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.
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.
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