Fascinating article (of unknown credibility or reliability) in the Guardian about the recent Copenhagen talks. You really should read the whole thing but the author, who claims to have been present at the special meeting as Obama and a couple of other world leaders tried to hammer out a last minute deal:
it was China’s representative who insisted that industrialised country targets, previously agreed as an 80% cut by 2050, be taken out of the deal. “Why can’t we even mention our own targets?” demanded a furious Angela Merkel. Australia’s prime minister, Kevin Rudd, was annoyed enough to bang his microphone. Brazil’s representative too pointed out the illogicality of China’s position. Why should rich countries not announce even this unilateral cut? The Chinese delegate said no, and I watched, aghast, as Merkel threw up her hands in despair and conceded the point. Now we know why – because China bet, correctly, that Obama would get the blame for the Copenhagen accord’s lack of ambition.
I am certain that had the Chinese not been in the room, we would have left Copenhagen with a deal that had environmentalists popping champagne corks popping in every corner of the world.
…as the Chinese delegate insisted on removing the 1.5C target so beloved of the small island states and low-lying nations who have most to lose from rising seas. President Nasheed of the Maldives, supported by Brown, fought valiantly to save this crucial number. “How can you ask my country to go extinct?” demanded Nasheed. The Chinese delegate feigned great offence – and the number stayed, but surrounded by language which makes it all but meaningless. The deed was done.
I think it’s pretty clear that addressing climate change on the national level just ain’t gonna happen until things get really bad. While we can all talk about doing what we can, ultimately I’m not sure it makes a difference. How many car pool trips do I need to take to offset the new Chinese coal plant being built every week?
Of course there are intermediate levels of government between the citizen and the nation state. Local mayors and state governors can recommend changes to their laws which have a wider impact on carbon (and other) emissions which might be worthwhile and individual citizens have a better chance to influence their local government than at the federal level. The U.S. Conference of Mayors is working towards that goal. I’m not familiar with their program so can’t really talk about it but it seems like a good way to deal with frustration at the national level.