Cancun Crunch Time

Third dispatch from the United Nations Climate Change conference in Cancun


Cancun—Anxious anticipation was the dominant emotion in the hallways at the Moon Palace on Wednesday where climate change negotiations are ongoing. "It's crunch time," said Jake Schmidt from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Only two more days left to go.

Apparent State of Play

From the point of view of most developing countries and environmentalists the Cancun conference will be a success if negotiators reach an agreement by Friday that achieves three things. First, developed countries agree to continue the Kyoto Protocol after 2012. Second, a legally binding process is launched that ends up with rich countries agreeing to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions somewhere in the realm of 40 percent by 2020. And third, a global climate change fund is established under the auspices of the U.N. to distribute $100 billion annually in climate change aid to poor countries.

But will it happen? Kyoto Protocol signatories Japan, Canada, and Russia appear to want to scuttle the treaty. At the beginning of the meeting, Japan flatly said that it will not accept a second round of commitments under that treaty. Canada's Liberal government signed onto the Kyoto Protocol back in 1997 promising to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 6 percent below their level in 1990. Today Canada emits about 25 percent more than it did in 1990. These three countries have to agree if it's go forward.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Todd Stern, the head of the U.S. delegation, reiterated that the carbon dioxide reduction commitments made by all countries, developed and developing, under the Copenhagen Accord need to become official and legally binding. Stern said the U.S. position is "very clear" that whatever binds the U.S. must also similarly apply to all major countries including India, China, and Brazil. And instead of establishing some process that ratchets up carbon dioxide reduction commitments in the near term, Stern says that the U.S. favors reviewing the scientific adequacy of the commitments sometime later in this decade. Stern also said that the U.S. backs the creation of a global climate change fund, but insists on setting up standards for monitoring, reporting, and verifying how funds are spent before pouring money into it.

Rumors and Reports

The Guardian is reporting that Europe, Mexico, and some Pacific island nations have drafted a new negotiating text that would commit both developing and developed countries to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. Apparently, the new text could lead to the scrapping of the Kyoto Protocol in favor of the emissions reductions goals set out in the Copenhagen Accord. China, India, and Brazil have all along insisted that they would not accept such a deal. If true, the Cancun climate change conference could be a sequel to the collapse in Copenhagen last year. Stay tuned.

China Syndrome

When the Copenhagen climate change conference abruptly collapsed last year, I happened to be sitting beside a reporter from Guangdong. As usual, the assembled journos were eager to place the blame on the U.S. for the failure of the conference. I sighed, "The United States is still the bad guy." The Chinese reporter smiled and said, "Now there are two bad guys."

What a difference a year makes. Everybody loves China here in Cancun. At least they do right now. At the morning Natural Resources Defense Council press conference, NRDC's China Program Director Barbara Finamore summed up the love, "China has done a remarkable job in setting a positive and constructive tone in these negotiations." Recall that the Copenhagen conference largely collapsed over the fact that the Chinese refused to allow outsiders to monitor its voluntary pledge to increase its carbon intensity, i.e., cut the amount of carbon dioxide it emits per unit of GDP by 40 to 45 percent below its 2005 level by 2020. The world would just have to take the Chinese government's word for it. President Barack Obama balked, insisting that the Chinese make a firm commitment and allow outside auditing.

So why is China again a good guy? The situation is actually a bit confused. Under the hastily negotiated Copenhagen Accord, China submitted its carbon intensity goal while maintaining that it was entirely voluntary. Earlier in the week various media reported that a Chinese negotiator had said that China would be willing to make its carbon intensity goal firm and submit to a process of international consultation and analysis as a way to monitor its compliance. However, China still regards its carbon intensity goal as internationally voluntary while it is domestically mandatory. In later media reports, Chinese negotiators denied that they had changed their positions on international monitoring or on firming up China's commitments.

Perhaps more important, however, is that the Chinese have mastered the art of European climate bluster. Regularly in climate change negotiations, representatives from the European Union announce big plans about what their region is going do. Examining the fine print one often finds that the plans are contingent on actions being taken by another country (usually the U.S.) and are quietly shelved when the contingency fails to materialize. This is a cheap way to earn brownie points from gullible members of the international environmentalist community. A current example is that the E.U. is promising to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent below its 1990 level by 2020 even if no new climate change treaty is forthcoming. We'll see.

Post-Copenhagen I've noticed a considerable reluctance on the part of environmentalist groups to openly criticize China. This could be for many reasons. One is that the Chinese government is following the European lead of seducing environmentalists by announcing big green initiatives. Now it is true that China has erected a lot of wind mills and solar photovoltaic installations lately. This provoked one environmentalist at the conference to gush, "China is installing one new windmill per hour." And let's not forget China's network of high speed trains, so beloved by green advocates.

Dazzled by the glamour of these uneconomic prestige green projects, many environmentalists seem at least temporarily to be blinded to the fact that China is massively increasing its use of coal-fired electricity and building tens of thousands of miles of new highways. The Chinese Academy of Sciences recently issued a report suggesting that high-speed railways are economically unsustainable.

Of course, the Chinese government does not let petty issues like property rights and democratic decision-making get in the way of environmental megaprojects such as reforesting 40 million hectares. Environmentalists are technocratic planners at heart—and they recognize in China a kindred spirit. China is also adept at playing the equity card, pitting the deserving poor against the greedy rich. And environmentalists know that the authoritarians who run the Chinese government will fight back against their critics.

If the Guardian is right, Thursday should prove to be a pretty interesting day here at the Cancun climate change conference. Check back in tomorrow for another update.

Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey will be filing daily dispatches from the Cancun climate change conference for the rest of this week.

NEXT: Arizona's Immigration Law and the High Court

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  1. Hello. My friend

    === ===

    Dedicated service, the new style, so you feel like a warm!!!



    thank you !!!

    === ===

  2. I feel fine without a Morning Links. I’m sure it’s just late.

  3. Where are the Morning Links. WHERE!?!

  4. If you post the Morning Links, I swear I’ll be even meaner to the trolls. Seriously. Whatever you want.

  5. I don’t care about the Morning Links. Leave me alone.

  6. OK. So we aren’t getting any Morning Links. I’m OK with that.

    1. You obsessive compulsive diabetic schmuck. Deal with change. Deal with it!

      1. I’ve reached acceptance, Mr. Reads-at-a-3rd-grade-level.

        1. I read at a 5th grade level, asshole. I just started A Wrinkle in Time!

          1. Yeah, but you’re still moving your lips.

            I never read Wrinkle as a kid, but last week the wife dragged me to a local theater that was putting it on, for the kids you know.

            The fact that she wouldn’t let me go see it drunk made it all the worse.

          2. Then I apologize. I’m sure you’ll win the reading race.

            1. All the anal, controlling girls in my class say Madeline L’Engle is great! I’m sure I’ll love it.

              1. He-he, he said anal.

          3. A Wrinkle in Time… FDR’s plan A for fixing the Supreme Court.

  7. SF, you just expect to be handed a thread? Why don’t you just claim one as your own and make it into a great morning links thread? Seriously, for a commenter who calls himself a libertarian…

    1. I’m unclear on the rules. Does everyone drink on this comment?

      1. It’s like Calvinball. Are you past the jumping score point? Have you avoided the random invisibility spheres? Are you still masked or have you hit the hi-speed unmasking strip? Is your score TL or above 9-$? If so then the next person to hit the congeniality space will pour you a drink.

      2. I thought we only had to drink when someone uses “Reason” in scare quotes. ie:For a magazine called “Reason”…

        1. Who set up thinking areas? I thought we weren’t doing them anymore…..oh damn.

  8. But will it happen?

    No, it won’t. This fantasy is dead as a doornail.

  9. “a legally binding process is launched that ends up with rich countries agreeing to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions somewhere in the realm of 40 percent by 2020.”
    So they’re going to make what looks to be impossible “legally binding”? Can we do the same with, oh, requiring the invention of a time machine?

  10. At the end of the day, the only agreement that with be reached is the agreement to meet again to talk about global warming in some semi-exotic locale on the taxpayer’s dime.

    1. Yes, Copenhagen looked bad with the freezing temperatures last year (not to mention Prez Barry returning in Carbon Pig One to a blizzard at Andrews AFB), and Cancun decided to have unusually low temperatures this year. Kind of a not-until-hell-freezes-over motif to it all unfortunately. I am thinking they need a setting that absolutely, positively, will hammer the point across that the earth at least can be pretty warm.

      And for those clowns there’s a whole raft of places to go. The Empty Quarter north of Yemen is pretty much toasty whenever the sun’s up. They could really grasp the 3rd world challenges of climate change in Niger or Chad. Ponder the indigenous plight out in the Great Sandy Desert. Yeah, that’s it. Alice Springs Consensus in 2011!

      1. Death Valley, California.

        1. Beat me to it…

    2. I propose Gary, Indiana.

      1. Imagine the stimulus effect in Haiti.

      2. I’m lobbying for Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi.

        1. They should have it in a city that is a model for the low-carbon-footprint-by-central-planning lifestyle. I nominate Havana.

          1. Pyongyang wouldn’t be too bad, except for its cold.

  11. So apparently RB is in charge of Morning Links today, and he either forgot to schedule someone to fill in, or is too hung over from his partying in Cancun.

    1. Or Radley’s turn. Nothing’s gone up on The Agitator since yesterday. And nothing on Twitter since he asked 8 hours ago “Can you fart so hard that your balls explode?”

      1. Probably slept in… or that cop that was looking for him finally found him.

        1. Or he farted so hard his balls exploded.

          I really do hope that’s not the case.

          1. I think that the average scrotum is capable of expanding enough to contain the blast.

            1. There is nothing average about Radley Balko’s scrotum!

              (You’re welcome, internet.)

  12. The Chinese Academy of Sciences recently issued a report suggesting that high-speed railways are economically unsustainable.

    Leftists are undaunted by such pedestrian things like the laws of economics. They want their hi-speed rail and, by God! They should have hi-speed rail because it will create jobs… or something.

    1. Bart Simpson: “God, schmod! I want my monkey-man!”

    2. Monorail!

      1. Is there a chance the track could break or bend?

        1. Not a chance my Hindu friend.

  13. Can the U.S. as a condition of cooperation move that the next climate summit be somewhere of our choosing? Say, Barrow, Alaska?

  14. I got a letter in the mail yesterday from Reason asking me to give a donation to the cause. I was seriously considering setting up a monthly donation plan, but the lack of morning links is making me reconsider. If I’m going to be paying $2.50/month, I want my fucking links. ARRRGHHHH!!

  15. Stern said the U.S. position is “very clear” that whatever binds the U.S. must also similarly apply to all major countries including India, China, and Brazil.

    Yeah, this isn’t going to happen.

    1. “Jones! Get in here! We need to run this story in today’s edition on how the climate might not go all tits up after all. Make sure you bury it under the dwarf tossing ads on page E26.”

    2. So, now the Kochs are running NASA. Go figure.

      1. That’s why we haven’t had any posts about private spaceflight.

  16. UK’s coldest December (so far) in 100 years

    Now the Army moves in to clear away snow in coldest December for 100 years as fuel runs out at petrol stations in Scotland and East Anglia

    By Daily Mail Reporter
    Last updated at 2:17 PM on 9th December 2010

    * Overnight lows of -15C in Scotland and -13C in England
    * Experts say cold snap is ‘once in a lifetime’
    * Slight thaw this weekend but a return to snow predicted for next week

    The Army was called in today to help clear away ice and snow as Britain headed towards its coldest December for 100 years.

    As temperatures plunged to -15c (5f) David Cameron ordered the military to step in and help the UK’s beleaguered local councils.

    The Prime Minister also revealed Cobra-style emergency meetings of senior officials and Ministers had been held to discuss the Government’s response to the big freeze.

    Edinburgh City Council was the first local authority to ask for help. Officials have held talks with the Ministry of Defence and the Scottish government to allow soldiers to remove built up snow and ice from roads and pavements.

    1. The Day After Tomorrow was a documentary?

      1. Is it wrong that I rooted for the wolves?

        1. Re: SugarFree,

          Is it wrong that I rooted for the wolves?

          I was rooting for the boat – to crush them all.

          1. Lions are native to England – actually to Europe. Why don’t we re-intorduce them???
            Restore nature, descrease the surplus population, and increase the general fitness (of course you can’t outrun a lion…wait for it….
            that’s why all my friends – er, I don’t actually have friends, but people who linger near me, are handicapped)

        2. I think that underwater payphones would be a great public policy.

        3. The fact that some of you have actually watched that drek makes me a little sadder.

          1. I pretty much watch everything eventually. Or at least enough of it to make fun of it properly.

          2. Never actually sat through it at one time, just channel surfing. Like all crappy films it is replayed endlessly.

          3. It doesn’t totally suck as slapstick comedy.

          4. In my defense, I had a 6-pack of beer and nothing better to do on a Saturday afternoon.

          5. In my defense, I just like the CGI depictions of wanton destruction. I watched 2012 for the same reason.

            I didn’t study the premise enough to realize it reeked of Al Gore before going to see it.

    2. There’s been a couple of rather cold nights, and I am sticking to my work-pub-supermarket winter routine, but it’s hasn’t been particularly bad in central London.

      1. Do you sleep in the pub or the supermarket?

        1. First one, then the other.

        2. They normally wake me and give me the boot from the pub at midnight, so then it’s off to the 24hr Tescos for a kip.

    3. That’s not really cold. -15C is 5F.

  17. agreement on how to centrally plan the Earth’s atmosphere.

    This is funny to me. I wonder if we could centrally plan the tide schedule too.

    1. Volcanoes and hurricanes could benefit from five year plans.

  18. PA grocery stores unveiling breathalyzer equipped wine vending machines.

  19. New breathalyzer equipped, wine vending machines making their way to PA grocery stores.

    1. I saw a news report about that a week or so ago. It was truly amazing the level of nincompoopery that led to the development of that “Drunk yet?” vending machines

    2. “Here, son, blow in this tube for your old dad.”

      1. It’s the most loving thing you can do!

  20. Was it really is the fifties in Cancun on Tuesday? Gee, I hope the cold air hasn’t ruined anybody’s fun.

    1. Yes, the Gore Effect has been very much present down there for most of this silly charade.

      1. I thought the Gore Effect was a wave of hot air.

        1. It is, but like AGW, hotter can mean colder. See?

  21. The Guardian is reporting that Europe, Mexico, and some Pacific island nations have drafted a new negotiating text that would commit both developing and developed countries to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

    Which they all stamped with their Hello Kitty and Rainbow Brite stickers.

    1. These conferences remind me of those assignments kids get in elementary school where they have to invent something to “make the world a better place”. You get things like “food machine that takes in pollution and makes food” or “flying city with no wars and everyone is rich” or “robot that stops bad guys and gives people puppies”. It’s the exact same childish, pie-in-the-sky mentality on display at these conferences.

      1. With free margaritas!

        They didn’t have those in my grade school.

        1. And hookers!

          1. Ahh forget flying city and the margaritas!

      2. Re: Bingo,

        It’s the exact same childish, pie-in-the-sky mentality on display at these conferences.

        Except for the fact that this is deadly serious – like children playing with loaded guns serious.

      3. Remember the old Calvin and Hobbes where Calvin dreamed of turning his school into a grease spot via JDAM from the F-14 he was piloting?

        That kid’s in Gitmo now. Puppy-makers only please.

  22. As temperatures plunged to -15c

    PLUNGED all the way to -15C?

    What a bunch of pussies.

    1. As a Floridian, I can only say: WTF!

      At +15C I start burning car tires full of used motor oil to appease the bitch-goddess winter that her reign may be short and mild.

  23. Now it is true that China has erected a lot of wind mills and solar photovoltaic installations lately. This provoked one environmentalist at the conference to gush, “China is installing one new windmill per hour.”

    It’s something like Asian sex tourism, except this is tailored to make environmentalists cum…

    1. You gotta give the Chinese credit for their PR manipulation. The air pollution was so obviously bad during the Beijing Olympics that it was visible everywhere, and they were even attempting to use cloud seeding in an effort to keep it down.

      Now, two years later, they are the poster child for “green energy” and have useful idiots like Tom Friedman preaching their glories. Unbelievable.

      1. It helps that the Chinese are handing out cash filled envelopes under the table to friendly journalists.

      2. Well, China appears (to them) to be the realization of their authoritarian dreams: the Chinese rulers just snap their fingers, and presto! Green Energy! And then our Watermelons sigh and say, “Gee, why can’t WE have that kind of government?” None of that boring reality intrudes on the dream.

        1. Re: Enjoy Every Sandwich,

          None of that boring reality intrudes on the dream.

          Not until they do a David Carradine…

  24. @Sugarfree-
    I see what you did there.

    1. At least someone did.

      1. I confess I completely missed whatever it was.

        1. 1. Denial
          2. Anger
          3. Bargaining
          4. Depression
          5. Acceptance

          1. Ah, one of the perennial sitcom Sequential Symptom Syndromes

            Never gets old.

      2. Hey, *I* got it, Mr. 5-stager.

  25. In actual good news, the Falcon 9 rocket test was a complete success. Which means they could be flying to the space station in 2012 while NASA is still fussing about the rotting corpse of the Orion program.

  26. More than ever, earth’s climate is like the car we bought brand new. We took care of it, washed it and vaccumed it regularly, and even parked far away from the supermarket entrance so it wouldn’t get dinged. Then as time went on we’d drive it harder, forget about washing it, stop caring about the coffee stains on the seat, and even buy the cheap gas. We’d go months without even lifting the hood. Now it overheats, uses more oil than gas, and it even rolled over the foot of Kabul, the Indian nanny we hired when we got laid off.

    1. Excellent.

    2. Yes, yes, YES!

    3. You have captured the exact same pain experienced from reading Friedman. Well done.

    4. You forgot the part about the Republicans drinking their Slurpees… oops, wrong car analogy.

  27. But more important, is “Cancun China Love” anything like “Hot Monkey Love”?

    1. Yeah, but substitute ‘donkey’ for ‘monkey’, and you’re in the ballpark.

  28. Until I got pass “Cancun China Love, Crunch Time” I figured this article was going to be about new designer drugs.

  29. Ronald,

    This is the second time you’ve referenced a CAS study suggesting high speed rail is too expensive for China to maintain. I’ll ask you again: have you seen this study? Neither you nor your source provide a link to it, and I still cannot find a reference to it at the CAS website.

      1. Brett that’s a link to an article about the study. It provides no link to the study, nor does it directly quote the study, norm does it giver us the title of the study. I can’t confirm the study even exists.

        1. Should read “nor does it give us”. Sorry about the typos.

        2. Try This. Unfortunately the PDF version linked on the page doesn’t render on my work machine, but I believe it to be in Chinese (which I don’t read). The title is: “The Effect of Wuguang High-Speed Passenger Railway on the Economic Development of East Hunan”
          Published in 2008. That’s 2 pages worth of results in Google Scholar.

          This may be why all of the English language reports are summaries.

          1. Its all water under the bridge with these trains in China given the security problems inherent in trains and security paranoia inherent in a totalitarian state.

            All it’s gonna take is one Uighur separatist with a stick of dynamite standing on the Beijing-Tianjin line waiting for the speedy-train and the Dream Train shit goes away real quick.

          2. Brett L: Unfortunately, I link to the news reports about the study referenced because, among my other faults, I can’t read Chinese. BTW, the study to which you link seems to have been published in 2008. The one cited by the news articles imply that it is a more recent analysis.

            1. Brett’s link is positive on the impact of high speed rail, at least according to the abstract, so it can’t be the one referenced in the article.

  30. This thread sucks. There are no pictures of any hotties.

    1. (. .)

  31. How about mbt kisumu sandals this one: there are X driving deaths a year- what % of driving deaths (or serious injuries) involve alcohol, or other intoxicating substances? kisumu 2 People are pretty darn good drivers when they are not impaired.

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