Take heed, for the Superpower has spoken. At Round One of this year’s international climate change negotiations (in Bonn, Germany) the US has stolen the spotlight with a rousing opening address. President Barack Obama’s envoy Todd Stern stressed the need for action and warned countries like New Zealand that they’re set to become losers in the race to low carbon economies.
‘By transforming to a low-carbon economy, we can stimulate global economic growth and put ourselves on a path of sustainable development for the 21st century. I would go so far as to say that those who hang back and cling to a high-carbon path will be economic losers in the end because with the scientific facts of global warming getting worse and worse, high-carbon products and production methods will not be viable for long.’
I wonder if members of the New Zealand delegation take note, or simply keep their noses buried in their ‘how to plead special treatment and win’ manual. Rumour has it New Zealand is one of only three countries which have refused to put forward a proposed emission reduction target. The other two? Russia and the Ukraine. Nice bed pals. (and here we thought John was seeking to emulate Barack not Vladimir).
Stern was unequivocal about the need to take climate change seriously.
‘You will not get one member of my delegation questioning the science of climate change, nor the urgency. The science is clear, the threat is real, and the facts on the ground are outstripping the worst-case scenarios. The costs of inaction or inadequate action are unacceptable.’
This constitutes a complete 180 from the world’s biggest economy (and second biggest emitter). In the regretful days of the Bush administration, lead negotiator Harlan Watson did his consistent best to train-wreck the talks. (‘A targets and timetables approach will not work for us .We’re going to resist it, obviously ..The United States is opposed to any such discussions’ and so on and so forth.)
Now Watson (in Bonn on the coat-tails of a sceptic senator) sits in the corner with his head down, shamed by the strength of Stern’s conviction. Stern got a round of rapturous applause for his efforts, a stark contrast to the silence that used to befall the room after America’s contributions.
So there is indeed hope in the crisp spring air of Bonn. But you’ve got to wonder, what’s the point of bold new leaders if countries like New Zealand refuse to respond to the call?