It would be better if the Copenhagen conference failed and we start again from scratch
Respected climate scientist James Hansen has argued that the Copenhagen conference should fail. This could be considered surprising as Hansen believes the world is not going far enough in tackling climate change. However unlike most environmentalists he is not of the view that getting some of what is needed is better than getting none. He therefore argues that a collapse would be better for the world because no deal that might be reached at Copenhagen would be particularly helpful in fighting climate change even if doing nothing is even worse.
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Will waste years on new wrangling.
Hansen said "The whole approach is so fundamentally wrong that it is better to reassess the situation. If it is going to be the Kyoto-type thing then [people] will spend years trying to determine exactly what that means." Although a treaty may well be negotiated we will not yet know precisely what it means. Different states will have different interpretations of it. There may be several 'authoritative' languages (languages that are the copies that are law - if binding) and they wont necessarily be able to make the language say exactly the same thing in them all. All this means it will take a long time to work everything out. Normally a treaty has time to be slowly tested by the states that created it, but in this case there are things that need to be done immediatly so we do not have time for this period of working out what everything really definitively means.
This would be the case if there was a new treaty as well, so it would have to be added on to the extra time it would take to negotiate a new treaty. No international treaty will end out simple and easy to understand because there are too many parties and interests to be included.
Cap and Trade does not work.
The basis of any treaty is going to include cap and trade as a mechanism for reducing emissions. The EU is already using it and the system does not work. Governments give out too many credits so that their industries get an advantage, this means that the prices are very low. Moreover this market based system is very complicated and creates a profit motive at the heart of the system, looking for a profit has been shown time and again to not be the best way to deal with the environment.
That the prices are too low does not mean that the whole system is flawed, simply that higher prices are needed. A market based system is much less arbitary than Hansen's own proposal of carbon taxes at the mine. Having such taxes would be an invitation to corruption in many countries and would be just as difficult to implement, emissions still need to be measured and a price somehow fixed, better to leave that to the market than giving something else to blame on the politicians.
No room for compromises
For Hansen the issue of climate change "is analagous to the issue of slavery faced by Abraham Lincoln or the issue of Nazism faced by Winston Churchill," he said. "On those kind of issues you cannot compromise. You can't say let's reduce slavery, let's find a compromise and reduce it 50% or reduce it 40%."
This is not at all like slavery or Nazism. There was a reasonably easy solution to slavery, it did not necessarily cost much and did not require a vast international deal. Winston Churchill is a better analagy, but during the rise of nazism he was out in the cold - the same kind of position the Green party is in, little chance of power, we are still at 1938 and munich not yet to 1940 and Churchill taking over.
Business as usual
Hansen says that a leader is needed; "We don't have a leader who is able to grasp it [climate change] and say what is really needed. Instead we are trying to continue business as usual." He accuses the developed world of actively wanting to keep things as business as usual so they have to do as little as possible, and believes that any result from this conference will be just that.
This does not seem like business as usual, increasingly governments are going further and further, the idea that many of the countries that have now made big pledges to reduce emissions would be willing to offer such reductions even a few months ago seemed very unlikely.
Running out of time
We are running out of time. It has taken more than two years of intense negotiations to get this far and that is not counting all the negotiations about Kyoto and the time taken to get Kyoto ratified. Keep going and we will probably have an agreement at the worst within about half a year, start again and we are not likely to have anything before 2012. During this time emissions will continue to rise and little will be done except talk. We need to get past the talking stage and on to action.
It would not necessarily take so much time a second time around even if the negotiations are on a different basis. The negotiator would already have been through numerous different options so what could be done has been narrowed down already and once on deal has failed negotiators are often more determined to make up for it.
No guarantee of a better deal later
We are at least near to a deal here and now. Scrap these talks and we are suddenly left with nothing. There is no guarantee that a new round of negotiations would lead to a better deal, they might not even lead to one at all.
If Climate change is happening then the case gets more compelling the longer we leave it. Politicians are much more likely to act later when it is becoming more obvious to them the costs. This means that no deal later is very unlikely.
Wastes the effort put in
A lot of time and effort has been put into making this conference work, with lots more on creating a cap and trade system, debating who should pay what, persuading governments to get involved etc. The conference failing would mean that all this work and all the work in the years before in preparation was for nothing.
Such work would not all be for nothing if the conference fails. Options will have been explored, countries would have a better idea of what the differing parties want from each other.
Why not two treaties?
Why does the Copenhagen conference need to fail in order to be able to create something better later down the road? Even if a treaty comes out of the conference this will not prevent another treaty being done if the Copenhagen one turns out not to be a mistake as James Hansen believes it will be. Having two treaties fighting climate change would be better than one!
Countries would not want to put themselves through another marathon set of talks to create a new deal if they already have one, even if it is flawed.
What do you think?