Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Canada to Lead on Climate Change - Whether it Wants to or Not

The one thing we can learn from the Copenhagen debacle is that the UN process for securing global alignment around climate change is dead, though attempts at resuscitation will occur twice in 2010 – death can be denied.

Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister, recognizes this and is seeking a new form of global government to deal with climate change. He is looking at the newly invigorated G20 as a means for achieving this. This means Canada holds the torch for the future of the planet.

What should the G20 meeting focus on? The first thing it can do is end the work of the IPCC. The revelations of the ties its Chairman, Dr Rajendra Pachauri, has to business interests and the Climategate scandal all now point to it being a corrupted organization. It is also deceptive – claiming that there is a consensus in “the science”, when in fact there is not. It is also deceptive in that it chooses to ignore actual measurement in preference to computer models, since the latter present gloomy scenarios which then encourage governments to act. Just as the Stern economic analysis of the costs of climate change mitigation was a political document written to enable specific political action, so the IPCC is now a political lobby group which ensures that the “science” confirms to the politically correct position with respect to the science of climate change.

The second thing it can do is to recognize reality. Developed nations, including the US, Britain, Canada and the rest of the EU are not going to cut emissions by anything like the numbers either they suggest or the “science” demands. For example, Brown’s offer to cut UK emissions by 42% by 2020 (just ten years from now) is simply nonsense. The “warmist” science suggests that a cut of 40% by 2020 and 90% by 2050 is needed to stand a fifty-fifty chance of holding temperature gain down to 2C – requiring a massive reinvention of the world’s economy. Its not going to happen, period. While reducing emissions may well be desirable, the 18% cuts currently on the table will not stop climate change but will have significant economic consequences – higher energy and food prices, slowing down economic growth and creating massive need for subsidy for energy systems leading eventually to higher taxation.

The US and Canada have this right – reduce emissions as best one can while protecting economic growth. A 4-5% cut in emissions on 1990 levels is do-able and meaningful, especially if followed by other reductions once appropriate technologies become available.

That’s the third thing the G20 should do: focus much more energy and resources on technology development and technology transfer. The real task is to develop technologies which, by their nature, use less fossil fuels for energy generation and distribution, transport and economic activity. Accelerating the development of the hydrogen economy, looking at new sources of renewable energy, accelerating the adoption of regulation which requires CO2 capture and storage, carbon taxation to fund technology investment – all mechanisms which could reduce emissions in pace with the emergence of effective technological alternatives. Adaptation is a more productive strategy than emissions reduction targets – something Canada has been advocating for years.

The fourth thing that the G20 can do is to spend time thinking about how technologies developed in the developed world can quickly, effectively and economically be transferred to the developing world. This requires a technology transfer strategy of Marshall Plan proportions as well as a liberation of intellectual property regimes, which currently make such transfer expensive. It requires money and a systematic approach – it will not occur by happenstance.

The final thing that the G20 can do is to stop thinking about “reparations” due to the developing world and link any funding to these emerging economies to verifiable installations of technology. Giving money to Africa is a proven method for guaranteeing corruption – just ask Robert Mugabe. Better to link funding to technology adaption, installation and utilization than to simply measure CO2.

Canada has an opportunity to change the focus for the climate change conversation at the G20 in the summer of 2010. It needs to start positioning this thinking now if it is to be truly influential in redirecting the energies of the parties during the year.

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