Durban: Jobs and climate

The UNFCCC Job Creation Program once more demonstrated its awesome force. Some 20,000 people met in Durban for 2 weeks. If you add travel, preparation and debriefing, that is easily 1,000 person-years.

What did we get for this? The final documents have yet to be published, but here is what seems to be reasonably accurate summary. There were three agreements.

First, further details were added to the mechanisms through which rich countries would transfer money to poor (and not-so-poor) countries for (a) reducing emissions and (b) helping them cope with climate change. The latter is an imperfect form of liability and compensation (we emit most, they suffer most). The former is an imperfect form of arbitrage (emission reduction is dear here, cheap there). This is progress of sorts, but the money to be transferred has yet to materialize (and no one seems to have much to spare at the moment).

Second, the Kyoto targets were extended to 2015. This creates the diplomatic illusion of having saved the Kyoto Protocol, but all countries that are bound by Kyoto had already adopted unilateral targets that are more stringent. Well, the EU has, and Canada, Japan, and Russia have already indicated that they will not take seriously this part of Durban agreement.

Third, the Durban Platform was established. The Platform pledges an agreement by 2015. It replaces the Bali Roadmap, which pledged an agreement by 2009. Once more, the countries of the world agreed to agree at a later stage.

Nothing much to show for those 1,000 person-years of work. And this was the 17th Conference of the Parties. One wonders whether there really are no better investments of the time and effort.

17 thoughts on “Durban: Jobs and climate”

  1. @Richard Tol

    “One wonders whether there there really are no better investments of the time and effort.”

    My (French) wife, who works on climate change/CO2 emissions for one of the leading French/global energy groups has just walked in the door/off the plane from Durban, shattered and has gone to bed.

    She says the weather wasn’t great ( hail storms), Durban is OK but a bit like a beach resort in Florida with not much evidence of Kwazulu culture.

    She says there weren’t as many as 20,000 delegates there and they all worked very hard. So there!

    Back in 2007 I attended the Bali iteration. The weather was better, if very humid. There were only about 15,000 delegates there. They all seemed very enthusiastic and seemed to be working hard too.

    I attended the closing (plenary) session in Bali where the Dutch UN official in charge of the Summit ( a very nice guy over dinner) burst into tears on stage in frustration at the lack of a substantive agreement in Bali.

    He left the UN afterwards and now works for one of the major international consultancy groups.

    He was in Durban, is in much better form now and my wife tells me he worked very hard in Durban too.

  2. I forgot to add that, while at the Bali Summit, I met an Irish opposition TD walking back along the beach one night from dinner at a nice resort restaurant and we had a great chat.

    He is now a minister in the Irish government though he’s not in charge of the environment or climate change.

    So, Richard, some good comes from these summits and it’s not easy to make predictions, particularly about the future!

  3. The UNFCCC Job Creation Program once more demonstrated its awesome force. Some 20,000 people met in Durban for 2 weeks. If you add travel, preparation and debriefing, that is easily 1,000 person-years.

    Alas, an economist who apparently cannot conceive of people attending an important conference who have jobs whether or not they were there. Who knew!

    The denialist industry, however (an entity with which Mr. Tol is all too familiar) certainly does seem to have given a job stimulus…

    Nothing much to show for those 1,000 person-years of work. And this was the 17th Conference of the Parties. One wonders whether there really are no better investments of the time and effort.

    One wonders at an ESRI economist who seems to have such time to invest in pursuing an anti-scientific crusade.

  4. It’s like the old saying goes, “if at first you don’t succeed, give up quickly and move onto something else, regardless of the importance of the initial task”.

    I had an odd childhood.

  5. Tuff times in Kiribati then …

    At least, the local economy in Durban got a much needed boost …

    7_of_Nine was probably correct – homo sapiens cannot take care of the planet, let alone itself.

    Global Governance Remains an Elusive Conception.

  6. As Robert Stevenson said “Sometimes it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive.”.

    Between the possibilities of continuing to travel hopefully, or a collapse of the process, this is the better alternative, but not the best possible.

    At the moment, the political will is lacking to do what is necessary. With the ramifications and effects of climate change becoming incresingly obvious, that will must continue to grow. How much will be lost, and how much preserved, from climate change, is very much a matter of luck from now on.

  7. Two failed efforts at securing international agreement on global threatening problems in the space of one weekend – must be a first!

    Apart from the points listed in Richard’s post, the main problem with the Durban deal, if one can even call it that, is that no-one can predict with any reliability where the world’s economy, and hence global politics, will be in five months time, never mind five years. The second is that there wasn’t a single political figure of importance at the conference. Third, the western media ranked the outcome as a second tier story, where they bothered covering it at all beyond token reference. Fourth, the general public in most western nations may continue to regard global warming as an important issue, but increasingly it is not an issue for priority action; in fact citizens are more likely to resist climate policy they perceive as adding to their current austerity burden and related ignore environmental arguments.

  8. @Veronica

    Extend your logic to the EZ crisis. You don’t think the Euro will collapse. The Koch Bros say so and they are very convincing. Everything is going to be grand. There is no point in having any discussion because it’s too hard and people don’t agree and anyway everything is going to be grand. The general public in Italy do not think any action is necessary. Everything is going to be grand . No public political figure has admitted the Euro might break up. everything is going to be grand.

    Except now you’re a fund manager and you have to decide how to invest your fund’s money. You can’t throw it all on there not being a collapse. that would be stupid. You hedge your bets.

    Why is the environment different?

  9. @Richard

    “One wonders whether there really are no better investments of the time and effort.”

    IMHO the only way the environment can be protected is by reconciling sustainability with profit and environmental activism with the mainstream.

    In the 1990`s I was very actively involved with the democratization process in Bosnia (after spending a number of years at the often fruitless task of peacekeeping throughout FYR) and one of the immediate post conflict tasks I had was to win the trust of the Serbian population. Once many of them understood we could be trusted we actually received a lot of cooperation and engagement.

    After five years in the Balkans I spent a few years fronting a large Environmental NGO in Ireland where (in addition to daily management tasks) I set about trying to build trust and the middle ground on Forestry issues. While this called for significant compromise on all sides much was achieved.

    Peace, democracy, environment and EU politics are not all that different.

    During the last European Parliament elections I became involved in renegotiating an agreement in one of the EU countries which (in)famously collapsed. This also involved finding a middle ground and getting people who normally would not mix with each other identifying a common objective.

    IMHO if we can identify common ground (which reconcile various objectives) “investments of time and effort” can produce results even if they are not entirely satisfying or immediately gratifying.

    This is the approach I believed the Irish Government would use on 9th December (but started working on much earlier) when “investing” time and energy into the Euro crisis. As a result I had no hesitation in publicly describing the Taoiseachs address as historically significant and ingenius.

    Ireland has even gone one step further in reconciling our concept of the European Project with our ability to reconcile our historical colonial position (although I was dismissed ,by one passionate commentator, when I suggested it on Kevin O`Rourkes thread dealing with the “Munchau article”) by mentioning the possibility of being a “conduit” for negotiating on behalf of the UK.:)

  10. @Seafoid,

    The global financial crisis is immediate and very real in its impacts on people’s lives. The environment/climate change is not immediate and its impacts are as yet not determined.

  11. How about a group of countries coming together in a trade block, say the EU, and imposing a carbon tariff on dirty imports?

    Protect EU industrial economy penalise “dirty” manufacturing, benefit “clean” manufacturing. If you want to trade with Europe you have to start going green. good for you good for me good for baby.

    Be the same concept as expecting certain human rights / democratic changes in return for trade access.

    Kick start the WTOs lugubrious process.
    Oh, and the SDR should become a commodity currency, and have an inverse relationship to carbon/habitat loss cost. Like a gold standard, but flexible and accessible to all.

  12. @Andrew S
    That would not be allowed by the WTO. It would be allowed had the EU opted for a carbon tax rather than emission permits. It would be ineffective, because the carbon price is not that high and the carbon contained in exports to the EU is too low to affect production decisions in China or the USA.

  13. @ Richard,

    Ah, please! I don’t wish to be uncharitable it being Xmastime and all, but I was more thinking of mega-star politicians. You know, Santa Claus rather than the elves?

  14. In any half assed Hollywood rom-com EWI and Richard Tol would have gotten it on already. The tension-of-opposites thing is losing its sparkle due to lack of storyline progression.

  15. In Durban Phil Hogan committed €10m of Irish Taxpayers money to some climate slush fund. Ciaran Cuffe gave €23m last year.

    Richard Tol explained last year that not a cent of the slush fund will be spent on actually helping poor nations cope with the west’s “climate debt”, but the €33 million in 2 years given by Ireland (a country that is totally broke) is actually given as bribes to African leaders for them to support the European political position at places like Durban. I recall that was on Newstalk not the state run climate delusion spin.

    How much of this slush fund ends up given to military regimes that can now furnish themselves with the latest weaponry thanking Ireland for the €33 million we’ve given?

    I’m sure cutting the carers allowance was well worth it.

    Climate Change is for the brainwashed and those “Physicists” who believe that cloud radiates more energy onto the Earth than the Sun does.

    It will 200 years to double the level of CO2 in the atmosphere on current rates for theoretical warming of + 1.2C with CO2 going from 0.03% to 0.06%. Then all that extra cloud from evaporated Water is supposed to burn the planet. Give me a f**king break!!! It generally gets colder on a cloudy day but welcome to the world where the 1st and 2nd laws of Thermodynamics are broken and where the Medieval Warm period is wiped from the pages of history. But this beauty came to the fore at Durban.

    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/world/2011/1203/1224308525175.html

    A “solar radiation management GOVERNANCE initiative”. CO2 the life giving gas is labelled a pollutant but this “Governance” Geoengineering project are contemplating spraying the upper atmosphere with Sulphur Dioxide. Doesn’t SO2 cause acid rain? How likely will you or I actually have a say in stopping it? The world is warmer because in the 20th cantury we came out of the little ice age. CO2 is irrelevant. It was globally hotter by at least 1 deg C 1000 years ago for 300 years. No runaway global warming and the Polar bear nos are still here higher than the 50’s .

    Geoengineering is dangerous utter madness.

    See the brainwashing lunacy here:

    http://youtu.be/KCn99YYafXw

    Climate Change Brainwashing

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