Economist: “Nopenhagen” is Rich Countries’ Fault

A prominent British economist said “arrogance” on the part of the planet’s wealthier nations contributed to the disappointing outcome of the Copenhagen climate conference in December.

In an interview with the BBC, Lord Nicholas Stern said the conference should not be considered a failure, however, despite producing only the non-binding Copenhagen Accord, which has been signed by 73 nations so far.

Lord Stern is perhaps best known as the lead author of the Stern Review, a 2006 study of the economic effects of climate change. The study concluded that the benefits of strong, early action outweigh the costs.

Easy for you to say

Lord Stern, a former Chief Economist at the World Bank, said a failure on the part of the EU nations to really understand the concerns of developing nations like China and India contributed to the weak closing document.

Both China and India are grappling with how to move more than one billion people out of poverty without completely wrecking their, and the planet’s, ecosystem. Developed nations have had a hard time convincing them that the latter takes precedence over the former, especially when those nations, like the EU or US, are already rich.

Lord Stern’s analysis of what happened, or didn’t, at Copenhagen differs significantly with that of British Climate Minister Ed Miliband, who accused China in December of “hijacking” the climate talks.

Soldiering on

Still, the eminent economist refused to categorize Copenhagen as a failure.

The fact of Copenhagen and the setting of the deadline two years previously at Bali did concentrate minds, and it did quite specific plans from countries that hadn’t set them out before.

Lord Stern is a member of the group advising UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on how to raise $100 billion a year to help poorer countries pay for climate mitigation, one of the few substantive initiatives to come out of the conference. More immediately, Lord Stern is pressing for the release of $30 billion promised by the wealthiest nations to start the process.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) next meets in Cancun, Mexico, in November.

BC (Ben) Upham is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He has written for the New York Times, and was a writer and editor for News Communications, Inc., a local paper consortium serving Manhattan. When he's not blogging on green issues -- and especially renewable energy -- he's hiking in the Angeles Mountains or hanging out at El Matador.

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