A Digger's view of Copenhagen

dub solution wearealldubsolution at yahoo.co.uk
Mon Dec 21 15:27:29 GMT 2009

"Arguments about process strangled the Copenhagen agreement".  That is how the BBC radio news summed up U.K.Climate Minister Ed Milliband’s verdict on this monumentally important summit of world leaders. The "human interest" angle on the official U.K. narrative  ( as though the interest in survival of humanity was not interesting enough)  has Milliband in his pyjamas/underwear as the chairman's gavel is about to descend (the story is supposed to be made more intriguingly credible by the different sartorial accounts).  He rushes back into the fray in a final effort to do what his boss claimed to have done already: save the world.   So now we are told that North American and European governments are "disappointed"  because, to repeat, "arguments about process strangled the agreement".

Of course the first thing to say is that "arguments about process" is code for efforts to democratise the decision-making. The second thing to say is "What agreement?" 
An agreement stitched up between the worst historical offenders and the possible worst future offenders could never be expected to produce the cultural and material changes necessary to ameliorate the damage already done or to limit further catastrophe.  As both Klein and Monbiot have pointed out (Guardian 17th & 18th Dec), such an agreement amounts to an imperial seizure of the sky, a crime against humanity even greater than that of the privatisation and exploitation  of the earth and its resources. If the victims had been tricked into signing such an "agreement" they would have committed Africa to a  rise in temperature of 3.3degrees, and many small islands to disappearance altogether. This is not justice: it is not “Ubuntu” as Tutu would say, and "no deal is better than a bad deal" as he actually did say.

What the "arguments about process" did do was very effectively to prevent the U.S. and its sycophantic allies in Europe from strangling debate with the ligature of their self-serving narrative thread.  Those who managed this are the heroes of Copenhagen.  Look what they had to deal with!  Scores of delegates were forced to queue for hours on end to queue in the freezing cold without even minimal catering facilities.  Just imagine how those who did eventually manage to get in must have felt when they discovered that, instead of one debating process feeding from smaller groups to a plenary, as you would expect in any democratic conference, there were two: one proceeding within the Kyoto framework (which the U.S. never signed) and the other including the U.S. and a varying group of client states.

When the G77 group drew attention to what was going on - by challenging the estimated 2degrees limit on global warming - the game could have been up.  But every kind of filthy trick in the imperialist book was deployed. There was the co-opting into the winners' cabal of Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia ( a man who has no credibility in Ethiopia let alone the rest of Africa). There was the accusation that China (a country with a rather exemplary approach to changing per capita climate damage and the only one that has ever been willing to limit its own population size rather than that of other people) was resisting monitoring of agreed reductions. Resisting monitoring really upsets the U.S as they are keen to monitor everything except themselves.  Then there was the really sneaky little trick of collusion between Downing Street and the online agitation-organisation Avaaz which spammed the U.K. with disingenuously worded appeals to help save the world by signing a petition calling for the very result (a 2 degrees legally binding treaty) that would have protected the rich by slow genocide of the poor.  This social network even managed to arrange an online telephone-half-hour with Gordon Brown for its supporters on one of the last and busiest days.  

But the thugs were outwitted.  Obama did not fly in,  wave a magic wand and fly back heroically. Gordon Brown failed again in his ambition to save the world from the consequences of his own disgusting government and its allies. Even Ed Milliband rushing in his pyjamas ( or boxers - surely not Y-fronts?) could not seize the gavel, like a second- rate Tarzan with a mace, and bring about "the Agreement" which never had and never could exist.

Copenhagen was no disaster. On the contrary it was a triumph. Here is why:

1) By the 31st of January all the countries will be required to register their reduction targets. Once registered there will be more transparency:  EU pledges 30% for example while the U.S. only 17% .
2) The principle of funding from developed to developing countries has now been established.  $60bn (or one tenth of the U.S. annual defence budget) may be woefully inadequate but it provides a precedent for further negotiation.
3) A start has been made on a framework and  financial mechanism for slowing deforestation which is one of the most straightforwardly obvious first steps.
4) Despite the official narratives the "procedural wranglings" have let light in on the fug. It is unlikely that later stages of international negotiation will be able to set out without a proper democratic framework for the discussions. Even the most arrogant will surely realise that video-conferencing algorithms must be developed to give all participants an equal platform.  Clearly Rawls’ "veil of ignorance”*  must be applied: Just rules for  debate are rules to which everyone would agree without knowing in advance whether they would be winners or losers thereby.
5) The fact that all those world leaders were prepared to treat the state of our planet as a joint problem is a triumph in itself. 
6) Finally, and most importantly, the real transparency is the clear revelation of the conflict of interests between the exploiters and the exploited.  Each of us must face the crucial question now: "Which side are we on?"

* J. Rawls  A Theory of Justice ( Harvard University Press reissue 2005)

seasonal goodwill , PK

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