Assertion, unsupported by fact, is nugatory. Surmise and general abuse, in however elegant language, ought not to pass for truth. Junius

2006/11/14

Nairobi Fiddles While the World Burns

There's been a barrage of reports pelting the delegates at the U.N. Conference on Climate Change, none of them with good news: before the conference even opened, there was the Stern Review, then a report that atmospheric CO2 levels have increased by a half a percentage in 2005 alone, then a report on the widespread extinction birds face , a depressing report on the impacts on subsaharan Africa, increased outbreaks of disease, melting icecaps at both poles and so on, all calamitous singly, and apocalyptic in their totality. And there's news today about a U.N. report to be released in February that will significantly "strengthen"(!) the scientific argument on the veracity of global climate change, and which the one of the authors hopes "might provide just the right impetus to get the negotiations going in a more purposeful way."

Fat chance, if this week's festivities in Nairobi are any gauge. Given the importance of the outcome for our future --- a Green Irish MP compared it, without much exaggeration, to the negotiations at Versailles following the First World War --- progress has been astonishingly slow. Actually reducing carbon emissions after Kyoto expires in 2012 seems to a zero-sum game for the various delegations; developed nations are refusing to commit to post-Kyoto targets unless developing nations start to come on board, which of course, they are refusing to do.

And then there's the Canadian news coverage of the conference, which in contrast to the real news is appallingly shallow, being focussed on the state of Rona Ambrose's hair and the (justified) public flogging she received at the hands of Opposition MPs and the Quebec delegation.

(I have to admit a bit of schadenfreude here: having provincial delegations conduct foreign policy always seemed to me to be one of sillier initiatives of the Conservative government, and one they would live to sorely regret; seeing the Government hoisted by its own petard always gives a particular thrill. The Government, of course, is reacting with shock and outrage. "Highly inappropriate," sniffed Ambrose's spokesman."The minister invited them to come over here, so the fact that they're going out and doing that is only going to undermine Canada's position here. It's not helpful at all." But what do you expect when you give the car keys to the kids?. But I digress.)

More to the point, perhaps, is what the Conservative government intends to do in relation to Kyoto. The Government's policy is a shambles. Ambrose has indicated she intends to "listen" to critics and adjust the Government's policy accordingly. This we can safely read that this minister has no ideas except a thoroughly discredited and internationally condemned "green" policy that even the Government appears to disbelieve. Ambose, putting on her brave face, insists Canada is making a "productive" contribution to the talks. How, exactly? By being the world's scapegoat and public whipping boy?

Meanwhile, the dance part of the program, the meeting of ministerial types in Nairobi, begins today. There's some faint hope that a consensus will emerge. Frustration is being expressed even at the ambassadorial level. Reports the Irish Times:
Japanese ambassador Mutsuyoshi Nishimura, described climate change as a deadly serious business and said if countries were unwilling to discuss the stabilisation of emissions at this summit, he wanted to know when they would do so.

"Our job starts by looking at a global long-term vision and whether it is aspirational or otherwise," Mr Nishimura told fellow delegates.

"I will go home unless we are willing to send a global message to the world that the UN is moving to achieve stabilisation of the climate," he added.
In the delicate, subtle language of diplomacy, this is the equivalent of a slap in the face. Let's hope all the delegations at Nairobi get the message.

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