Friday, December 18, 2009

A Pleasant Surprise, a Predictable Response, and a Weak Compromise Accord

I was pleasantly surprised that President Obama's speech to the delegates gathered in Copenhagen stressed the importance of monitoring greenhouse gas emissions from all countries, including developing countries that are paid by developed countries for their mitigation efforts:
we must have a mechanism to review whether we are keeping our commitments, and to exchange this information in a transparent manner. These measures need not be intrusive, or infringe upon sovereignty. They must, however, ensure that an accord is credible, and that we are living up to our obligations. For without such accountability, any agreement would be empty words on a page.
The responses of  developing countries, notably China and Nigeria, to President Obama's speech were  unfortunately predictable, given the rent-seeking game they are playing in the globe-trotting cocktail party known as the "COP" (for Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change). They rejected international monitoring as a violation of their sovereignty. As one member of the Nigerian delegation explained:
"This is disappointing," said Barr Bibobru Bello Orubebe, a member of the Nigerian delegation. "We expected Obama to provide leadership. But instead, he just keeps insisting on monitoring, and that intrudes or even undermines our sovereignty."
Hours after President Obama made his speech, a draft "Copenhagen Accord" was published, although it has not yet been signed by members of the COP. That accord obliges developing countries to "domestic measurement, reporting, and verification" (emphasis added). This commitment is, at best, only slightly better than nothing. In other respects, the draft accord does little  to move the ball forward. It recognizes the need for deeper cuts in emissions, but does not impose any new binding emissions reduction targets on either developed or developing countries. However, the existence of a "Copenhagen Accord" allows members of the COP to claim that this meeting was not quite an historic failure, which is all I suppose world leaders must mean when they refer to the Accord as "historic."

UPDATE: The Guardian attributes the following quote to Lumumba Di-Aping, Sudanese chair of the G77 group of 130 poor countries: 


[This] is asking Africa to sign a suicide pact, an incineration pact in order to maintain the economic dependence of a few countries. It's a solution based on values that funnelled six million people in Europe into furnaces.
Such outrageous comparisons have become so common in policy debates lately as to seem deplorably and depressingly normal - think health-care reform in the US. 

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