The near universal failure of the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has for years now pressed environmentalists and politicians to long for a new international climate accord. Through a green haze of optimism, many such global warming alarmists have set their eyes on Copenhagen, site of a long-scheduled climate summit this December. If successful, its aim is to install a replacement plan for when Kyoto officially expires in 2012.
But still eight months from that meeting, its vital signs have all but flat-lined. Whereas Kyoto died on the operating table, Copenhagen may prove dead on arrival.
An Indian delegate to the UN made clear earlier this week that any hopes of setting hard emissions caps in India were misguided: "If the question is whether India will take on binding emission reduction commitments, the answer is no. It is morally wrong for us to agree to reduce when 40 percent of Indians do not have access to electricity."
Coal generates more than 60 percent of India's energy, and the developing nation of 1.1 billion people has demanded an external subsidy from wealthier countries to develop cleaner technologies. India spends only about 2.5 percent of its gross domestic product on greening its energy production and consumption, an investment with little chance of effecting wide-scale change. And given current economic realities, outside funding is unlikely.
But the worldwide recession has not deterred European Union leaders from calling on all developed countries to contribute significant monies toward a global emissions-cutting platform. Stavros Dimas, the EU's commissioner for the environment, has put the required annual figure at about $230 billion to fund the climate agenda through 2020. Without such investment, Dimas admits, "we are not going to get anywhere. No money, no deal."
Czech Environmental Minister Martin Bursik, whose country now controls the EU presidency, placed similar emphasis on the financial need during an informal meeting of EU environmental officials in Prague this week: "It is also clear that without the technical and financial support of developed countries including the EU, the USA, Japan, and others, emerging economies such as China, India, and Brazil will find it extremely difficult to make a transition to a low-carbon economy."
Despite setting that monetary mandate, the EU remains reticent to make any public commitment or announcement of how much it might contribute. And though President Obama has spoken of a new leadership role for the United States in global climate policy, his administration has yet to put money where his mouth is.
Any shift away from the international climate accord positions of former President George W. Bush has thus far manifested only in rhetoric. True change from the Bush requirement that a binding emissions treaty include China and India might well necessitate that Obama dump billions of dollars into overseas green development-an improbable sell to a Congress and nation already in the throes of buyer's remorse.