Well, the annual climate talks began again today. This time they’re in Doha, the capital of Qatar, which has the highest per-capita emissions in the world.
Equity is, of course on the agenda. The surprise — at least it’s a surprise for some — is that its no longer a peripheral issue. With the negotiations now tasked with setting the stage for a 2015 negotiations breakthrough, equity is getting some real time in the spotlight. In that context, you might spare a moment to read The pathway to Ambition, the “equity opener” which was just published in the opening edition of the Climate Action Network‘s ECO newsletter. I quite agree with it. In fact, I confess, I wrote it.
The unedited version is just a wee bit sharper. Here it is below.
“Is equity really the pathway to ambition? ECO is here to say that it had better be. Without equity, nothing else will work. Which is to say that nothing else will work well enough. Without equity the story of the climate transition will be a story of “too little, too late,” and as the scientists are anxiously telling us – see, recently, the World Bank’s Turn Down the Heat report – this is a story without a happy ending.
Let’s admit the public secret that we all already know – equity will either be shaped into a pathway to ambition or inequity will, assuredly, rise before us as an altogether unscalable wall. We can see how this would happen. The US — while insisting that it’s pushing bravely past the sterile politics of an obsolete North / South firewall – has managed to purge CBDR (and RC) from all official texts. But to what effect? Has it noticed that a supermajority of Parties understand the absence of new equity language as an affirmation of the original, and take the Convention’s language to remain entirely operational? Has it noticed that actions provoke reactions?
Todd Stern, still the head of the US delegation, has rejected the Annexes as “anachronistic,” and has gone on to call for “the differentiation of a continuum, with each country expected to act vigorously in accordance with its evolving circumstances, capabilities and responsibilities.” It’s a good idea, though alas it suffers by its association with the US’s aggressive – and often abrasive – drive to destroy 1997’s Kyoto Protocol. Coming into Doha, ECO can only wonder if this unfortunate picture is about to change. With Mr. Obama’s re-election, there’s a chance to reset Washington’s international strategy. There won’t be many more.
Naomi Klein, as it happens, is working on both a book and a movie on the climate crisis. Which is great, because she’s a talented spokeswoman, and a key strategist, and she’s working to put together a new framing, one that actually helps us get our arms around the crisis.
There’s a lot happening on the climate front, and most it is is integrated, one way or another, into this very nice half-hour interview with Bill Moyers. The Moyers headline is “Capitalism and climate,” but the real thrust of Klein’s rap here is the climate crisis as an historic opportunity for progressives. The propaganda campaigns of the carbon cartel, 350’s Do the Math tour, the mainstreaming of the Carbon Tracker work, the great refocusing that has come in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, it’s all grist here.
This interview is worth a close listen. As you do, study her framing. It’s damn good, though not perfect. Naomi, in particular, doesn’t have much to say on the international side, at least not here. Which is not at all a surprise, since the “US in the world” problem is a very, very difficult one. The good news is that there’s really no fundamental disconnect between the domestic and the international sides of the climate justice agendas. It’s clear, at this point, that we’re all in this together. It’s just that some of us are riding first class, while others are trapped down in the holds.
And this is just as true within the US as it is globally.
Amazing letter in Nature, by legendary — well, OK, famous — investor Jeremy Grantham. You gotta read it, especially if you’re a scientist.
I have yet to meet a climate scientist who does not believe that global warming is a worse problem than they thought a few years ago. The seriousness of this change is not appreciated by politicians and the public. The scientific world carefully measures the speed with which we approach the cliff and will, no doubt, carefully measure our rate of fall. But it is not doing enough to stop it. I am a specialist in investment bubbles, not climate science. But the effects of climate change can only exacerbate the ecological trouble I see reflected in the financial markets — soaring commodity prices and impending shortages.
America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy, by James Gustave Speth (Yale University Press, 2012, 272 pages)
Gus Speth has been around the block — cofounder of the World Resources Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council, senior environmental advisor to President Jimmy Carter, head of the UN Development Program, Dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences at Yale, and a whole lot more. He’s been a busy man, and more importantly, he’s an honest one. While not repudiating his past efforts, he readily admits that, at least when it comes to “the existential threat of climate change,” they‘ve come to “ashes.” These days, civil disobedience is at the top of his very crowded agenda. His footnotes hold surprises (I was particularly amused to see Peter Barnes and Tony Negri sharing a citation). He’s well worth reading.
Speth’s particular talent — evident here as in his earlier books — is that he’s a kind of encyclopedist. As Herman Daly says on the book’s blurbs page, America the Possible offers a “selective, judicious, and integrated” narrative that brings together “the best current thinking on the American political economic crisis.”
The selections are generally excellent, and are animated by their integration into Speth’s overall argument, which is that when we collect and organize our best ideas, and then fit them together in just the right way, we can construct a coherent vision of a new and far better America, one that’s ready to prosper even amidst the coming storms. Such arguments have, of course, been made before, but Speth’s version is so wide-ranging that after a while you realize that he’s trying to summarize the shared ambitions of the progressive American green movement as a whole. This is of course a Very Big Ask, but all told Speth is remarkably successful. Which is not to say that there aren’t some real holes in his argument. But even the book’s weaknesses don’t seem his alone, but rather the shared weaknesses of, well, the progressive American green movement.
We’re particularly glad because this essay contains an extended discussion of how GDRs – as an “equity reference framework” – could help us navigate a trust- and momentum-building transition to the high-ambition mobilization that we so desperately need.
“This increased confidence in attributing climate change to specific impacts on people’s lives, and on the bottom lines of businesses and entire countries, means weather extremes like Sandy should now be treated as major opportunities to leverage political action on climate change. It’s an idea that has gained increasing attention in recent years, from Alex Evans to David Attenborough (and in Oxfam, Duncan Green’s been haranguing us about getting better at seizing “windows of opportunity” for years).
In the context in which an abrupt change of course is needed to address the climate crisis – one some have compared only to mobilisation for war – crisis moments can create unique windows of opportunity for non-linear political change. That is precisely what we need. They can catalyse clear shifts in the values and priorities of citizens, business and political leaders around the world. Climate disasters in the global North and South alike are reminders of the common threat we face, and of the need to act collectively and urgently to avert yet greater harm.”