Jan 2010


It’s been over for a few weeks now, and the general consensus seems to be that the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit achieved nothing worthwhile. In fact, the view that the summit actively damaged efforts to combat anthropogenic climate change seems more plausible than the idea that it helped in any way.

In an attempt to save face, a few Western governments have claimed limited success for the summit… the UK wheeled out John Prescott to insist that “some progress” had been made, while the Irish environment minister described it as “underwhelming” (both of which fall a long way short of an accurate assessment). Having spent a year preparing for a ten day summit which failed to achieve a single thing of real value, it was obviously rather impolitic to use phrases like “abject failure”, “sheer incompetence” or “couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery”.

Environmental writers are split on who was primarily responsible for torpedoing the summit. Some blame China, others blame the USA. It seems rather obvious to me though, that neither the Chinese nor the US governments actually wanted an agreement that would do anything to limit their economic activity. So they were both happy for the summit to fail by being seen to disagree.

See, it’s really quite simple. Any nation or government that genuinely feels combating Climate Change by limiting emissions is more important than economic growth (hint: it is) would simply announce unilateral cuts and wait for the rest of the world to catch up. They go down in history as The Good Guys, and they get a head start on the rest of the planet when it comes to coping with peak oil. That no major industrial nation is doing this (hint: they’re not, carbon trading and PR campaigns notwithstanding) tells us that either (a) our governments don’t consider Climate Change to be as big a threat as a planned reduction in economic activity, which means they are idiots; or (b) they do consider it a bigger threat but don’t think they can sell it to their population, which means they are crap at their job.

Either way, why the hell do we put up with them?

The sheer magnitude of Copenhagen’s failure was brought home to me earlier this week by a headline over at the BBC. Copenhagen climate deal ‘satisfies’ Saudi Arabia, it read. That the world’s largest producer of crude oil is happy with the outcome of the summit pretty much tells you everything you need to know about it. Ultimately our failure to deal with Climate Change — which is what Copenhagen will long represent — is as perfect an example of our inability to live sustainably as can be imagined.

Posted in: Opinion