United Nations Climate Change Conference, Warsaw 2013

In a perfect world, we would have free press that report objective and fair news. We are also told that western developed countries are responsible in their dealing with global issues, especially one as important as climate change. However, if you think there is no invisible hand behind what is selected to be reported by press, privately or government held, think again. Contrast the following headlines and one can clearly tell how politics affect what is being reported and omitted:

NGOs walk out of climate talks in Warsaw
A rather comprehensive article but still biased in EU’s favor by listing a list of countries which renegade on their earlier pledge but did not mention why the G-77 countries walked out. Instead it mentioned a handful of countries, led by Poland, are threatening to derail a future global agreement!

133 countries walk out of UN climate meeting over global warming compensation row
The main emphasis of this article is obvious by the title. This article stated the walk out happened because industrial block refused to agree that the mechanism for compensation is needed now instead of 2015. The point of view of the industrialized and developing countries are stated clearly.

China urges developed nations to fulfill funding commitments for climate change
This China Daily articles did not even mention the walk out or back tracking by some countries but instead focus on the short fall of funding and take a swipe at developed countries.

UN climate talks drag on as EU and U.S. put pressure on China
This article portrayed European Union and the U.S. as wanting to do something but was resisted by China, “the world’s biggest carbon polluter” and some countries. It did use a quote to show the EU spokesperson as having moral high ground. Then added a line from developing nations accusing the EU spokesperson. This article is probably the most biased of the lots as it included willful insertion and omission.

Ministers work to avoid breakdown in Warsaw climate talks
The focus of this article is on the bickering among the developed and developing countries. It started off by quoting the EU spokesperson accusing developing countries of evading responsibility naming India and China. It reported that as talks go on, division between rich and poorer countries become increasingly obvious.

To be honest, I am seriously disappointed after going through those articles and a few more I have not listed. I feel that these articles are more into misleading than informing the readers. What exactly is going on in the negotiations? Why can’t those countries come to agreement, and why do rich and poor countries stand on such opposing grounds? Sadly, none of those information can be found and we simply find some vague indication here and there.

The evidence for a global climate change is still far from conclusive. However, everyone know that pollution is bad. That is a fact. In a free and fair world, each human should be allowed to emit a certain amount of pollution to ensure he has a meaningful existence. Nevertheless, what is not made obvious in the talks is that this is not the subject of discussion. The argument hinges on how rich and poor countries should bear different responsibility.

Here’s a list per capita emission (metric tons of CO)of selected countries (using 2009 data):

Qatar, 44
Luxembourg, 20.4
Australia, 18.3
US, 17.2
Germany, 9.6
EU (average), 8.1
China, 6.2
Mexico, 4.4
Thailand 4.1
Egypt, 2.3
India, 1.4
Nigeria, 0.6

This is why the negotiation breaks down. The rich industrialized countries want the poor countries to reduced their planned increase together. On the surface this sound like a neutral solution but it is not fair at all. Basically, what the rich is saying the poor do not have the right to emit the same per capita as the rich! The rich countries will try to check their emission by a certain percentage but the poor should also do that, albeit a different percentage.

To be free and fair, shouldn’t everyone be equal, including the rich and poor? Why is it that the rich countries proposed something that is so unjust? I thought human rights and environment is at the forefront of their agenda? If human economic activities produces pollutant that could harm the whole humanity, shouldn’t each person shouldered the same responsibility? Obviously not. What the rich is saying is, “We are more equal than the others”.

The so-called free press simply showed their true color by being mouth piece of their respective government and interest groups. In the view of those editors, vested interest is more important than the fate of humanity. The solution is actually very simple, if yearly 20 metric tons of CO emission per person will not destroy planet earth, everybody should be allow to generate the same amount. If that is not the case, we should come to an agreed upon number and every countries should try to abide by it. By setting different standard for different countries simply showed how little the “developed” countries have developed.

11 thoughts on “United Nations Climate Change Conference, Warsaw 2013

  1. In their self-righteous bigoted arrogance, the so called “developed countries” from the West refuse to take historical responsibility when it comes having produced the most C²O in the world for the past almost 200 years. It is irrelevant that China and India are the “biggest” producers of C²O at this moment. If the West refuses to take historical responsibility for poisoning the atmosphere for close to 2 centuries, why should China or India be given such a ” burden?

  2. Ray,

    Here is my take (and some of these you already pointed out). The reasons negotiations have been so difficult can be broadly broken into at least 4 categories.

    1. Trying to stop climate change is difficult, if not impossible. Even if the human species stop emitting any more carbon pollutants into the air starting today, enough carbon may already be spewed into the atmosphere to make warming unstoppable for the next few thousand years. So even if we can collectively cap emission at say 2005 levels by 2020 (choose whatever other targets you want), we don’t really know how much good that will do. Surely, it will be better than doing nothing? Perhaps. But who knows?

    2. For everyone, the cost of cutting emissions can be wildly different. Consider for rich nations such as the U.S., cutting emissions to 2005 levels by 2020 may not mean much societal cost. Sure, there will be some pain, but the U.S. and other developed nations was already producing a lot of pollutants at the time, so cutting to that level may not mean much. For nations such as India or China, cutting emissions to 2005 levels, when it is just starting its industrialization path, makes no sense. The cost of cutting emission is not just about gaining efficiency, but about stopping industrialization – about stopping economic development altogether.

    3. Counting emissions per country – even per capita – may be the wrong focus here. The reason we have globalization is because every country can contribute what it best can. This may mean – even in a perfect world – that some countries focus on services, others on innovations, and yet others on manufacturing. Obviously, the emissions of a manufacturing nation – which manufactures (in a perfect world) in the most efficient way possible (more efficient than everyone else in the world) – will be disproportionately high. Should the emission be attributed to the manufacturing nation – or counted at the point of consumption – where the products are ultimately sold and consumed?

    This reminds me of all the attacks on China recently (unfair of course, see e.g. this post and comments therein). People count the resource consumption at the point of consumption, not point of harvest or production when Chinese are responsible for consumption. But when it is the citizens of developed nations that is consuming or consuming, we see often the count at the point of harvest or production … not point of consumption!

    4. And of course, we have the issue of historical equity. The big problem with global/greenhouse gas pollution, as suggested above, is not just pollution going forward, but pollution going back to the very beginning of the industrial revolution. If the West had not polluted the atmosphere so much, people in Africa and Asia today would freely be able to dump tons and tons more carbon in the atmosphere without causing the imminent global warming (let’s assume it’s imminent) that we are witnessing.

    But how do you fix the equity problem? Some of the poorest nations have suggested monetary compensations from the rich nations for damages caused by global warming. But how do you assess damage? In the case of Phillipines, for example, one might argue Haiyan was caused in part by global warming – but to what extent? But even if arguing Haiyan was a global warming storm, there are other factors that were the “true” cause of the damages, one might argue. Perhaps it is the poor city planning. Perhaps it’s the government’s poor relief efforts, perhaps it’s the poor character of the people (see … all the looting).

    A few years ago, a survey was conducted on whether the U.S. should give away or allow China to obtain technologies in the U.S. that would allow China to build more efficient less polluting plants and factories. A majority of Americans said no. U.S. must safeguard its technologies. China must pay for the technologies – at huge mark ups. This is so even though the benefits of the technology accrues to the world – U.S. included – in the form of less pollution from China – of products made in China.

    When you let that sink you, you really understand that how can any compensation is a no go when people in the developed world are against even transferring knowledge (technologies) – a transaction that is effectively free (cost nothing to the developed world as the technologies have already been developed) – a transaction that is a slam-dunk win-win.

  3. Following up on my previous comment: I forgot to conclude why the negotiations are so difficult.

    To study negotiations, one must study the BATNA (Best alternative to a negotiated agreement) of each side. And the (sad?) truth is that most people today, given the proposals on the table, are better off not reaching a negotiated settlment at this time.

    Just look to the costs and benefits of developed vs. developing world (simplified, of course) of not reaching settlement.

    Developed world. The Benefit of a settlement is relatively little. I read this past week how a degree rise in the U.S. may mean more inconvenience – i.e. more air conditioning cost, farmers having to move to different states (with changing weather patterns) – whereas in India it could mean millions dead. So while the cost of reducing pollution is manageable (as mentioned in my previous comment), the benefits is not that high. For nations like Canada and Russia, global warming may even be seen as a boon (more farmlands, more passable coastlines, etc.). For U.S., the nation is large enough to buffer whatever challenges climate change throw (even if some states like California hypothetically come up a net loser, many like Wyoming might come up a net winner, for example).

    For developing nations, the cost of reduction – so long as if means stopping them from industrializing – is considered very high. To the extent that world inequity today is caused by inequity in industrialization, this is not just an economic issue, it’s a human rights issue.

    So while the benefits of reducing climate change (which may not be possible anyways, as discussed in my previous comment), the costs are just too high…

    No wonder we don’t have an agreement yet…

    Climate change is inherently an unequal process, not just across space, but across time. Trying to stop is hard enough – trying to do it in a way that is fair for everyone … that’s almost impossible.

    So what can we do?

    Imagine if you are the beneficent omniscient omnipotent dictator, what would you do?

  4. @Allen
    Thanks for taking the time to elaborate the difficulties at hand.

    1. This is how the rich countries want things done, to cap emission citing how everybody has to do their parts while ignoring the fact that some poor countries has between 1/20 to 1/10 the emission of the rich.

    2. Let’s face it, in order to have a life sustaining lifestyle, energy has to be used. Cooking, heating in poor countries mean cutting down trees. In the developed and mid-developed countries, fossil fuel is burnt. Of course, there are exception like renewable energy. France’s energy need is now 7/10 met by nuclear power plants. Herein lies another problem, within each countries be it rich or poor, especially in the developed west, deciding which renewable to invest or used is a gigantic tussle in itself.

    3. Also another pretext used by the rich, our geography and lifestyle is different so same emission per capita cannot be apply to everyone. Granted countries like Iceland, Canada needed more energy to deal with cold winter month, the same argument can be used for tropical, sub-Sahara regions to deal with adverse heat condition. If this argument is used then every countries have equal rights to pollute (to put it bluntly).

    4. This argument is used by the developing countries. The analogy is this, a bunch of rich guys have been having buffet for many days, some even months at a restaurant. Later, a few poor guys walk in and started eating. Suddenly, the tab is called and the bill for everybody is the same, including the guys who haven’t even started eating and still waiting in life outside! This is basically what has happened in the conference.

    Negotiation where everybody is not treated the same will not go anywhere. The powerful nations used to be able to get their way by cajoling or threats but nowadays the developing countries have the BRICS to back them up. That’s why most western reporters will write articles to insinuate the developing world as the culprits of who don’t want to stop climate change.

    So basically, we have the rich and most polluting blocs standing on a united front versus the poor and almost non-polluting countries. As I have stated repeatedly, the rich countries are still the most powerful ones hence they want to set the rule that is most favourable to them. However, in order to push through agenda 1 through 4 they promised to provide “aid and technological assistance”.

    As you have said, the recent typhoon Haiyan that has struck Asia could have been the result of climate change. Some countries proposed setting up a fund that can be used as compensation when there is a humanitarian disaster again. However, the rich and poor again diverged on the funding method. The poor of course want to base the contribution on the size of each countries’ economy much like funding to the UN.

    You have probably know that there is some hard core non-believer of climate change in developed countries who considered renewable energy a money pit. Their lobbyist is strongly backed by the fossil fuel industries. This another story altogether because if their logic is sound we shouldn’t even have a discussion and let every countries do whatever they want to.

    In my view the biggest difficulty in these negotiations is because human rights and democracy is not respected. The rich wants rights based on wealth and power. Basically, if the conference is based on democratic principles the 133 countries would have out voted the 20 or so countries. The rich are even willing to buy off some of the poor if they vote in their favour. However, the semi-industrialized developing countries headed mainly by the BRICS would not allow that.

    Many semi-industrialized countries realized that their economy is based on highly polluting works such as mass manufacturing, mining, logging, even industrial waste processing etc and can only see pollution increased. Of course, by using the latest technology the pollution can be greatly reduced but those companies (mostly in the developed west) wanted premium payment for them or don’t even want to transfer the technology. Granted, the economy of some rich countries like Australia and Canada also depended on highly polluting mining industries.

    So basically, we are back to square one of the negotiations. The rich countries are not providing any aid or technology at all. In fact, all the subsidy are bear by the poor. By providing literally a cent to a dime, the rich wants to pass the buck to the poor.

    If I am that omnipotent dictator, I would give this advice. Human, stop being selfish, do what is right. Of course, this is an idealistic joke. I will elaborate on this later with a comprehensive work plan that actually works in the real world.

  5. The only government in the world that doesn’t limit itself with the so called “human right” to CONSUME, CONSUME, CONSUME is Ecuador. They have a law called the Rights of Nature, while in Bolivia are in the process of passing what they call the Law of the Rights of Mother Earth. If the great majority of governments in the world followed the Ecuadorian and Bolivian governments, alot can be accomplished. But as long as most of the world is being held hostage by Western colonialism and imperialism of rampant and uncontrollable urge to CONSUME, CONSUME, CONSUME, we as “human beings” are doomed.

  6. China is embarking on a consumption-based economy. This reminds me of Matrix, the movie. Agent Smith said something about humans being disgusting, multiplies, and consumes everything until nothing is left. It seems this is a unstoppable trend.

    Of course China has much catching up to do! :)

  7. @YinYang
    Most likely the “humans” that Agent Smith was referring to are the Westerners, they started the parasitical behavior of consuming everything into oblivion. Unfortunately the rest of the world has been infected by this disease of consuming everything until nothing is left.

  8. @ersim

    I think I have a problem with this ideology against consumption. I don’t think there is nothing wrong with consumption as life per se is about consumption. The essence of life is consumption and propagation.

    What is wrong with consumption – and propagation – in my opinion is the unsustainable by which it is done … and also the inequitable way resources are distributed and then consumed in recent human history …

    By the way, I do believe we are too much into “consumer consumption” in the sense that we are too materialistic – we find happiness too much in material goods. But that’s a personal thing. Some people find pleasure buying goods, others drinking like there’s no tomorrow, yet still others find happiness in religion (of all weird sorts)… Is one any better than the other? What’s the meaning of life…?

    On the micro scale – to each his own…

    But on a macro scale … we must do things in more sustainable ways … or else our children will pay for the consequences….

  9. @Allen
    It’s not the issue of consumption in itself I’m critical. It’s how it’s done. The West has no respect towards nature. For them it’s all about “owning” something that doesn’t belong to them in the first place. Their “mindset” is to drain as much “resources” as possible to make “alot of money” out of it. Not to mention how they poison the environment with the huge amount of waste they produce which is unsustainable for the eco-system. Their rampant individualism is such that the worse I can call their “consumerist” behavior is parasitical. They have no regard for nature nor for future generations.

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