Even before the most recent round of international negotiations on climate change began in Durban, South Africa recently, many predicted the conference dead on arrival. That is certainly true from the standpoint of substance; I attended the Rio Summit back in the early 1990s and none of them since have reduced carbon emissions or produced substantive agreements.
None of that matters to the large and growing carbon bureaucracy: people whose jobs in government and out depend on maintaining the pretense that one of these days these negotiations will produce something useful. Governments go along with the charade because after all it is only taxpayer money we are talking about and because if greens want to delude themselves with the idea that elected officials are trying to help them, that from the standpoint of elected officials is a very good thing.
Indeed, if you were a completely cynical political hack only trying to stay in office whatever happens to the earth’s climate, you now have the best of all possible worlds. You have a climate process that, like a less hopeful version of the interminable Middle East peace process, will drag on for years and maybe decades. Yet because it is hopelessly and permanently deadlocked you will never have to take any painful or unpopular steps.
It is the best of all possible panders for the cynical hack, and since it also serves bureaucratic survival instincts, the climate process is here to stay.
Here’s the story from the Guardian:
The Durban climate conference may have agreed a deal – or at least a deal to agree a deal – but the scale of the work that still needs to be done became plain today.
Although talks are supposed to start immediately, America’s special envoy for climate change, Todd Stern, infuriated the EU by warning that much preparatory work had to be done before the negotiators could sit down to haggle.
“[In drawing up] the Kyoto protocol, there was a period of a year to year and a half of scoping out so I expect that will go on … for a year or two,” Stern said. “Then you still have two to two and a half years to negotiate, and finish in 2015.” EU officials are acutely aware that the time to forge a deal is short, and the issues to be resolved vastly complex.
The Durban conference ended on Sunday with a last-ditch deal whereby developed and developing countries will for the first time work on an agreement that should be legally binding on all parties, to be written by 2015 and to come into force after 2020.
By 2015 new deadlines will be found, new complex preliminary negotiations will need to be held, and countless new non-papers and draft MOUs will have to be written. In other words, no carbon bureaucrats or diplomats need worry. These meetings will continue, usually in interesting, faraway places. As long as the rivers run and the grasses grow, the bureaus will continue to operate, and those that serve in them will continue to be fed.
The earth’s climate may change; the willingness of cynical politicians to manipulate credulous greens and the determination of bureaucrats to hold onto their posts never will.