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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Climate Losers Pole-Axed at COP19

Last November saw the latest round of the United Nations climate change negotiations held in Warsaw, Poland – or as the policy people call it, COP19. The news coming out of central Europe is dispiriting to even the most optimistic person – once again there has been no strong agreement on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and no strong action on providing finance and funding to help poorer countries deal with climate change.

Some of the rich countries were worse than others. When the negotiations first began twenty years ago, the rich countries agreed to cut their emissions by around 6-8% from 1990 levels. At the negotiations in Poland, Japan insisted that it now plans to actually increase its emissions by 3% from 1990 levels. Australia was also targeted by activists because its government denies climate change is even happening, and refuses to provide any money to help combat it. Meanwhile, the Polish hosts scheduled a coal industry conference next door to COP19, and claimed that melting Arctic ice is a good thing because it will become easier to drill for oil. It seems that none of the developed countries are taking this very seriously anymore.

Of course, this is just the latest in a long list of disappointments to come from the climate change talks. There has been a slow downwards trajectory ever since the US pulled out of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, culminating in the arguments and dismay of the Copenhagen conference in 2009. Things have never really improved since then, and any observer can tell you that the meetings are now little more than shameful displays as the 'winners' try and give away as little as possible to the 'loser' countries whose people are being attacked by hurricanes and sea level rises.

It's clear why this has happened to the negotiations. A lot of people in governments and corporations have become 'winners' in our economic system through burning fossil fuels, using up resources, and making sure they get as big a slice of the pie as possible. They don't want things to change, because it would mean giving some of their wealth away to the 'losers' – the people who have had their oil stolen, their environment poisoned, and their homes destroyed by extreme weather conditions. The 'winners' are isolated from these impacts, as they have the money to protect themselves. Solving the many problems that climate change poses is going to mean dealing with one very big issue – inequality. The last thing our economic 'winners' want to do is to reduce inequality, because that means letting more people into their exclusive little club – and that's why we saw a lot of talk and very little action at COP19.

NRGLab takes the opposite approach. We believe that clean, sustainable, and cheap energy is possible, and should be a priority of governments around the world – so that instead of spending money on fossil fuels, we can divert it towards new infrastructure to help climate 'losers' deal with the effects of our previous polluting actions.

COP19, climate change negotiations, greenhouse gas emissions, Kyoto protocol, nrglab, fossil fuels ]

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