Saudi Arabia may join the list of countries seeking financial aid over the UN climate deal. According to a Forbes.com report, during the UN’s recent greenhouse gas talks in Bangkok, Saudi Arabia campaigned quietly for financial compensation should a climate deal substantially reduce the world’s use of fossil fuels. The country appears to be motivated not by a need for assistance adapting to the impact of global warming but rather by a desire for compensation for decreased oil profits. Will the Saudis’ stipulation impact the development of an international climate treaty?
The Saudis’ campaign comes despite a recent International Energy Agency (IEA) report, which demonstrated that oil-rich nations would likely still profit with emissions regulations (sufficient for curbing climate change) in place. (According to the report, OPEC revenues would increase by $23 trillion between 2008 and 2030. This would be a fourfold increase in OPEC revenues’ growth rate between 1985 and 2007.)
President Obama’s aide and top climate and energy official, Carol Browner, confirmed Friday what many already feared: there is virtually no chance Congress will have a climate bill ready in time for the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen in December. Browner’s statement was the administration’s first definitive statement regarding passage of a climate and energy bill (or lack thereof). Delaying the bill will likely have a number of negative implications for the Copenhagen conference.
According to a report by the New York Times, in Browner’s words, the Obama administration would “like to be through the process,” but it’s “not going to happen.” However, the Senate may be able to complete its hearings on the bill before the Conference’s opening talks on December 7th. The administration also announced plans last week for new rules regulating greenhouse gases from large factories. Both gestures are intended to signal the US’s commitment to cutting CO2 emissions – an indication that could be crucial to the Conference’s success.
Several factors have contributed to the climate bill delay, including the healthcare debate, the process by which legislation is introduced and amended prior to passage, and what some would call procrastination. (The climate bill was introduced in the Senate only Wednesday – three months after the House passed its version of the bill.)
Underlying anxiety over China’s rapid economic advance, including its aggressive moves into clean technology, is an ideological uncertainty: is the Chinese system of government, which is non-democratic, but seemingly capable of moving quickly and unilaterally, fundamentally better than our messy democratic system that sometimes (all of the time?) hobbles its effectiveness with political bickering?
Now there is talk that China could announce a national cap and trade scheme as early as the Copenhagen climate talks in December, leapfrogging over the US.
Meanwhile, Washington’s version of cap and trade, a system to reduce pollution by capping emissions and trading emissions credits on an open market, has been declared DOA at least until next year, a victim of prolonged squabbling over health care and general political malaise.
The “Road to Copenhagen” began on the Indonesian island of Bali at the COP13 climate conference in December of 2007. COP13 charted the intended course toward Copenhagen, producing the Bali Roadmap (pdf) and the Bali Action Plan, setting forth the negotiating process designed to take the international community “beyond Kyoto” and produce an effective global response to the reality of climate change.
The Bali Roadmap set a path with numerous waypoints leading toward COP15, where the treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, expiring in 2012, will hopefully be signed. These waypoints have included numerous sessions of the Ad hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA), and the Ad hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex/Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP), and COP14 in Poznań, Poland in December of last year.
This week marks the final push to Copenhagen, with the start of sessions of the AWG-LCA and AWG-KP in Bangkok, Thailand.
Guardians of the Nobel Peace Prize are getting creative in their attempt to speed up sluggish talks about climate. According to a Reuters report, the guardians are considering awarding an environmental Prize this year in order to prep world leaders for December’s UN Climate Conference and influence politicians dragging their feet on climate change. The thing is, the award would come just two years after the one awarded in 2007 (another was awarded in 2004). Would awarding another environmental Prize so soon have the desired effect?
Granting topical awards (e.g. environment, disarmament, human rights) to influence world events is an established tactic of the five-member Nobel Peace Prize panel. While some wonder whether handing out three environment awards in four years is excessive, others say the timing couldn’t be better. The prize would be announced on December 9th and handed over on the 10th – the anniversary of founder Alfred Nobel’s death – all amidst the Copenhagen Conference occurring between December 7th and 18th.