Friday, June 5, 2009

The Geo-Politics of Climate Change

Ever since the Kyoto Protocol when the U.S. Congress refused to ratify the provisions, the climate roadmap has taken us through Bali and COP15, and more shows in the sidelines. Result, nada. Now however, in the run-up to the Copenhagen summit in December this year, said to be the successor treaty of the Kyoto Protocol, the scene is hotting up like never before.

Delegates from 182 nations are holding talks at Bonn, to draw the skeletal framework that shall form the basis for the hopefully decisive Copenhagen summit. How this summit has stood out from the rest? Well, for the first time the countries have texts of draft agreements to work with. Resembling multiple choice exam papers, these negotiating texts for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, present a list of possible options for these nations, ranging from very strong actions to weaker ones. Like one draft text that offers the option of carbon cuts between 25 - 40 % by 2020 and 50 - 85 % by 2050.

These are grossly minimal figures, chalked out by the International Panel on Climate Change for the U.N. Yet, the world's largest gaz-guzzlers and coal -fired power plant builders, U.S. and China, will not be able to meet even the barebone 25 % target. So what do have here?

A quagmire-like situation, where delegates from these 182 countries have parked at Bonn, lobbying their interests, negotiating terms, drafting texts to work with, all for the cause of climate change mitigation. The developing nations are banking upon the benevolent disposition of these large emitting nations. It is hoped that the historically large emitters will compensate for their deafult by paying up. Towards this the stage is set at Bonn for the finest show of geo-politics at its best.

This treaty if ever negotiated, will be the most complex ever drawn. Not merely because of the sheer scale of the problem, or the divergence in viewpoint. But for the fact, that this is a problem of a ticking clock where there is no turning back, a problem that affects all nations, and which can only be resolved to some extent through cohesiveness and climate diplomacy of unprecedented levels.

So we wait and watch from the sidelines, as the representatives try to hash out the best deal for the nation as a whole. Testing the metre of Geo-politics, at its best.

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