Source: The Independent
At first glance, the Copenhagen climate summit seems like a Salvador Dali dreamscape. I just saw Archbishop Desmond Tutu being followed by a swarm of Japanese students who were dressed as aliens and carrying signs saying "Take Me To Your Leader" and "Is Your Species Crazy?". Before that, a group of angry black-clad teenage protesters who were carrying spray cans started quoting statistics to me about how much carbon dioxide the atmosphere can safely absorb. (It’s 350 parts per million they pointed out, before sucking their teeth.) Before that, I saw a couple in a pantomime cow costume being attacked by the police, who accused them of throwing stones with their hooves.
But the surrealism runs deeper and darker than this. Inside the Bella Centre, the rich world’s leaders are defiantly ignoring their scientists and refusing to sign a deal that will prevent our climate from being dramatically destabilised. The scientific consensus shows the rich world needs to cut 40 per cent of our emissions of warming gases from 1990 levels by 2020 if we’re going to have even a 50-50 chance of staying this side of the Point of No Return, when the Earth’s natural processes start to break down and warming becomes unstoppable. Yet the scientists at Climate Analytics calculate our governments are offering a dismal 8-12 per cent cut – and once you factor in all the loopholes and accounting tricks, it becomes a net increase of four per cent.
Privately, government negotiators admit there’s no way the negotiations will end with the deal scientists say is necessary for our safety. Indeed, it looks possible that this conference won’t deepen and broaden the Kyoto framework, but cripple it. Kyoto established a legally binding international framework to measure and reduce emissions. The cuts it required were too small, and the sanctions for breaking it were pitifully weak – but it was a start. Kyoto’s current phase expires in 2012, but the treaty’s authors believed its architecture would be retained and intensified after that. The developing countries assumed that’s what they were here to do. But the US is proposing to simply ditch the Kyoto infrastructure – won over decades of long negotiations – and replace it with an even weaker voluntary deal. In their proposal, every country will announce cuts and stick to them out of the goodness of their hearts. No penalties, no enforcement.
So at the centre of this summit is a proposition stranger than any number of arrested cows or Nasa-quoting hoodies: we’re playing Russian roulette with the climate, and our most powerful governments are filling the barrels with extra bullets, one by one.
Yet this conflagration here in Copenhagen is heartbreaking and heartwarming all at once. Our governments are showing their moral bankruptcy – but a genuinely global democratic movement is swelling to make them change course. Mass democratic agitation is the only force that has ever made governments moral before; it will have to do it again.