The Copenhagen Stitch-Up

skunk

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Johann Hari: Leaders of the rich world are enacting a giant fraud
Corporate lobbyists can pressure or bribe governments to rig the system in their favour


Friday, 11 December 2009

Every delegate to the Copenhagen summit is being greeted by the sight of a vast fake planet dominating the city's central square. This swirling globe is covered with corporate logos – the Coke brand is stamped over Africa, while Carlsberg appears to own Asia, and McDonald's announces "I'm loving it!" in great red letters above. "Welcome to Hopenhagen!" it cries. It is kept in the sky by endless blasts of hot air.
This plastic planet is the perfect symbol for this summit. The world is being told that this is an emergency meeting to solve the climate crisis – but here inside the Bela Centre where our leaders are gathering, you can find only a corrupt shuffling of words, designed to allow countries to wriggle out of the bare minimum necessary to prevent the unravelling of the biosphere.
Staggering across the fringes of the summit are the people who will see their countries live or die on the basis of its deliberations. Leah Wickham, a young woman from Fiji, broke down as she told the conference she will see her homeland disappear beneath the waves if we do not act now. "All the hopes of my generation rest on Copenhagen," she pleaded. Dazed Chinese and Indian NGOs explain how the Himalayan ice is rapidly vanishing and will be gone by 2035 – so the great rivers of Asia that are born there will shrivel and cease. They provide water for a quarter of humanity.
Mohamed Nasheed, the President of the drowning Maldives, said simply: "The last generation of humans went to the moon. This generation of humans needs to decide if it wants to stay alive on planet Earth."
We know what has to happen to give us a fighting chance of avoiding catastrophe. We need carbon emissions in rich countries to be 40 per cent lower than they were in 1990 – by 2020. We can haggle with each other over how to get there but we can't haggle with atmospheric physics over the end-goal: the Earth's atmosphere has put this limit on what it can absorb, and we can respect it, or suffer.
Yet the first week of this summit is being dominated by the representatives of the rich countries trying to lace the deal with Enron-style accounting tricks that will give the impression of cuts, without the reality. It's essential to understand these shenanigans this week, so we can understand the reality of the deal that will be announced with great razzmatazz next week.
Most of the tricks centre around a quirk in the system: a rich country can "cut" its emissions without actually releasing fewer greenhouse gases. How? It can simply pay a poor country to emit less than it otherwise would have. In theory it sounds okay: we all have the same atmosphere, so who cares where the cuts come from?
But a system where emissions cuts can be sold among countries introduces extreme complexity into the system. It quickly (and deliberately) becomes so technical that nobody can follow it – no concerned citizen, no journalist, and barely even full-time environmental groups. You can see if your government is building more coal power stations, or airports, or motorways. You can't see if the cuts they have "bought" halfway round the world are happening – especially when they are based on projections of increases that would have happened, in theory, if your government hadn't stumped up the cash.
A study by the University of Stanford found that most of the projects that are being funded as "cuts" either don't exist, don't work, or would have happened anyway. Yet this isn't a small side-dish to the deal: it's the main course. For example, under proposals from the US, the country with by far the highest per capita emissions in the world wouldn't need to cut its own gas by a single exhaust pipe until 2026, insisting it'll simply pay for these shadow-projects instead.
It gets worse still. A highly complex system operating in the dark is a gift to corporate lobbyists, who can pressure or bribe governments into rigging the system in their favour, rather than the atmosphere's. It's worth going through some of the scams that are bleeding the system of any meaning. They may sound dull or technical, but they are life or death to countries like Leah's.
Trick one: hot air. The nations of the world were allocated permits to release greenhouse gases back in 1990, when the Soviet Union was still a vast industrial power – so it was given a huge allocation. But the following year, it collapsed, and its industrial base went into freefall – along with its carbon emissions. It was never going to release those gases after all. But Russia and the eastern European countries have held on to them in all negotiations as "theirs". Now, they are selling them to rich countries who want to purchase "cuts". Under the current system, the US can buy them from Romania and say they have cut emissions – even though they are nothing but a legal fiction.
We aren't talking about climatic small change. This hot air represents 10 gigatonnes of CO2. By comparison, if the entire developed world cuts its emissions by 40 per cent by 2020, that will only take six gigatonnes out of the atmosphere.
Trick two: double-counting. This is best understood through an example. If Britain pays China to abandon a coal power station and construct a hydro-electric dam instead, Britain pockets the reduction in carbon emissions as part of our overall national cuts. In return, we are allowed to keep a coal power station open at home. But at the same time, China also counts this change as part of its overall cuts. So one tonne of carbon cuts is counted twice. This means the whole system is riddled with exaggeration – and the figure for overall global cuts is a con.
Trick three: the fake forests – or what the process opaquely dubs "LULUCF". Forests soak up warming gases and store them away from the atmosphere – so, perfectly sensibly, countries get credit under the new system for preserving them. It is an essential measure to stop global warming. But the Canadian, Swedish and Finnish logging companies have successfully pressured their governments into inserting an absurd clause into the rules. The new rules say you can, in the name of "sustainable forest management", cut down almost all the trees – without losing credits. It's Kafkaesque: a felled forest doesn't increase your official emissions... even though it increases your actual emissions.
There are dozens more examples like this, but you and I would lapse into a coma if I listed them. This is deliberate. This system has been made incomprehensible because if we understood, ordinary citizens would be outraged. If these were good faith negotiations, such loopholes would be dismissed in seconds. And the rich countries are flatly refusing to make even these enfeebled, leaky cuts legally binding. You can toss them in the bin the moment you leave the conference centre, and nobody will have any comeback. On the most important issue in the world – the stability of our biosphere – we are being scammed.
Our leaders are aren't giving us Hopenhagen – they're giving us Cokenhagen, a sugary feelgood hit filled with sickly additives and no nutrition. Their behaviour here – where the bare minimum described as safe by scientists isn't even being considered – indicates they are more scared of the corporate lobbyists that fund their campaigns, or the denialist streak in their own country, than of rising seas and falling civilisations.
But there is one reason why I am still – despite everything – defiantly hopeful. Converging on this city now are thousands of ordinary citizens who aren't going to take it any more. They aren't going to watch passively while our ecosystems are vandalised. They are demanding only what the cold, hard science demands – real and rapid cuts, enforced by a global environmental court that will punish any nation that endangers us all. This movement will not go away. Copenhagen has soured into a con – but from the wreckage, there could arise a stronger demand for a true solution.
If we don't raise the political temperature very fast, the physical temperature will rise – and we can say goodbye to Leah, and to the only safe climate we have ever known.​
http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-leaders-of-the-rich-world-are-enacting-a-giant-fraud-1837963.html

Just how much will the Copenhagen Circus achieve?
 

Eraserhead

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Nov 3, 2005
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It sounds like a lot of stuff at the conference is a pile of ********, including all the (frankly unnecessary) corporate sponsorship.

However one initial comment from reading the article.

For example, under proposals from the US, the country with by far the highest per capita emissions in the world
That actually isn't true. The gulf states all are higher, and in fact the US comes in 9th (source).
 

Rampant.A.I.

macrumors 6502a
Sep 25, 2009
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I don't know.

How much does link-and-running without bothering to articulate your thoughts achieve?
 

Eraserhead

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Thomas Veil

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How much does link-and-running without bothering to articulate your thoughts achieve?
I similarly dislike this kind of initial post -- or ones that post an article and say "Discuss!" But I'm grateful to at least see a reasonable topic about Copenhagen.

I "get" cap and trade, and I suppose it's better than nothing, but yeah, for the biggest polluters, it's an accounting trick. God forbid we actually do anything substantive.
 

Tesselator

macrumors 601
Jan 9, 2008
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Japan
I don't get why people still ignorantly think CO2 is a pollutant. The XBox 360 data is the only data that says that it is. It was a simulation. What's difficult to understand about that? A 20 year REAL study using REAL data from REAL sensors in space - which ended around September 2009 shows very clearly that CO2 follows warming and helps to REDUCE the greenhouse affect. Doesn't anyone here read at all? Really? All of you just get something in your heads and refuse to change as the scientific results roll in? Excuse me if I seem rude in saying: That's ridiculous!!!

Which would you like to believe?

A) An XBox 360 simulation - shown very clearly to be faulty? Or
B) Real data from real sensors?

It really is as simple as that!

The conjecture from me and others about WHO and WHY the IPCC and related organizations don't correctly publish the real data aside, at least accept the facts of the matter.
 

obeygiant

macrumors 601
Jan 14, 2002
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totally cool
from the article

Most of the tricks centre around a quirk in the system: a rich country can "cut" its emissions without actually releasing fewer greenhouse gases. How? It can simply pay a poor country to emit less than it otherwise would have. In theory it sounds okay: we all have the same atmosphere, so who cares where the cuts come from?
But a system where emissions cuts can be sold among countries introduces extreme complexity into the system. It quickly (and deliberately) becomes so technical that nobody can follow it – no concerned citizen, no journalist, and barely even full-time environmental groups. You can see if your government is building more coal power stations, or airports, or motorways. You can't see if the cuts they have "bought" halfway round the world are happening – especially when they are based on projections of increases that would have happened, in theory, if your government hadn't stumped up the cash.
Last night Letterman interviewed Dr. James Hansen and they were saying the same thing. The carbon off-set thing is basically bullsiht. Developed nations can still move along as though nothing is different. Even if we stopped all methane and CO2 emissions today, there would still be the some human induced climate change.
 

Zombie Acorn

macrumors 65816
Feb 2, 2009
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This whole global carbon credit system is laughable. Why would I pay some other small country that doesn't pollute very much to start with, to not pollute so that I can pollute more? wtf? If we are going to do this system put a carbon per square ft of land regulation and don't allow any trading of credits. Id love to see some of these retarded congressmen squirm when all five of their houses don't meet regulations. We can turn the heater/AC off in all DC government buildings as a good start too.

All this whole thing is going to be is a way to stick it to the poorest of the poor, and keep poor nations from developing properly.
 

Eraserhead

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This whole global carbon credit system is laughable. Why would I pay some other small country that doesn't pollute very much to start with, to not pollute so that I can pollute more?
One of the reasonings behind it is that there are more "easy wins" available to improve energy efficiency in the developing world more cheaply than you can in developed countries.

Whether that is true in reality with corruption etc. is another question.

EDIT: It is worth pointing out that assuming 2% growth by 2020 a cut of 40 to 45% per dollar (the Chinese commitment) works out to reduce emissions by 27% to 33%. If you assume 2.5% growth it would reduce emissions by 23 to 30% (the two figures depend on whether emissions are cut by 40% per dollar or 45% per dollar).

As djellison pointed out earlier emissions per capita are important too - but Chinese emissions per capita are highly likely to stay lower than EU ones.
 

Zombie Acorn

macrumors 65816
Feb 2, 2009
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One of the reasonings behind it is that there are more "easy wins" available to improve energy efficiency in the developing world more cheaply than you can in developed countries.

Whether that is true in reality with corruption etc. is another question.

EDIT: It is worth pointing out that assuming 2% growth by 2020 a cut of 40 to 45% per dollar (the Chinese commitment) works out to reduce emissions by 27% to 33%. If you assume 2.5% growth it would reduce emissions by 23 to 30% (the two figures depend on whether emissions are cut by 40% per dollar or 45% per dollar).

As djellison pointed out earlier emissions per capita are important too - but Chinese emissions per capita are highly likely to stay lower than EU ones.
Even if we halved the emissions isn't the argument of global (whatever) that this trend started in the industrial revolution? If we halve our emissions and are skimming by what is our pollution emissions compared to the mid 1900s now that we have more of the world that is developed? Or are we going to just cut emissions, forget about the theory and consider it a win?
 

Tesselator

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Even if we halved the emissions isn't the argument of global (whatever) that this trend started in the industrial revolution? If we halve our emissions and are skimming by what is our pollution emissions compared to the mid 1900s now that we have more of the world that is developed? Or are we going to just cut emissions, forget about the theory and consider it a win?
It might end up being something like that. But only actually a "win" for those wishing to use the system to control or influence the economies of the nations they can get away with it with. Even a 99% cut won't alter the whether or the climate one iota.

Of course you're all recognizing the fact that when a body of governance (ie. a government) is able to control or influence the energy consumption of a nation, that body is then capable of controlling or influencing the economics of the nation in question and of course the individuals that define it - as a nation? Aren't you?
 

skunk

macrumors G4
Original poster
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Republic of Ukistan
I don't know.

How much does link-and-running without bothering to articulate your thoughts achieve?
Unnecessary. I read the article early this morning and posted it at 7.58am before going to work at 8.00am - where I do not have internet access except on an iPhone - and I thought it was interesting enough to be food for thought. If you only find it irritating, and can't come up with a useful thought yourself, don't feel you have to reply.
For the record, I think that the whole exercise is in danger of becoming a transparently vacuous and inexcusably crass public relations exercise by politicians and their corporate backers paying lip service and nothing more to an overwhelmingly important issue.
 

NT1440

macrumors G5
May 18, 2008
12,141
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I don't get why people still ignorantly think CO2 is a pollutant. The XBox 360 data is the only data that says that it is. It was a simulation. What's difficult to understand about that? A 20 year REAL study using REAL data from REAL sensors in space - which ended around September 2009 shows very clearly that CO2 follows warming and helps to REDUCE the greenhouse affect. Doesn't anyone here read at all? Really? All of you just get something in your heads and refuse to change as the scientific results roll in? Excuse me if I seem rude in saying: That's ridiculous!!!

Which would you like to believe?

A) An XBox 360 simulation - shown very clearly to be faulty? Or
B) Real data from real sensors?

It really is as simple as that!

The conjecture from me and others about WHO and WHY the IPCC and related organizations don't correctly publish the real data aside, at least accept the facts of the matter.
What the **** are you talking about? You honestly believe that CO2 only started being considered a pollutant in the times since the xbox 360 has been around?
 

Eraserhead

macrumors G4
Nov 3, 2005
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For the record, I think that the whole exercise is in danger of becoming a transparently vacuous and inexcusably crass public relations exercise by politicians and their corporate backers paying lip service and nothing more to an overwhelmingly important issue.
Maybe by some countries. There are certainly countries that doesn't apply to like China for example.

As I showed above per dollar the Chinese targets are almost as ambitious as the EU, and per capita obviously their emissions are lower. And frankly as this is a central Chinese government target and they have a reputation for getting things done. Also the environment and energy security are both very important so they are highly likely to meet the target.

To give an example of this attitude on public transportation alone they've got 13 metro systems in different cities with at least one line currently operating and another 11 systems are estimated to begin operations by 2015 and most of the existing systems are going to be expanded significantly as well (source). On top of that they're building 7 high speed 300 km/h lines linking up most of their major cities - with 25000km of high speed railway track (so I guess that'd be halved if there is one track in each direction) to be complete by 2020 (source).

 

Zombie Acorn

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What the **** are you talking about? You honestly believe that CO2 only started being considered a pollutant in the times since the xbox 360 has been around?
You seem to be getting pretty worked up, calm yourself, your heart rate is probably rising and you are breathing more causing more CO2 to be produced.
 

imac/cheese

macrumors 6502a
Jun 7, 2007
555
1
This whole global carbon credit system is laughable. Why would I pay some other small country that doesn't pollute very much to start with, to not pollute so that I can pollute more? wtf? If we are going to do this system put a carbon per square ft of land regulation and don't allow any trading of credits. Id love to see some of these retarded congressmen squirm when all five of their houses don't meet regulations. We can turn the heater/AC off in all DC government buildings as a good start too.

All this whole thing is going to be is a way to stick it to the poorest of the poor, and keep poor nations from developing properly.
The whole idea of these carbon credits is this:

A energy efficient business caps it carbon emissions in 2009. In 2010 it does several projects to lower its energy use even more. In 2011, it wants to expand and build a new facility that will greatly increase its energy use. Instead of having to run two facilities with the energy it once used to run a single facility, the business can increase its energy use while at the same time pay to lower the energy use at a manufacturing facility in China. That Chinese plant has not done anything to reduce carbon emissions as of yet, but now that this company is providing funding, the plant will considerable lower its emissions. This is especially cost effective for the business if the Chinese plant gets its energy from coal plants that do nothing to keep emissions low.

If you don't allow trading of carbon credits, you limit the expansion capabilities of every business. If a business is going ot double in size, there has to be a way for it to offset it energy use.

I don't see cap and trade hurting poor nations; I actually think it will be a benefit to them. They will get a lot of businesses bringing money into their country to improve the energy efficiency there so those businesses can claim the reductions. These projects will advance the development of these countries instead of hinder it.
 

Eraserhead

macrumors G4
Nov 3, 2005
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I don't see cap and trade hurting poor nations;
It depends how it is done. Basically it can hurt poor nations because its less efficient in terms of energy (for example) to make a car in China than it is in the US so they get taxed more.

The Economist said:
It would be best for trade (and only marginally costly for the environment) if there were no carbon-based tax adjustments. But assuming they were put in place, what might be their effect? That in turn depends on the nitty-gritty: would they be based on the amount of carbon dioxide emitted when making an equivalent good at home, or on the amount actually emitted to make the imported good? The latter would penalise developing countries, because they tend to use much more carbon-intensive technologies. So, if making an American car produced ten tonnes of carbon dioxide, taxed at $60 per tonne, then the tax on a foreign-made car arriving in America would only be $600. But if the tariff were based on the carbon dioxide emitted in the process of making a car in China, it could be double that.

Assuming the economists are ignored...
A tax based on the carbon footprint of imports, the authors reckon, would certainly benefit America’s energy-intensive industries, which otherwise bear the full cost of plans to reduce emissions. Their output would fall by only 2.5%, instead of 4%. The trouble is, developing countries would be whacked, since their exports would become markedly less competitive. China’s manufacturing exports would decline by a staggering 21% and India’s by 16%. The border tax adjustment would amount to a prohibitive tariff of 26% on China’s exports and 20% on India’s. No wonder that Chinese officials warned angrily of trade wars if border taxes were imposed. A tax based on the carbon footprint of domestic production would be much more benign in its trade effects, reducing China’s and India’s exports by around 3%.
(source)
 

Zombie Acorn

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The whole idea of these carbon credits is this:

A energy efficient business caps it carbon emissions in 2009. In 2010 it does several projects to lower its energy use even more. In 2011, it wants to expand and build a new facility that will greatly increase its energy use. Instead of having to run two facilities with the energy it once used to run a single facility, the business can increase its energy use while at the same time pay to lower the energy use at a manufacturing facility in China. That Chinese plant has not done anything to reduce carbon emissions as of yet, but now that this company is providing funding, the plant will considerable lower its emissions. This is especially cost effective for the business if the Chinese plant gets its energy from coal plants that do nothing to keep emissions low.
As a business I would rather just build my plant and not worry about it. Thanks though. Call me when you start to give incentives for going green instead of punishing people.

If you don't allow trading of carbon credits, you limit the expansion capabilities of every business. If a business is going ot double in size, there has to be a way for it to offset it energy use.
The same effect could be had by not creating this global marketplace, have a tiered energy use tax, as they go up they pay more, the government can set a target rate and that does away with all of this global crap that is going to be a complicated (and non-useful) mess.


I don't see cap and trade hurting poor nations; I actually think it will be a benefit to them. They will get a lot of businesses bringing money into their country to improve the energy efficiency there so those businesses can claim the reductions. These projects will advance the development of these countries instead of hinder it.
Because energy efficiency initiatives are very costly I imagine what we will find is bigger nations simply paying smaller countries not to work at all. If our US plants have an absolute advantage and the smaller companies have no competitive advantage compared to other nations there is no reason that they should continue to work if we can use their carbon credits more efficiently than they can.

Also what are we going to do if a country doesn't sign on and pollutes to high hell? This creates a disadvantage for all other nations in the global marketplace. Do you really want to put sanctions on a country because they want to develop their economy?
 

imac/cheese

macrumors 6502a
Jun 7, 2007
555
1
As a business I would rather just build my plant and not worry about it. Thanks though. Call me when you start to give incentives for going green instead of punishing people.

Of course you would rather build your plant. Cap and trade will create an additional burden on any business that is trying to start-up or expand operations. It is not a bad deal for existing businesses that are not planning to grow or for business that are already large and can do some major cut-backs.


The same effect could be had by not creating this global marketplace, have a tiered energy use tax, as they go up they pay more, the government can set a target rate and that does away with all of this global crap that is going to be a complicated (and non-useful) mess.
The problem with this is that our huge businesses will get hit with the largest energy taxes since they use the most energy. They also have the largest lobbying force and will not let it happen.


Because energy efficiency initiatives are very costly I imagine what we will find is bigger nations simply paying smaller countries not to work at all. If our US plants have an absolute advantage and the smaller companies have no competitive advantage compared to other nations there is no reason that they should continue to work if we can use their carbon credits more efficiently than they can.
Energy efficiency iniatives are really not that costly. Many of them pay for theemselves in 10 years or so and can have positve cash flow from day one.

Once major energy efficiencies are complete, it gets more difficult to continue to find ways to lower energy use in a cost-efective way. That is when businesses will start looking at other countries.

The rest of your statement is a possibility. If a business in a developing country is given X carbon credits, those credits might be more valuable to them if they sold them to another business instead of using them to run their own business.

Also what are we going to do if a country doesn't sign on and pollutes to high hell? This creates a disadvantage for all other nations in the global marketplace. Do you really want to put sanctions on a country because they want to develop their economy?
In cap and trade theory, if a country doesn't sign on they don't get any credits in the world market place and they have nothing to trade to other countries. They can pollute all they want and the cap and trade market will not affect them. Carbon reducing projects in their country will not be able to be claimed as a reduction in carbon.
 

Eraserhead

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The problem with this is that our huge businesses will get hit with the largest energy taxes since they use the most energy. They also have the largest lobbying force and will not let it happen.
If you count all the enterprises the Chinese government owns they probably *are* the worlds largest company and they are doing a lot to reduce emissions.
 

Zombie Acorn

macrumors 65816
Feb 2, 2009
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So we disencentivize new businesses, incentivize bloated crap corps that are already too big and causing most I'd our carbon emissions. Sounds like a wet dream for them.

No if we start this system I would rather it be fair. As your emissions rise you pay more, this will make energy initiatives even more cheap compared to the alternative. This would also steer us away from too big to fail corps that we hve to bail out.

Also if energy initiatives were cost effective as you conclude we wouldn't need to do this at all.

The only other option is to forget the whole mess and pump some money into incentives for businesses that adopt the tech.
 

Thomas Veil

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What the **** are you talking about? You honestly believe that CO2 only started being considered a pollutant in the times since the xbox 360 has been around?
I'm guessing the people in his study didn't research it by sleeping in the garage next to a car that is locked and running...