December 23, 2009

Copenhagen's Chinese Christmas Present

After the American Century
Posting 204

As more insider accounts of the Copenhagen Summit come in, the Chinese emerge as the chief villains, a strong word, but not strong enough in this case. A piece in The Guardian reveals how the Chinese sabotaged attempts at a final consensus.

In the future, clearly, one cannot hold talks and hope that all the great powers agree. Giving every important power a veto right or the chance to undermine an agreement is just silly. Instead, the world will have to find another way to work toward relieving global warming. The summit model is not working, and perhaps can never work.

Here are some interlinked suggestions:

1. Create a system that ranks countries into four groups, depending on to what degree they are working toward global warming.

2. Tell consumers worldwide where each nation ranks, so that they can choose intelligently and buy products based on how much a nation is in compliance with UN goals. Under such a system, China would get a D rating, of course, and the US would perhaps as well. I would hope that consumers would be more willing to buy from nations that are trying to solve the problem of global warming rather from those that are making matters worse.

3. Allow companies to be rated as well, so that an environmentally responsible company can get a higher ranking than the nation where they are located.

4. Cities of more than 300,000 people would also be able to apply for and achieve ratings, so that if Seattle or Munich or Oslo or Rio wanted to they could achieve a rating higher than that within their home nation.

5. Give aid for conversion to clean energy technologies only to those Third World Nations where the military budget is less than 2% of GNP. It is absurd to pour money into a nation that is investing in arms and airplanes rather than solar panels, wind mills, and the like. Many poor nations are not focusing their own resources on the problem, and if this is the case, why should anyone else?

6. Give annual awards to successful projects (actually completed, not just proposals) that both improve the quality of life and reduce global warming. Make the awards as glamorous as the Nobel Prizes or the Academy Awards. Governments whose nations are in the A category would also be put in the limelight at these events and part of the ceremony would be to welcome any new members of the "A" club and to congratulate those who had moved up a category. Nations in the D category would not be allowed to have an official speaker or presenter at the awards, but they would be welcome to attend.

7. Instead of the trading system that most nations now have or want, where all free trade is considered to be a good thing, no matter what is traded, nations would be encouraged to revise their import taxes or other tax codes to favor products whose production and use had the least environmental impact. This sort of taxation would recognize that it costs more to manufacture in an environmentally responsible way. I do not suggest that the taxes be punitive, but rather that they be a restructuring of current VAT, and that they be applied to c. 100 goods that are particularly important in this area, notably automobiles, air conditioners, stoves, televisions, and so forth.

As these proposals suggest, we can no longer wait around for the nations of this earth to become unanimous. China blocked the deal this time, but it could be someone else the next time. Instead, turn loose the power of consumers and introduce something that the Chinese can understand: SHAME. They may think they have emerged as a great power, but the Chinese have lost face. Their government has not behaved in an honorable way.