A Dogged History of the COP process
15 COPs – The Recipe
Take one hefty acronym: UNFCCC – United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (convention not as in badges or stamps or Star Trek, but as in big-ass meeting)
Mix with one ubiquitous title: The Kyoto Protocol (Kyoto as is the coolest-sounding city in Japan, Protocol as in souped-up Rules) Instructions:
- Line up the players: nation state governments, presenting themselves as representative of peoples across the world.
- Set up the bargaining table and give each nation equal bargaining power.
- Ignore the differentiated access each team has to staff, expenses and resources.
- Leave the Liberian delegates outside Poland waiting for visas in December 2008.
- Have a voluntary Treaty only to guide domestic carbon emission reduction targets.
- Make the Kyoto Protocol binding because it involves market-based mechanisms, which are great for economic growth
Emissions trading or “the carbon market” does exactly what is says on the can. Carbon becomes a commodity with a market value that can go up and down like any other, unlike the impact it has on climate change, which stays high. – A Clean Development Mechanism allows over-developed countries’ corporations to put in cash toward less ‘developed’ countries’ industrial projects and call it emissions reductions. A special kind of mathematics. – Joint Implementation is the same as the CDM above, with more straightforward maths – over-developed countries fund less developed countries’ projects which have emission reduction targets set. With pick-and-mix you never know what you’re going to get, but the trend so far has been no net fall in carbon emissions.
Tips for Stirring:
Use a soft angle on the climate science – why accept the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s advice that we need to get below 350 greenhouse gas parts per million (of air particles)? 450ppm is easier to swallow over a buffet breakfast.
- Provide exhibition space for corporate lobbyists.
- Allocate a Business Day for corporate lobbyists.
- In Bali, Indonesia, COP-13 2007, allow 7% of non-governmental representation to come from the International Emissions Trading Association, while less than 1% comes from Friends of the Earth International.
- In Poznan, Poland, COP-14 2008, when Third World Network leaves information sheets on delegates’ desks before the morning session, make them leave and remove all they have distributed.
- Break up the discussion into an endless web of subcommittees. DO NOT join the dots between the discussions in each room. DO stretch countries’ staff between the subcommittees and working groups.
Henry Derwent, Chief Exec of the International Emissions Trading Association, commenting from his balcony seat “It’s going to take at least a riot to make any difference to the extraordinarily slow process.” Careful what you wish for, Henry.
What’s up with the COPs?
Where did it all go wrong?
Some say the US was the biggest stumbling block, holding everyone back with its swaggering ego. Some say it was the set-up, nation states pitted against each other just like the trade negotiations in the old days of the World Trade Organisation meetings (before Seattle, when the movement of movements sprung up and claimed a right to justice). Some say the participating governments represent the corporate elites of nations, and are pushing agendas for fnancial proft and economic growth only. Some say, D) All of the above.
Many of the individuals, groups, peoples and nations who have set out to take part in the COP process have had doors slammed in their faces.
At COP-14 in Poznan, Poland, the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change staged a spontaneous protest inside the conven- tion calling for a halt on all agreements in which they were implicated – agreements that did not respect Indigenous Peoples’ rights. They felt they had to do this after New Zealand, Australia and Canada removed all language recognising the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities from the proposed text.
The Small Island States arrive at the negotiating table from the front line of climate change. Yet their voices have been marginalised by the other nation-players, who assume dominance stems from their global economic position of power. The notion proffered that industrialised countries, responsible for causing the climate crisis, must fnancially support those nations primarily and most extremely affected, is begrudgingly noted, but very little more. Some money is promised as loans; some to be ‘donated’ via the World Bank, an institution whose track record makes many turn away in fear, and even more rise up in protest.
Cries of outrage about the brazen cheek of the US are heard even from the mouths of delegates. While the States refused to sign up “until India and China did”, the G77 of newly-industrialised countries fairly responded “no way – the over-industrialised countries frst”, and precious time was simply wasted.
This is a carbon trade fair with a conference stuck to it. The UNFCCC has been dubbed as the World Carbon Trade Organisation, the climate WTO. Kyoto is based on carbon trading mechanisms which allow Northern countries to continue business as usual by paying for ‘clean development’ projects in developing and transition countries.
This is a scheme designed deliberately to allow polluters to avoid reducing emissions domestically. Everything, absolutely everything, can be bought and sold under capitalism. Even climate change itself has become a business.