It has been known for years that serious business cannot be done in the framework of the UNFCCC (see, for example, A more effective alternative to the COP process http://thebustard.blogspot.com/2008_12_01_archive.html). Thankfully even the most dull-witted internationalists have to accept that following the shambolic meeting in Copenhagen.
There are too many parties involved. The calibre of the people there is not always adequate for the task in hand. The negotiators lack authority. It is easy for spoilers, like Saudi Arabia, to make hay. The process is idiotic. Can the power of political correctness be so strong that no big names have the guts to say this publicly?
If you want agreement between nations, negotiating parties have to have leverage over each other; and they have to be ready to use that leverage; and the other parties need to know that each is ready to use its leverage. There are two forms of leverage in international relations: economic power and military force. Pretending otherwise, as supporters of the UNFCCC process have been doing for too long now, brings no results.
Forming another UN body to replace the UNFCCC – like the security council or the WTO – also won’t work. They are too easy to hold up or too slow to reach agreement.
The truth is that most countries are irrelevant in the short term. In the short term there is one task: to cut emissions dramatically. There are only a dozen or so countries or regions which make much of a difference.
First round needs to be the billion tonne club – China, the EU, India, Japan, Russia and the USA. This covers over 70% of emissions. Why have a bleeding meeting of 193 countries when six cover 70% of the problem?
Second round, the forest countries of South America, Africa and Asia.
Third round, a handful of countries with emissions between 200 million and one billion tonnes: Canada, South Korea, Iran, Mexico, South Africa, Saudi Arabia (probably leave them out; once people stop buying their oil, their emissions are likely to fall anyway), Australia, Ukraine, Thailand and Turkey. It’s still only ten countries. Brazil and Indonesia do their deal as forest countries.
After that every other country is irrelevant since its emissions are all under 1% of the total.
The countries in round one have the lion’s share of the nuclear weapons and military capacity on the planet and also run the economy (it contains the rich world and three of the BRICs). Therefore, after round one it should be simple to force the remaining countries to play ball.
Or do we go on an on being polite to everyone until we frazzle?
The irony is that climate change politics is the realm of doves. But for anything to be done you need hawks.