Roger Helmer MEP blogs here.
Chris Huhne is hailing the eleventh-hour Climate deal (more like thirteenth-hour, in fact) in Durban as "a triumph for EU diplomacy" — even as we watch the €uro crash and burn, and the EU's stock in world affairs slump. He tells us that EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard has played a blinder, and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Geoffrey Lean takes up the theme in the Telegraph. The deal, he says, "gives the world a chance".
But there's a small problem. Ask any lawyer, and he'll tell you that an agreement to agree (at some point in the future) is no agreement at all. It's merely an agreement not to agree now. After all the whole UN climate process from Poznan to Copenhagen to Cancun (where I went to witness the event) to Durban this year, has been a case of Great Expectations frustrated, plus pious hopes of agreement next time round — never yet fulfilled.
In this case, they've excelled themselves. It's not just a delay until the 2012 Conference (in Qatar, I think it is). This time, it's an agreement to reach a binding deal in 2015, but not implemented until 2020! This is the long grass with a vengeance. Nine years is a lifetime in political terms. Probably none of the Environment Ministers, none of the heads of government, and perhaps few of the heads of state will still be in place by 2020. We could have seen three new US Presidents come (and two go) by December 2020. No Republican President will accept a binding global emissions deal — not while he has an epic deficit to address. And probably, nor will a Democratic President. After all, Climate Change is so last century.
So in effect, Durban ended, like Copenhagen and Cancun before it, with no substantial agreement. Yes, they've got some consolation prizes on forestry. They've got a new fund to assist poor countries facing the adverse consequences of climate change (though no clear idea where the funding will come from in these straightened times). But an emissions deal? Don't hold your breath.
Speaking of poor countries, there seemed to be a devil's pact between the EU (the only advanced economic area gung-ho for emissions cuts) and the poor of the world. The poor have been seduced by suggestions that they will suffer most from the effects of climate change (though floods in Bangladesh have more to do with tectonic subsidence than sea level rise). And they've seen an opportunity to lay a guilt trip on the (relatively) rich world, and make some money out of it. The Maldives aqua-lung under-water cabinet meeting was perhaps the most blatant example of using climate hysteria to pass the begging bowl.
They should get real. Climate change represents a greater threat to poorer countries, not because of sea-level rise or temperature impacts on agriculture, but because the draconian emissions cuts demanded by the eco-zealots will deny poor countries the access to the cheap energy they need, and keep them in poverty.
Meantime, our own emissions plans in the UK threaten disaster. A timely report from the Adam Smith Institute, in conjunction with the Scientific Alliance, argues that the British government's over-reliance on wind farms will inevitably lead to power cuts as our nuclear fleet ages, and EU rules force the closure of perfectly good coal-fired power stations. Of course I have been pointing for years to the inevitability (on current policies) of major disruptions of power supplies in the UK in the next decade. But it's good to have the big battalions batting on the same wicket.