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Who’s to Blame for the Impasse in Global Climate Talks?

From the upcoming Winter 2011 edition of the Earth Island Journal

The first thing to say about the climate negotiations this December is that they’re teetering at the edge of what, back in the day, we used to call a “legitimacy crisis.” On every side, people are eager to suggest that the negotiations have become a waste of time. It’s gotten to the point that folks are apologizing for going to Cancun, as if it were bad for their image to be seen at the climate talks.

The climate negotiations, to be sure, are a complicated mess, and the “blame game” now in full swing just adds to the confusion. In the United States, China bashing is much in vogue, and China has recently developed a taste for bashing back. But at least China’s positions make sense. If someone were to organize a climate-spoiler sweepstakes, the US would have to be the presumptive winner. It’s the US, after all, that reduced the Kyoto Protocol to a non-starter, and the US that led the Copenhagen charge to abandon top-down emissions targets in favor of bottom-up “pledge and review.” It’s the US that, in the words of chief negotiator Todd Stern, is looking for a “new paradigm for climate diplomacy” that asserts a world in which the developed countries are no longer presumed to bear the overarching, if inconvenient, obligations of the rich and the responsible. The US doesn’t even look to be particularly flexible when it comes to the “innovative finance” proposals that, frankly, look to be our best way forward. … read more

Tom Athanasiou, Author and director of Earth Island Project EcoEquityTom Athanasiou photo
Tom is the director of EcoEquity and a member of the Greenhouse Development Rights authors group. His interests focus on distributive justice within a context of global environmental emergency. He is the author or co-author of numerous books and reports, including The Right to Development in a Climate Constrained World, Dead Heat: Global Justice and Global Warming, and Divided Planet: the Ecology of Rich and Poor. He is currently developing a new book, the working title of which is A New Deal for the Greenhouse Century.

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