18 September 2009

79 Days - Why Does It Seem So Simple from Here?

There are lots of rumblings these days that the December climate talks in Copenhagen are not going to yield the needed agreement. Indeed, Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in an interview with Environment & Energy Publishing, seems to have lowered his expectations considerably, outlining what he sees as the four "essentials" for an international agreement in Copenhagen (Yvo de Boer is one of my climate change super-heroes, but I fear his super powers are fading):

1. How much are the industrialized countries willing to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases? [Me: With all due respect, putting "industrialized" and "willing" in the same question is begging for climate catastrophe.]

2. How much are major developing countries such as China and India willing to do to limit the growth of their emissions? [Me: There can be no more growth in GHG emissions!
Those days are gone. We must aim for zero. For the sake of all the children in China and India, too.]

3. How is the help needed by developing countries to engage in reducing their emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change going to be financed? [Me: I've got that one figured out below.]

4. How is that money going to be managed? [Me: Ditto. It's called a Global Green Fund. See below.]

“If Copenhagen can deliver on those four points, I’d be happy,” says Yvo de Boer. [Me: Happiness is not a destination, but a way of travel. Please, Sir, don't give up now.]


Well, Mr. de Boer has been trying heartily to make something of the new international agreement, but he's not asking for enough. Here's how simple it could be:

1. Every nation on Earth must — and is going to — get to zero carbon emissions as rapidly as possible, and certainly within a timeframe of years, not decades (which we don't have). That's it. No questions asked. Abiding by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (which almost 192 nations signed onto, including the USA, and ratified) demands it. Our collective duty is to avoid "dangerous interference with the climate system." We've already failed the millions of human beings already impacted, but that in no way lessens our ethical responsibility.

2. This is not a competition (unless friendly competition will serve to make you work harder and move faster). This is an international — call it universal — cooperative venture on behalf of all future generations, of all species, but especially our own.

3. Oil, coal and natural gas are dead. Grieve their demise if necessary (don't be too sad, those fossil fuels aren't going anywhere — well, unless Kuwait pulls that nasty slant drilling stunt again) and get on with the rapid and radical global transformation to a renewable-energy-based economy.... an economy that is safer, cleaner, healthier, more equitable and more peaceful. Go, go, go!

4. Several developing nations are amongst the largest populations on Earth. Think China, India, Indonesia, Brazil. Now picture how many geniuses, innovators, entrepreneurs and whiz kids live in each of those countries. THAT'S where our funding should go (not to nations, who will squander it pandering to the fossil fuel corporations who haven't read #3 above).

5. With fossil fuels out of the picture (the appropriate carbon tax — one that truly pays for the environmental and social devastation of carbon emissions — should do the trick), the new economy should naturally put its money where it's needed (isn't that what economists are always trying to tell us?). But if that doesn't happen, then all the carbon tax money could go directly into a Global Green Fund to finance the transformation.

Please, Mr. de Boer, don't stop posing the right questions or asking for what we need if, as I know is your goal, we're to leave our grandchildren a future.

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?