Hopeless Talks in London

As if the world economy was not in enough trouble, UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon is demanding the West raise at least $100bn a year for the rest of this decade to “save” the developing word from the effect of the (increasingly unlikely) global warming. Gathering in London will be the usual suspects such as Gordon Brown, Nicky Stern, George Soros, and a collection of bankers. On the table will be levies on international aviation and shipping, enlarging carbon markets, introducing financial transaction taxes, and using the International Monetary Fund’s special reserve currency.

Of course they meet amid growing problems because there is widespread and increasing scepticism about the science and scientists involved in this hoopla. The whistle blower at the CRU started the ball trolling buy exposing the nefarious activities of “The Team” – the small group of activists driving the “science”. This was followed by a long stream of embarrassing exposures of non-existent iconic scares involving polar bears, Himalayan glaciers, Amazonian rain forests, links to extreme weather, etc. The situation is not helped by the international racketeer Rajendra Pachauri still clinging to the post of chairman of the IPCC

This has been hugely damaging for the credibility of all climate scientists. Trying to restart stalled negotiations will be very hard even though attempts to whitewash the various affairs are well under way. And increased scepticism is only part of the problem for negotiators. Since December, new pragmatic political groupings have emerged. China, India, South Africa and Brazil, known as the “Basics” nations, have assumed climate leadership roles, while the bien pensant of the European Union has retreated from the front line.

Barack Obama’s move on climate change has proved to be much more pragmatic than had been hoped. There is little political appetite to repeat the dramas that marred healthcare reform. The new legislation will therefore have to be much more realistic if it is to gain any support from the Republicans. This has dismayed the 200 largest environment and development groups, including Friends of the Earth International, Christian Aid, Third World Network, Jubilee South and the World Development Movement.

However, without the USA agreeing to destroy its economy no other rich country is going to take up the slack. “We are in a world of disarray. It is a mess,” said Martin Khor, director of the South Centre, an inter-governmental developing country think tank based in Geneva. This is, if course, a depressing backdrop for the London talks but the idea of raising trillions of dollars for such a mad cap scheme was always a bit off the wall.

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