Climate talks in Tianjin, China have ended. That’s it now until Cancun, Mexico on 29 November-10 December, where the optimists hope than a binding post-Kyoto treaty on climate change might be concluded.
That can’t happen without China and the US patching up their differences. The chances of that approach zero, according to Bloomberg.
The BBC report goes further:
On Saturday, one of the Chinese climate negotiators reportedly accused the US of behaving like a preening pig, complaining about Beijing when Washington had done so little itself.
Reuters explains this reference to Chinese classical literature:
Su likened the U.S. criticism to Zhubajie, a pig in a classic Chinese novel, which in a traditional saying preens itself in a mirror.
“It has no measures or actions to show for itself, and instead it criticizes China, which is actively taking measures and actions,” Su said of the United States.
The BBC article reports that progress is being made in establishing the $100 billion fund to help poor countries with climate change adaptation, but warns:
If even this part of the package falls, diplomats in Tianjin are warning it will threaten the future of multilateral action between nations of the world on anything.
I assume ‘anything’ means anything, not just matters pertaining to climate change.
It is said that progress is being made on the text, but what that means is not clear to me. The Guardian article says that there has been backsliding on forests because of Saudi Arabia and Papua New Guinea, one area where there was some hope after Copenhagen.
In that article the Wilderness Society describe the week at Tianjin as “shatteringly awful” whereas the Climate Action Network must have attended a different meeting:
“We haven’t seen such a positive spirit of negotiation for many years,” said Julie-Anne Richards of Climate Action Network. “This might not sound like interesting news. But compared to where we were before it is a real step forward.”
Some are willing to take heart from the notion that the talks actually lasted the week.
Monbiot has written the process off and reckons we have to come to terms with the fact that we’ve been up a dry gully:
I don’t know. These failures have exposed not only familiar political problems, but deep-rooted human weakness. All I know is that we must stop dreaming about an institutional response that will never materialise and start facing a political reality we’ve sought to avoid. The conversation starts here.
Flannery has a contrasting view, as illustrated by his conversation with Richard Fidler. Flannery takes the broadest possible view of our develpoment as a species, our relationship with the planet, each other and other species. He thinks this coming century is going to be tricky but thinks we’ll come through to find a sustainable way of living in the environment.
On Copenhagen, he points to the actual accord, which over 120 countries have signed up to. He also points out that there has been a significant shift in the attitude of China and other major developing countries. Three years earlier they were simply saying to the developed countries, “You caused the problem, you fix it”.
I think it was Bush who first pushed the line of “common but differentiated responsibility”. It looks as though it is going to be the guiding principle.
The Europeans typically want binding agreements, but if experience in trade matters is any guide, the small print is likely to favour their own interests to the disadvantage of the developing countries specifically. This is why many of the developing countries won’t sign up to binding agreements.
The Europeans now appear willing to pick up the ball and run, whatever happens at Cancun. In the early days it was places like California. Now if the Europeans are willing to join the Chinese, the Brazilians and perhaps some others it may be the best we can do. Flannery thinks that some fractious muddling is quite normal for this stage of developing co-operation.
Whatever comes out of Cancun, there is every reason that we in Oz should proceed with urgency.