From Hyderabad, India: That debate produces change on the ground, albeit belated, is how democratic communicative action works. The Conference of Parties, COP 17, of the United Nations Framework Convention On Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Durban, South Africa, is steadily moving toward the American position. All the talk since 1992 is finally yielding results on the ground.
At issue in Durban is the contention between current emissions and expected emissions, with China leading on both counts because of the availability of cheap coal all around the world and the rising populist anathema toward the energy source everywhere. China, 4 decades after Nixon and Kissinger, is an industrialized nation together with Russia which was always so. The G7 is now formally the G8 because of unclean coal and oil allocated highly inefficiently among its various uses, and therefore, with poor utility maximization. Clean coal and better oil use among its various applications as fuel and in petrochemicals could be something the G8 can work on.
The industrial countries, worried about the highly populous emerging economies, Brazil, South Africa, India, and China, christened BASIC (already obsolete because China does not belong in this group) in Copenhagen in 2009 to displace the collective acronym BRIC coined by Goldman Sachs (not that Goldman Sachs would hang its ego on its neologism) which had included Russia (Russia can instead be acceded to the World Trade Organization, WTO, in exchange for both the United States and the Russian Federation dropping missile defense in Europe) and not South Africa, are rapidly investing in sustainable ways of life there without having to trade-off aspirations for higher standards of living to obviate the mistakes of Europe and the United States since the Industrial Revolution. BASIC can now be BINEA (to stand for Brazil, India, Near East and Africa) for Masdar in the United Arab Emirates and New Delhi, in that order, to host future COPs.
What would BINEA inherit from Kyoto? Carbon trading, a policy aspiration come true for environmental economists who built careers writing mediocre technical economics papers on the subject, has fast become obsolete because it is more a source of government revenues than the savior of the planet. The stage of development in every BINEA region, in the context of the changed mindset since Kyoto in favor of sustainable development and growth, lends itself best to a pledge-and-review regime, in lieu of emerging market oversight, based on voluntary measures to keep emissions low, including for the United States despite the American objection to it. Besides this there is no reason to negotiate any other legally binding agreement to succeed Kyoto.
Dealing first with the peoples on large continental landmasses can help Papua New Guinea of Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel fame just north of Australia. A Green Climate Fund is, therefore, no longer necessary. Private capital flows for sustainability accompanied by WTO-mediated trade related intellectual property rights (TRIPS) are the best mechanism to trigger and sustain structural change in the global economy.
Kyoto will have served its purpose by expiring in 2012.
(This article has been informed by a Times of India report on the Durban meetings)