Durban May Agree on Green Climate Fund, Overriding US Republicans

empty-states-voters-RepublicanA way to bypass a minority of ignorant US voters on international climate policy?

The climate talks at Durban look like they may finally yield some positive movement on a  Green Climate Fund, that would work the same way as the Clean Development Mechanism that has been so successful in growing renewable energy in the MENA region in Morocco and Egypt, but funded differently. The policy as theory has been developed and pushed at Copenhagen and then at Cancun, but it had not got any traction till these talks in Durban.

The implications for the MENA region renewable spurt are immense. Previously the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) spurred renewable energy in nations like Egypt. (Previous: Desertec Plans Get Boosts from MENA and EU Renewable Policies but later: Possible End of Kyoto at Durban Threatens MENA Renewables)

But there is some uncertainty and risk that the CDM will become a dried up vestige of earlier good intentions. It was funded by the emissions offsets that Europe’s polluter industries had to pay to obey the EU’s cap and trade laws that developed out of the signing of the Kyoto Accord.

But the Kyoto Accord is due to expire in 2012, unless international negotiators can get the entire US Republican congress to suddenly embrace the necessity to preempt climate change with a sharp run-up in renewable energy funding.

Since that is not gonna happen, China won’t agree either, so the whole world is stuck. The US, China and India (same position as China) are the three big obstacles. But it looks as if the US may be able to bypass Republican opposition, according to Todd Stern, the US climate negotiator, who is stuck in the unenviable position of pretending that he has any control at all over the minority filibuster in the US Senate that prevents votes from being taken on Democratic priorities such as preventing catastrophic climate change.

The problem for the world: the US constitution 

Here’s why there is really no way to change US climate policy. The US constitution requires two Senators for very state, whether that state has fewer than a million voters, as about 12 (mostly vast desolate wastelands of fossil fuel extraction) do, or over 35 million like California, which is humming with urban PhDs innovating clean tech. Well, not all 35 million, but they are mostly urban and educated, with plentiful access to information.

In the empty states, the right wing noise machine, as it is known in the US, really can control 99% of what goes out on the airwaves, as anyone who has driven through them can testify.

As a result, the sparse voters in the 12 empty fossil states like Wyoming, North Dakota and Alaska have up to 68 times the voting voice of the much better informed voters with real media choice in the advanced clean tech states like California. The disproportionate power of the “barefoot and ignorant” rural voter is baked into the system.

If US representation was proportional to population nationwide, US policy would represent the will of the American people, and the US would sign the climate agreement we need, just like Europe did. We are not stupid. But since it is not, the world is really out of luck on climate. Essentially, fossil industries are able to control the US government.

(Related: Dear Global Clean Energy Sector, Please Truth-Bomb the US Voter)

In addition, whenever the Senate has 40% Republicans or more, they very undemocratically make use of technicality to prevent votes on Democratic policies, because the Senate rules say that votes can only be taken when 60% agree to take a vote. They vote no, or “filibuster” that vote, and have done so since the Clinton administration. This is why Republican opposition has been able to beat Democratic will for climate action, even when Democrats held the House, and had a “majority” (more than 50) in the Senate. (Bills must pass both houses).

But at Durban, a breakthrough would bypass Republicans in the US, if the money were to come, not from a US cap and trade system (that cannot pass their opposition) but from a carbon tax on international shipping. Apparently shipping interests are not one of the industries under the control of the Koch brothers, who essentially control US policy.

“Since the US was the last major hold out on the GCF, it looks like we’re in good shape to celebrate,” said Andrew Light, a technical expert who has worked on the fund for three years.

Let’s hope.

Read more on Republicans:

Canada Muzzles Climate Science Cheney/Bush-Style
Utility-Scale Solar Projects Become a Casualty of Republicans
Ormat Gets DOE “Solyndra” Loan Before Tea Party Shuts Program Down

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9 thoughts on “Durban May Agree on Green Climate Fund, Overriding US Republicans”

  1. Dan from Ohio says:

    Wasn’t it that Democrat Joe Manchin that shot the climate change bill in his ad for re-election? Besides, if you want to see true bipartisanship, look at the Byrd-Hagel resolution. It said that it was not the sense of the Senate to ratify Kyoto (aka they voted down) 95-0. Good luck getting 67 senators to ratify what ever junk comes out from the UN. You’re going to need it

  2. Dan says:

    “As a result, the sparse voters in the 12 empty fossil states like Wyoming, North Dakota and Alaska have up to 68 times the voting voice of the much better informed voters with real media choice in the advanced clean tech states like California. The disproportionate power of the “barefoot and ignorant” rural voter is baked into the system.”

    Just to update you. Those “barefoot and ignorant” people who live in the “empty” states live there, because there are fewer people like yourself living there. Perhaps those educated people in California should figure out a way to dispose of the brown cloud that hangs over LA and how to save their bankrupt state government. THe EU signed the Kyoto accords? But aren’t they bankrupt also?

    Green technologies will be successful when they are economically feasible. Solar cells are made with heavy metals and arsenic, and degrade over time. Sound “green” to you? Go to the Phillipines sometime and see the pollution they are causing. They should be paying into a fund to clean up the environment, not countries like the US who has relatively little pollution.

    Those “better informed” people living in urban areas, may be more educated in the art of living off the government but they don’t have a clue on environmental policy. Alienating your “barefoot and ignorant” readers is not the act of someone “better informed”.

    Signed,
    Barefoot and ignorant in Colorado

  3. Maurice says:

    Only problem I see with the Durban conference is that too much attention has been given to “Israel bashing” instead of concentrating towards trying to save the planet.

  4. I could not agree with you more, Nichol: ” Is it not time to allow countries with carbon pricing to protect their industry with a carbon tariff, proportional to carbon price differentials, and embedded energy/carbon in traded goods? It would allow the ‘good guys’ to make their carbon pricing mechanism actually work. It would also protect their industry, somewhat, and stimulate them to invest in innovation, in stead of moving to countries that don’t price carbon.”

    and we are seeing the beginning of that, in Minnesota’s carbon tax on neighboring state ND coal power, the EU rules on airlines that have to pay into the ETS, and in France’s suggestion to start taxing imports from China and the US.

  5. Norm says:

    Former Governor of Alabama, George Corely Wallace, once gave an appropriate statement regarding the outcome of the War Between the States, otherwise known as The Civil War, and what resulted in all that “ignorance”: “There were good folk on both sides – cept there more of them than there was of us”.

  6. LOL says:

    Susan, you would make a REALLY good KGB Agent

  7. Nichol says:

    How should the EU and other places with a carbon pricing mechanism do? If they are to increase the price to a value that matters, they will either kill their energy-intensive industries, or force them to migrate to the dirty countries like China and the US. What can be done to level the playing field, and allow the ‘good guys’ to increase carbon pricing to levels that matter, and drive technology in the necessary corners? Is it not time to allow countries with carbon pricing to protect their industry with a carbon tariff, proportional to carbon price differentials, and embedded energy/carbon in traded goods? It would allow the ‘good guys’ to make their carbon pricing mechanism actually work. It would also protect their industry, somewhat, and stimulate them to invest in innovation, in stead of moving to countries that don’t price carbon.

    .. and, who knows? Would it also help nudge americans to rethink carbon pricing and ways to decarbonize the economy?

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