I read an article on the BBC today on the plusses and the minuses of the Copenhagen summit. To summarise the article:
Everyone got together and talked about climate change, with climate change firmly on the agenda. All the countries attended and, clearly, climate change was the centre of debate.
No-one agreed to do anything about climate change.
The nature of the article really reflected COP15: it is inconsequential filler.
If campaigners were right in describing Copenhagen as ‘our last chance’, then we are in a lot of trouble. It is not even clear if the Copenhagen accord is even UN sanctioned. All that is certain is that no-one is legally bound to do anything set out therein. It looks like a political deus ex machina, a shabby artifice so that politicians can go home saying they got something done.
In the same vein, I could draw up the ‘Hammersmith Accord’ whereby my Christmas tree and I agree to cut emissions from my neighbour’s cat by 20% by teatime on boxing day. I don’t really have to though, which is fortunate because I would not know how to begin measuring feline emissions, let alone censuring a Christmas tree for failing to comply with Hammersmith.
Countries can only do as much as the most reluctant nation will agree to. In terms of climate change politics, this country is, of course, China. Now China is looking to continue it is rapid expansion into economic superiority. This is all but a foregone conclusion. No other major players (okay, that should just say ‘the USA’) are going to restrict their economies if China won’t. But you’d think, at some point, the global community will have to realize that averting extreme climate change is more in its own interest than anything else.
But here lies the rub. If you went to Beijing and showed the powers of the People’s Republic a big scary picture of rising sea levels they would probably respond: “Flooding? Oh yes we already did that.” The Three Gorges Dam. What does a country that has created the most epic dam on earth, consuming whole towns and displacing over a million people in the process care about natural disasters? They are too busy rustling them up themselves.
Well, beside the ecological disaster of the Three Gorges Dam, invading and occupying Tibet, and testing nuclear weapons on its ethnic minorities, there is a lot to be said for China, and I don’t mean that insincerely. Hey, they are going to own us all before long, so I will have to delete this blog post before that anyway.
But if we are going to persuade the Chinese to put environmental responsibility up their to do list, we are going to need a better understanding of their culture. And if that’s not inconsequential filler, I don’t know what is.