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After COP15 – the world keeps turning (and getting warmer)

January 18, 2010

Guardian headline: China, India, Brazil and South Africa prepare for post-Copenhagen meeting

I’ve been waiting for this.

Since COP15 the debate in CiF has been of little interest to me because I don’t care to keep rehearsing the same arguments about misunderstood or deliberately misrepresented science, conspiracies, world governments or lizard aliens. There is only one meaningful debate, and that is to address the reality of the situation. Climate change is that reality, and nowhere is it more real than in the developing nations.

These countries now taking the lead (and shouldering more than their share of responsibility) cannot afford to indulge in climate change denial. These are the countries whose development will be curtailed. It is them who have the least resilient economies. It is the poor who will pay the price on behalf of the rich. We will watch the devastation on our TVs, wring our hands, say it’s all terrible and send five quid to Comic Relief, which will run 24/7 on its own channel. And we will deny it was the fault of the west, that we did nothing because we were too busy arguing about fucking emails.

Democracy has been served at COP15: western governments did what their electorates wanted – nothing. Obama couldn’t make a deal without the support of congress and the senate, and he didn’t have that support. Brown had little to lose except the vain hope he might manage some Herculean feat at the next election. Europe is weak and vacillating, notably ineffective during the talks. In summary: leadership is not likely to come from the West.

As time goes on, I am more and more convinced that China is the country best positioned to lead the world on climate change, as I suspect it is going to lead the world in a number of ways. COP15 was just the start of a new process, the shape of which is emerging now. The outcome of COP15 wasn’t inspiring, but the best thing it achieved was to clearly signal where the power no longer resides: in the hands of western leaders. We are hopelessly divided, weak and riven with petty factionalism. The developing world sees this clearly, and now they must pick up the baton. Good luck to them.

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