07 Dec 2008
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Cartoon: Rustam Vania

What Went Wrong

James Watt remains an under-celebrated revolutionary. He made zillions of wheels revolve by the same steam that was otherwise restricted to Turkish baths and making delicious dumplings.

The way climate change is negotiated, it seems that there is a complete amnesia over our history. Emission of greenhouse gases (GHG, from now on) is a function of political economy. Hence, climate change has to be seen in that matrix, and it cannot be wished away.

In the early days the 90s, the original climate culprits, who have been spewing stuff in the atmosphere since last 150 years, tried to divert world’s attention towards countries like India and China for the climate crime, pointing out the large emission these countries were responsible for. It was a smart try.

While the fortunate students in the South are fed with a lot of western philosophy around ethics, Northern contemporary thinkers forgot everything about it while measuring climate crime. They conveniently picked up large countries with large population in the South to identify the criminals. It took some time for the fact that each individual in the globe has equal entitlement of our atmosphere to sink in. While calculating per capita share of climate crime, it turned out that each resident of industrialized world spew 10 times more than that of the developing world. The idea is well argued in a 1991 publication called ‘Global Warming In An Unequal World: A Case for Environmental Colonialism’ by CSE. So, per capita emission idea became the guiding principle for climate negotiation.

Based on the per capita emission principle, it was decided that industrialized rich countries of the world were to reduce emission considerably so that the developing poor countries get some head room to grow. Today, it has become fashionable for the Northern negotiators and think-tanks to point out that South’s position of not taking up any commitment on emission reduction is just posturing and cannot be tolerated as India and China are turning out to be large emerging economies with rising per capita emission.

It is a joke that a lot of ‘well-meaning’ smart environmentalists who print posters like ‘One World – Our World’ support this viewpoint. They fail to see that there is no One World.

My posturing Vs Your posturing

Please remember, rich industrialized economies did nothing to cut emission in the last decade, even when they knew about climate change and made commitments about drastic reduction. It seems they waited for a decade to see that certain developing countries grow and increase their per capita so that they can start a new blame game. If the South is posturing, it is nothing more than a counter to Northern posturing of being worried about climate change.

It is well documented that all environmental negotiations convened by the UN has got nothing to do with environment, they are just negotiations to secure future business space for the rich nations. The fight on climate change is the most severe as emission cut for the rich is related to giving up ever increasing consumption and luxury. There is a dubious attempt in the climate negotiation that seeks a status quo on luxury emission and want to curb Poor’s survival emission.

All these, when the atmosphere still holds the carbon emitted by the rich countries in the last hundred years. And do not forget, most of these countries grew rich amassing wealth from the Southern countries.

Buying and selling

It is amazing to see how the rich nations have gone back to what they are best at: buying and selling. It is the Market in the first place that has created the problem, a religion that needs more and more things to be produced and consumed, giving rise to emission. So, a mechanism was created to buy back a little bit of atmosphere that was not polluted by the poor in the South. But it was sold with a grand posturing of helping out the poor to grow. As usual that never happened.

The idea was to buy the space, so that the poor could grow in a cleaner manner. But the process has been made such corrupt and convoluted that money transfer is happening between the rich companies in the North and the their counterparts in the South. The process was given a rather simple name: CDM (Clean Development Mechanism). There are various versions on what the C stands for.

Over a period, the business interests have cannibalized the climate change discussion. Business interests are fronted by immoral intellectuals in both hemispheres, who are trying to turn climate change crisis into a business opportunity. I shall give a count on number of events organized by business associations and corporations directly during this Conference Of Parties in Poznan.

Fixers have an uncanny penchant for cooking up fixes. In climate change, they are at the game too. Without addressing the real problem of reducing emission, they are trying to increase efficiency, new methods of burying carbon in the hell, promoting more of dangerous and expensive ways of boiling water and so on.

WWW continues

What went wrong is not being reversed in Poznan at all. There is no talk of reduction of emission in near future. The fact remains that barring a few countries; all rich nations increased their emission in the last decade. They cannot possibly pretend to be ignorant about climate change in last ten years. All discussion hovers around some virtual money that is needed to manage the problem. If you propose to posture, I can posture better. Industry is trying to fish in dirty water.

Journalist friends at Sheraton Poznan were busy discussing ‘How many different ways can you do the same story that nothing is happening here?’

Coming up: more about the Market