Climate Blowback: Hostility to the West's CO2 crusade
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Unless the industrial nations are prepared to sacrifice a substantial fraction of their wealth and economic stability, it is extremely unlikely that a new climate treaty will be agreed upon in the foreseeable future. While rich countries will put the blame squarely at the door of their Asian competitors, much of the rest of the world is likely to point the finger at Western greediness and intransigence. In this way, the global warming scare is creating a lose-lose situation for the West which is causing lasting damage to its standing, writes Benny Peiser in Financial Post
Climate Blowback: The CO2 crusade only generates hostility against the west
Imagine, there is a UN climate conference, and hardly anybody seems to note or care. This is what appears to have happened with the latest round of post-Kyoto negotiations that ended in Bangkok last Friday. While delegates from more than 160 nations met at yet another United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change confab in the Thai capital, much of the media seemed indifferent to its deliberations or did not bother to report about it.
What used to be major environmental gatherings that would trigger global media hype and front-page headlines has turned into routine diplomatic meetings that wrap up, these days, on more or less the same note: Let's meet again. Eight more such meetings are planned for the next 18 months to negotiate a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out in 2012.
Instead of the passionately celebrated "breakthroughs" that used to be the hallmark of international climate conferences, today they often end in deadlock and disappointment.
At the heart of the solidifying standoff lies a growing realization that the entire Kyoto process has been an abject failure. Not only did it fail to slow (never mind reduce) carbon-dioxide emissions over the last 15 years or so, climate hysteria is pitting rich and poor nations against each other, dividing the world into opposing camps that embrace incompatible strategies and competing demands.
Developing nations insist that the rich world unilaterally commit to stringent and legally binding CO2 emissions cuts at home. At the same time, they also demand massive wealth transfers from the West in the form of 'clean' technologies and financial funds for adaptation and energy initiatives.
The self-inflicted damage as a result of Western climate policies has been ruinous. Japan alone faces a Kyoto bill of more than US$500-billion -- if the country endeavours to cut CO2 emissions by 11% over the next decade. No wonder, then, that Japan has officially given up on Kyoto and is now calling for a much softer replacement based on select sectoral, rather than national emission targets.
In Europe, too, policy-makers and business leaders now realize that the European Union's unilateral actions are threatening to drive energy-intensive industries abroad. According to recent estimates, European industries are expected to shoulder €50-billion to €80-billion ($128-billion) per year if the EU's agreed climate targets were to become legally binding. Unsurprisingly, the European Commission has now warned that it will abandon its own goals if the rest of the world won't agree to a new climate treaty.
These staggering costs, however, pale in comparison with what China and the developing nations are demanding for their signature under any new climate treaty. Arguing that Europe, Japan and North America have caused much of the buildup of the world's CO2 emissions in the atmosphere over the last century or so, China has called on Western nations to hand over 0.5% of their GDP per year in form of funds and clean-technology transfer to developing nations to counter global warming. China's demand amounts to a wealth transfer of around US$200-billion a year from the OECD to the rest of the world, of which US$65-billion annually would come from the United States alone.
China's exorbitant request, however, has been eclipsed by demands by African campaigners, who are charging a payback that is twice as high. At the Bangkok meeting, African non-governmental organizations called on rich countries to commit 1% of their GDP each year -- for Africa alone -- for adaptation policies dealing with the effects of climate change, in addition to existing development aid.
In response to mounting pressure and demands, the West is trying to divide the developing world by treating China and India differently to poorer countries. It is attempting to draw China and India, now defined as "major emitters," into an international regime of binding emissions cuts. Despite many years of self-righteous denunciation and disagreement, most industrialized countries have begun to band together around Tony Blair's and President George Bush's long-established strategy, which is beginning to enjoy bipartisan support in most Western capitals. Even in Washington there is now a solid bipartisan consensus on this red line. This hardening stance means that any climate treaty that does not include China and India has absolutely no chance of being ratified by the U.S. Senate -- regardless of whom the next U.S. president may be.
Nevertheless, the West's feeble response to international pressure is a defensive strategy. It is looked upon with bitterness in many parts of the world where climate campaigners have created a mood of anti-American anger and resentment. While the Western approach may be able to corner the rising giants of China and India, it will almost certainly fail to compel them to commit to legally binding emissions cuts-- in whatever form.
As a result of promoting environmental alarmism, Western governments find themselves trapped in a perilous, yet largely self-constructed catch. As long as climate change is elevated as the principal liability of industrial countries, as long as Western CO2 emissions are blamed for exacerbating natural disasters, death and destruction around the globe, green pressure groups and officials from the developing world will continue to insist that the West is liable to recompense its exorbitant carbon debt by way of wealth transfer and financial compensation.
Yet this is highly unlikely to happen. Attempts to punish developing countries by introducing carbon tariffs, on the other hand, would only create more fury and resentment. Ultimately, there is now a growing risk that the whole global-warming scare is creating more anti-Western hostility and further loss of influence on the international stage.
Unless the industrial nations are prepared to sacrifice a substantial fraction of their wealth and economic stability, it is extremely unlikely that a new climate treaty will be agreed upon in the foreseeable future. While rich countries will put the blame squarely at the door of their Asian competitors, much of the rest of the world is likely to point the finger at Western greediness and intransigence. In this way, the global warming scare is creating a lose-lose situation for the West which is causing lasting damage to its standing, influence and economic strength.
Author : Mr Peiser is the editor of CCNet, an international science-policy network.