Written By: Jon Ehrenfeld, Senior Correspondent
Editor: Suzanne Kelly-Lyall, Deputy Director PISA
The COP-16 conference, slated for November 29th in Cancun, Mexico, seems to be raising fewer hopes than the last round, likely because of the widely publicized and underwhelming results of COP-15. Policy makers on both sides of the Pacific can reasonably ask what can be expect from this next round of negotiations? Will we see progressive action from the bloc of Asian nations that allied themselves with China in Copenhagen? Or have events in the last year given rise to a new approach to climate negotiations?
As Copenhagen kicks off to muted expectations and a pervasive pessimism over its likelihood to achieve a binding treaty, the United States finds itself in a paradoxical situation. For over two decades successive U.S. presidents and policymakers have steadily expanded the concept and application of free trade with allies near and far. Free trade agreements in force or awaiting ratification cover much of the Western hemisphere and countries throughout the Middle East, Asia and Australia. Whether their rationale was American competitiveness or foreign development, these agreements now pose a significant obstacle to U.S. climate change efforts.
In the past two weeks the United States and China have released separate plans for reducing their carbon emissions. Despite the fanfare that greeted the announcements, serious doubts have already been voiced about the combined effort. Put simply, is it going to be enough? Already worrying signs abound that these plans are too little, too late.
This week the ten ASEAN member states released a joint statement on climate change during the 15th ASEAN summit. Beyond the standard boilerplate, it’s clear that ASEAN and its constituent states are preparing for an aggressive negotiation at Copenhagen—a move that aligns it heavily with China, but less so with its citizens. While nominally voicing support for the outgoing Kyoto Protocol and for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), one phrase in particular sums up its approach: “in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.” Although this position is not a new one, it is an indication that ASEAN is unlikely to show flexibility in its insistence that developed nations “take the lead” in reducing emissions. Whether the approval of ASEAN’s neighbor to the north is worth popular outrage remains to be seen.
The recent flurry of withdrawals from the United States Chamber of Commerce (USCC) by the likes of big-name corporations such as APPLE and NIKE suggests that business may not go on “as usual” in the US. The USCC, an influential business lobby, disputes the reality of anthropogenic warming and stridently opposes any government-mandated emissions reductions.
As the COP-15 meetings draw closer, some observers note that at the end of the day, measureable progress will hinge on the cooperation of two nations – China and the United States. The two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, these powerhouses will ultimately decide the extent of the forward progress made in Copenhagen. Regardless of how desirable it is for two countries to monopolize the debate to such an extent, it is clear that the situation is very much a double-edged sword for climate negotiators.
The auto world was abuzz this week as Indian carmaker Tata Motors unveiled the Nano, a four-door, pint-sized sedan that will soon go on sale in India. Beyond its diminutive stature and no-frills interior, the Nano is turning heads because of its price: 100,000 rupees or a mere $2,500 USD. Sales projections still vary wildly, but many analysts agree that the hyper-affordable Nano could bring car ownership – and its social prestige – to a vast swath of rapidly developing India.