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Walter Russell Mead: Climate Talks Hit A New Low

Walter Russell Mead: Climate Talks Hit A New Low

This year’s global climate summit talks in Warsaw are set to come to a close later this week, and yet again it looks like nothing lasting will come of them. But even by the annual UN summit’s own dismal standard, this round has been particularly dysfunctional.

First, Poland set the tone by scheduling a coal conference in town at the same time as the climate conference proceedings were set to happen. Then, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk sent an unmistakeable message to the greens: he replaced his environmental minister, Marin Korolec, who was chairing the talks, with Maciej Grabowski, a former deputy finance minister who has been an outspoken proponent of shale gas in Poland . The newly powerless Mr. Korolec, however, was still tasked with presiding over the climate talks.
But the fun didn’t end there. Green groups, fed up with the lack of progress in negotiating a Global Climate Treaty, walked outin protest for the first time in the UN climate talks’ nearly two-decade history. And it wasn’t just greens stamping their feet in frustration. A bloc of developing nations known as the Group of 77 walked out with China early yesterday morning over a lack of progress on negotiating so-called “loss and damage” provisions—compensations for damages from bigger storms, higher seas, and longer droughts.
Greens are going to walk (or fly, as the case may be) away from Warsaw bitterly disappointed. But this summit, like the ones before it, was doomed from the beginning. Divvying up responsibility for climate change is an impossibly difficult task, and even if the world could agree on who owed what to whom, without some kind of binding enforcement mechanism, the agreement would be about as effective as the Kellogg-Briand pact.
Some parts of the world—America being one example—are figuring out ways to keep growing while limiting the environmental fallout. The Poles, for their part, are on the right track with their desire to develop their shale gas resources—something sullen greens ought to be applauding rather than scorning. Environmental ministers would do better encouraging efficiency and talking up technological progress in their own countries rather than wasting everyone’s time at these increasingly irrelevant summits.

Via Meadia, 21 November 2013

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