Why Copenhagen Failed

The end of the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change occasioned much hand wringing and recrimination amongst climate change alarmists. There were accusations that the gathered plenipotentiaries had been inadequately prepared;  that the protocol the governments had been expected to sign had not been properly vetted and that not enough footwork had been done to shore up support from the developing world.

That last point was particularly acute and was amplified in this piece by Mary Kissel , the editor of the opinion page of the Asian Wall Street Journal.  In it Ms. Kissel profiles Jairam Ramesh, India’s Environment and Forests Minister who has few kind words for the climate change evangelists and their chorus in the developed world.  Ramesh  points out the environmental fads of the developed world have very little to do with third  world realities.  Ramesh has gone onthe attack against bogus science  by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ( IPCC)  – particularly when it claims that the Himalayan glaciers will have melted by the year 2035.   He even founded an Indian climate change research institute as an implicit snub at the IPPC for its politicized advocacy which he feels compromises  its empirical research.  He has complained  that a lack of graduation in climate control targets  means that all countries take on exactly the same burden as every other country in the levels of emission of controls, no matter what their per -capita income is or will be. 

But more important than this, the developing world, led by India, China, Brazil and South Africa  – is loathe to countenance any binding agreement which will constrict its developmental options.   That is to say that all these countries, while ostenibly admitting the seriousness of global warming,  have put their econmies and productivity first and  have no desire to sacrifice their potential growth for mere bandaid measures that may have no noticeable impact on global warming.

China is particularly in tune with this kind of thinking.  With a powerhouse economy driven by cheap coal and low wages, it is fast emerging as a global economic super power and wants nothing placed in the way of such progress.  It essentially led the sabotage of the Copenhagen conference because it knew that the emissions controls demanded of it would crimp its quest for global economic dominance. 

The most  important lesson to learn from Copenhagen is that multilateralism is not as vigorous as global governance advocates and environmentalists would have us believe.   Some nations will actually place their own interests ahead of  so called global efforts particularly if the calamities to be avoided have not been adequately vouchsafed by reliable evidence or the sacrifices demanded of them do not make proper economic sense. 

Nations are therefore much like people in this respect; if you want something from them,  offer them incentives – but don’t expect self-sacrifice.  That is as relevant for the war on terror, the attempt to hem in  Iranian nuclear ambitions or the struggle for global financial stability- as it is for controlling fossil fuel emissions.


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