When you coach a high performing sports team, the last thing you would say to them before a game would be something like, “Fella’s, I don’t have very high expectations of your performance going into this game, so just letting you know that I have told all your fans that you probably will not win!” This statement would stick in the players minds during the entire game and they would most likely loose to the other team.
Well, unfortunately, this is exactly what some leaders have done to the negotiating teams who represent each country at the COP16 UN Climate Change conference at Cancun, Mexico. The media has been full of stories about leaders telling their citizens to not expect much of an outcome at these negotiations. Therefore, in effect they have, by proxy, told their main negotiating team not to try very hard at achieving an outcome. negative reinforcement and preposterous, arse covering, political behaviour if you ask me. What concerns me most is that the majority of the big greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting nations have gone in with the same opening stance.
So what will that give us. Well, I’ll tell you what I think. A conference full of negotiators expecting to fail, except for a handful of countries who’s mere existence is in jeopardy i.e. low laying island nations. They are fighting for the survival of their culture and society. Generations of people had owned the land before them, but they will be unable to pass it on to their children due to rising sea levels. If it were me faced with the same prospect, I would do the same. Fight the good fight, and try and convince the other recalcitrant nations to forget about borders, and start thinking about humanity as a whole. That is what is really at stake.
So that brings me back to negotiations. I believe that many countries are treating this UN Climate conference like trade negotiations. Let me try to explain by what I mean. Each country seeks concessions for emission reduction targets at each meeting, hoping to build upon those concessions each time they get together. With trade negotiations, after many years of talks and concession negotiation, agreements are made, and leaders ratify the treaty/agreement. The only problem with using the same methodology for climate negotiations is that we just don’t have 10-20 years to negotiate a satisfactory outcome. We can’t wait for this petty political processes.
The science tells us that we should have acted well before now and should already be reducing emissions to avoid a 2 degrees Celsius rise in global average temperatures. However, we are not. 2 degrees of warming is now locked in and unpreventable. Emissions are again reaching record highs after the temporary blip as a result of the Global Financial Crisis. Even if we began to drastically reduce our GHG emissions as a result of a miraculous deal struck at Cancun, the fact of the matter is that we have drastically change the world we live in, one that now has unpredictable climate, an approaching energy crisis, and will be a struggle to survive on for our children and their offspring. This is the first time in history that a few generations have left the entire planet in worse shape than when they arrived in it and are not willing to make amends.
Sad, disappointing, depressing, but this is how I see things unfolding over the next two weeks!