The reporting by the BBC has hit a new low of idiocy. To them there are good guys who want targets and bad guys who do not want targets. They seem to rely on EU spin, out to portray themselves as the new powerful good cops, taking on the bad guys, the US.
So let us examine what has in practise happened. The world currently has targets under Kyoto. Some of the EU good guys? who signed up failed to hit their targets, but strut the stage with moral rectitude because they agreed to targets years ago. Some who signed targets to cut their carbon output have done so, partly by closing down heavy carbon producing industrial activities and importing the goods from India and China instead. Some of the bad guys who did not sign up to targets have controlled their carbon outputs better than the good guys in recent years. Last year, for example, US carbon output was under better control than the EU’s.
All this implies that targets themselves are not the answer. Ultra greens conclude that therefore the targets next time round must be made binding with sanctions. A lot of countries, including Japan, Canada, India and China will say No? to that, as well as the USA. It would be surprising, therefore, if the mandatory target approach is adopted, and if it is adopted by only some countries by definition it cannot work for the whole world.
Even if the whole world could be made to sign such a proposal, for an individual government in 2010-14 it might still be better not to impose draconian measures to cut energy use in order to hit a target for 2020, as many of the measures that would be needed will be very unpopular with electorates. Some governments in such a regime might decide ignoring the problem and leaving any fine to a successor government was the least bad way of matching the public mood.
Nor do targets deal with the problem that the richer countries accepting them can meet them by exporting energy intensive activities elsewhere. This is likely to happen anyway, and explains India and China’s reluctance to accept any target reductions, as they will be the places producing the exports. Without India and China in the deal it is a nonsense. Nor should we expect developing countries to forgo the pleasures of using more energy per capita that the west takes for granted, as they succeed in generating more exports and more income.
When you look at the problem like this, you understand that it is not a simple case of EU right, US wrong. If the EU had its way and imposed targets, it will not reduce the world’s overall output of carbon, because the developing world will take up the slack from cuts in the developed world, and some of the developed world will fail to hit targets, as EU countries have proved during the Kyoto period.
Instead of dividing the world into good guys and bad guys, the EU should grow up and try to understand the problem. Instead of trying to unite the world against the USA, the EU and others should seek to harness the power of the US to taking action to cut energy dependence (a concept even the Bush administration understands and could support).
This long, bitter and carbon intensive conference has made the world’s CO2 problem a little worse as a result of all the extra flights, and the all night lighting and cooling in the conference centre and hotels. It was only a conference about another conference. It was sherpas preparing a way for a summit, but a conference of very numerous and rather grand sherpas. It is difficult to see why more of the preparation could not have been achieved on the emails and the phone, less carbon intensive technology. It all goes to show that our political masters still love overseas travel at our expense.
If the world wanted to do something positive to curb carbon output, it needs to concentrate less on targets and more on technology and incentives. There was discussion of that at Bali. We are not allowed to hear much about it from the BBC, unless it can be fitted into the good guy EU versus the bad guy US script. Fortunately the Indian proposal for technology sharing came along which filled the bill.
The good news is the conference is now over. Once the jet fuel has been burned to get these delegates home for Christmas, we will not have to watch or listen to more BBC people complaining of how late they are working, and telling us that the US is the only country out to wreck the planet. The truth is that if carbon does wreck the planet we are all doing it, not least all those BBC journalists burning the oil in the early hours to send us their distorted portrait of what is going on. The truth is that nothing important has happened at Bali. It will all look very different when they do it all again with a different US President. The so-called deal on technology sharing, presented as a victory, is just a few words on a piece of paper. The reality is different, as most of the technology is owned by private sector companies who will need incentives to share it.