Don’t expect any major breakthroughs in the UN climate treaty negotiations this year, we told Al Jazeera English TV in an October 2 interview. “Right now you have the US – which has not made any commitment to reduce its own emissions, and has grown quite wealthy on the type of economic growth that we’ve had – presuming to lecture other countries with standards of living that are a fraction of that of the US on their responsibilities to reduce emissions.” Representatives of 194 countries have been meeting in Panama this week in the last major gathering before the upcoming climate summit conference in Durban, South Africa starting on November 28.
The interview on You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bb4Bqyno7Jc
News and commentary on the climate talks this week in Panama:
Rick Piltz on Al Jazeera English TV 10/2/2011, interviewed by anchor Shihab Rattansi — transcript with minor edits:
SR: The European Union’s chief climate negotiator has urged countries to commit to a “roadmap towards a climate framework” so that the Kyoto Protocol is replaced. UN climate envoys are meeting in Panama ahead of a major conference in the South African city of Durban eight weeks from now.
Under the 2005 Kyoto Protocol, major developed nations were to have cut the emissions of greenhouse gases, but that expires at the end of 2012, and it was never ratified anyway by the United States.
In Copenhagen in 2009 the US and countries including Brazil, China, and India merely agreed that the global temperature should not rise more than 2°C without offering any pledges to cut their emissions.
Then in Cancunlast December, UN delegates ‘recognized’ that global pledges on emissions cuts should be higher, but again failed to commit to any deeper reductions.
Joined now by Rick Piltz from Climate Science Watch, which aims to hold officials accountable for how they use climate science research. In 2005 he resigned from the US government’s climate change science program because of White House interference.
Are we expecting anything from Panama or indeed Durban in the next few weeks?
RP: No, I don’t think anybody is really expecting any major breakthroughs in this year’s round of UN climate treaty negotiations.
SR: So where does that leave us?
RP: It leaves us in a very difficult situation. It’s hard to see a grand global bargain, and global climate change does require global solutions. It’s hard to see a major international agreement without the US on board; it doesn’t appear that the US has any intention of getting on board with a new agreement. It won’t support an extension of the Kyoto Protocol and it hasn’t really locked into any alternative to that.
SR: Don’t they have a point though, that as long as China and India don’t agree to anything this is just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic anyway?
RP: Well, everybody is going to have to be involved in the solution, but right now you have the US – which has not made any commitment to reduce its own emissions, and has grown quite wealthy on the type of economic growth that we’ve had – presuming to lecture other countries with standards of living that are a fraction of that of the US on their responsibilities to reduce emissions. I don’t think that developing countries are going to limit their own development, so everybody’s bought into an economic growth model that is not ultimately sustainable in terms of the planet.
SR: I promised myself that I wouldn’t lead into this question because it always ends up like this: but then surely we’re all doomed? This is irreversible environmental change?
RP: The agreement in principle to limit the global warming to 2°C above the preindustrial level …the kinds of commitments that have been made so far are so radically short of that – 4° is more likely; 5° is more likely given the trajectory that we’re on right now. Unless the leading climate scientists on the planet have this wrong, which I doubt, that does suggest the likelihood of some pretty disastrous consequences from the path that we’re on.
SR: We’re seeing alternative methods being used on Wall Street and elsewhere now, from people saying ‘look, on the economy, enough is enough, nothing is going right for this country.’ Are there perhaps alternative routes that people can use to try to make a difference, or again is it just a brick wall?
RP: The system is very controlled at the top; I mean, in the US all of the economic growth is being swept up by the top 1%. The strategic economic decisions, and really the control of our politics, is very tightly controlled by the corporate structure at the top. Government will only take steps to the extent that it doesn’t threaten these interests – it’s unwilling to challenge them, no matter who wins the election. That is creating vast inequalities and at the same time, that same system now is going to threaten the habitability of the planet. So the whole problem of inequality and social justice and the whole problem of saving the planet is really one problem being driven by one system.
SR: Rick Piltz, thank you very much.