore are more or less just for appearance’s sake. The past has learned us what comes from that.
5. The US, China and a few emerging economies made a non-binding agreement: A green fund will be established for poor countries that will have to face the climate problems. From 2010 until 2012 €21 billion will be paid into that.
6. Various island states wanted that the temperature, compared to the pre-industrial era, would not be allowed to rise by more than 1.5 degree Celsius. For anything above that will lead to the disappearance of island states, such as Tuvalu and the Maladives. It did not work out. Sudan is warning because of what was not achieved, that Africa is going “to be burnt”.

7. The US didn’t get any further than a promise, a conditional promise, that they will realise 17% less emission. The US doesn’t want to commit itself to international agreements.
8. China committed itself to an offer it had already made before. Forty-four percent less emission per unit of the gross national product. But on the basis of their own calculation method, and that makes it invisible what the results will be. And in addition to that China doesn’t allow any monitoring.
9. The reduction targets of the various countries have not been given any content. That is what they intend to do as yet before February 1, 2010. Furthermore they are striving to as yet come to a legally binding agreement in December 2010.

In december 2010 there is another climate summit in Mexico. Maybe it’s possible to integrate the Kyoto protocol, the Copenhagen agreement and the results of the summit in 2010 but it is not realistic to be very hopeful about that.

What conclusions can we draw from this?

When establishing these nine results we should realise as well that it is still possible that countries, through a surplus of emission rights, apparently have come to a reduction of emission, while their economies are not or will not be more sustainable. And that, in spite of the amounts promised in Copenhagen, there is no question of solidarity between poor and rich. In principle the leaders in this world stick to “the improper effects and excesses of capitalism” with “economic growth at any cost”. Which are the three harsh conclusions that we now may draw?

1. In this 21st-century there is no need for political leaders that speak out for an ambitious approach of the climate problems – and consider that to be the great challenge of this century and with a lot of rhetoric say that they are aware of the great risks that all of us run – but that don’t have the leadership qualities to come to adequate decisions. They are aware of the dangers for safety and the economy and the consequences of enormous drought on the one hand and rising sea levels on the other, but they hardly do anything about it. Fortunately there are politicians that recognise these shortcomings and are embarrassed about what has not been achieved.

2. The Copenhagen agreement is a disgrace for the rich countries. It is a shame that there are European leaders that say that this agreement is better than no agreement or say that they think that the result is “a pity”. There is no reason whatsoever to be happy with a non-binding agreement and it would be a sign of sincerity if they admitted to feel very ashamed. It is not exactly a sign of realism and of prudent and economically responsible policy to call this a first step in the right direction. That is only a sign of lack of vision, courage and character. Maybe political leaders think that they have saved their faces, but these are their deceptive faces at best. That this is no rescue but an embarrassing hoax.

3. The European Union wishes to be forerunner in the field of climate policy, but it is divided amongst itself about the measures to be taken. Apparently it is not capable of playing a role of any significance. A lack of leadership. Political manoeuvres, complacency, fear of loss of face and loss of votes and mutual mistrust dominated. That are four aspects of poor leadership that are enough to guarantee indecisiveness, loss of credulity and mistrust of politics and of politicians. Politicians and political leaders – I don’t want to speak evil of the good ones amongst them – have not lost their deceptive faces but by Self-denial they themselves and the citizens and their voters are the great losers.

It is always easier to express criticism and draw harsh conclusions, than to point out what we want and how things have to be handled. I am not one of those critics. If I may give you a tip: If you are critical about anything or anyone, consider first whether and if so, how you can do it better. And if you cannot do it better, think in any rate about what you can contribute to the realisation of the desired changes and improvements. To conclude this second part I will point out to you what I think that the world does want. In the third part of this lecture I will wind up by pointing out how we can achieve sustainable solutions.

What do we want? The world is in need of visionary leadership. Courageaous, strong, decisive, honest and progressive leadership. And entrepreneurial leadership, on the basis of analysed and recognised risks that have to be taken or have to avoided. Policians made of the right stuff. And honest, truthful politicians, who acquire power by letting the general interest prevail. Who put listening and finding the truth first and foremost.

I am critical of politicians and political leaders. And I am not the only one. But that does not mean that I do not have respect for those politicians who put in a lot of effort and professionality to achieve a better world. On the contrary. The multidisciplinary working conferences that I develop and organise are a support to them. When we separate the wheat from the chaf there will be a better harvest.

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