Thursday, December 10, 2015

Meanwhile in Paris: 24 Hours to Save the World?

On Thursday a revised draft of the climate agreement was announced, with some outstanding issues apparently resolved but others still in contention.  There are hopes of a final draft in the next 24 hours, as the conference is scheduled to end on Friday.  But, the NY Times/Associated Press warns, UN conferences rarely end on time.  Update Thurs pm: According to the BBC, agreement is now expected to be presented on Saturday. President Obama and China's president spoke by phone to encourage resolution of remaining issues.

One of the issues still to be worked out is verification.  Though President Obama (who has been personally involved in negotiations from Washington) publicly supports some legally binding provisions, negotiators accept that this is unlikely--not because of intransigence by India or China or Russia or Australia.  But by outright hostility from the US Republican party, with the power to block any provision that Congress would have to pass or ratify, as reported by the New Republic earlier in the week:

"We understand the concerns they have because of the political situation in the Congress and the Senate, and the position of the Republican Party,” Arias CaƱete, who is the European Commissioner for Climate and Energy, told reporters. “You cannot make an important agreement in climate change if the second-biggest emitter of the world is not on board. We have to find a solution.”

(Republicans are still at it, with Tail Gunner Ted Cruz spouting the worst kind of debater obfuscations and psuedo-science in the guise of a congressional hearing.)

The draft was held up because of such concerns (among others), the first official delay in the conference.  But now it's out there and the Paris conference enters its final and decisive phase, with most parties expressing optimism on an agreement.

Perhaps the most dramatic related event of the week happened in China, which called its first "red alert" over dangerous smog, closing schools and workplaces. Air pollution, mostly from coal-fueled power plants, has become a major concern.
Addressing climate crisis causes with clean energy is an example of how such efforts simply make life and health better, all on their own.

But air pollution is not China's only climate crisis-related clear and present danger.  Its shrinking glaciers threaten water supplies not only within China but elsewhere in Asia.

The Paris talks have inspired many stories on the climate crisis and the issues and problems it raises, as well as efforts to deal with its causes and effects.  The Guardian has a good article focusing on local efforts in these areas, which is where most of the actual action has been.

 I've noted this here before.  Local, state and regional officials are closer to realities than the reps who go to Washington to spend most of their time raising money so they can stay in Washington.  When Paris comes up with a treaty, local efforts will make it easier to meet.  But as the Guardian piece indicates, state and local governments etc. must be part of the treaty process.

But not to worry--Uncle Jerry and California are on the case.

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