Joe Jordan

the geek of hearts

Tuvalu vs. China and Conspiracy Theories

Tuvalu vs. China

Tuvalu is a small Pacific Island state, with the third smallest population of the sovereign states (about 12,000 people). In UN terms, they aren’t a heavy weight like China (population 1,345,751,000, estimated, last census was in 2001). However, what we saw last week was a diplomatic exchange of blows between these two delegations – a David and Goliath story to warm the heart (or rally the troops…?)

Tuvalu’s delegation at the COP-15 presented a paper to the conference reaffirming the Bali objective for COP-15 of having a Legally Binding Agreement in place by next Friday evening. They also wanted the world to commit to a 2100 target of 1.5 degrees increase instead of 2, which is considerably more ambitious and requires even developing nations to commit to carbon cuts before 2050 here at COP-15. However, they amazingly garnered the support of several large blocks of delegates, including the Pacific states block (who, like Tuvalu, might cease to exist after a sea level rise of 60cm) and the African block (the proposal emphasised that a 2 degree increase for the world at large meant a 3.5 degree increase for Africa), totalling more than 100 delegations, which was enough to get them a bit more time in the limelight after the Danish negotiating chair initially batted down their submission.

Well, China didn’t take kindly to being bullied into a legal agreement that had them reducing emissions; the proposal required developing nations (in which China is currently counted) to commit to targets, to hit a 1.5 Degree increase at 2100, which is more ambitious than the current Annexe I-led proposal of 2 Degrees. This also conflicts with the Annexe I interests directly, since it means developing nations need more cash in order to meet their development needs without the extra carbon cost, which means the €7.2 Billion already pledged by the EU needs to increase, and the US and Russia will also need to cough up a bit more. Harder targets and greater cost is not something they are going to agree to without something in return, and when the only response is “the survival of my nation”, it seems they don’t have an economic incentive. Oh how differently would a Lib Dem UK Government react to such arguments; what with actually having a humanitarian heart in the right place and all.

Sadly, owing to this massive mismatch of motives, the Tuvalu papers seem to have fallen down the back on the UN negotiating sofa. boo, hiss, boo, get off the stage, etc.

Everyone likes a Conspiracy Theory!

Russia always have a rather eccentric approach to international negotiations; based on past form there is a roomer going around that they will try something in the dying hours of the summit, to claim a contribution while actually having done not very much, although this may not actually happen (let’s wait and see, hey? Give them a chance at taking the process seriously and applying themselves to solving the problems.)

As an Annexe I country, Russia is a bit atypical in that they have cut their carbon emissions since 1990 / Kyoto, take a look at the graph below.

Russian Emissions since 1990 over the fall of communism, as compared to a typical Annexe I nation

The Russians (and Ukrainians) sell their reduced carbon levels as offsets to other countries.

As you can see, they are quite happy to commit to an extended Kyoto as it allows them to massively increase their carbon emissions, while selling offsets to other nations in the meantime. This may be a neat economic trick, but it will distract from the goal of reducing the emissions (for them and others).

Russia need to get serious about this issue, just because they have the ace this hand doesn’t mean they will clean up in the end-game in 20 years, that’s not how international negotiations work (or games of poker for that matter).

originally appeared here