10 December, 2008

Green New Deal

Friday Afternoon. It's wet and cold in Poznan at the Climate Change Conference.

After a fairly turgid discussion of the need for emissions trading in the German car industry sector this morning, I headed over to listen to Al Gore. Two minutes in and I had to hightail it into a radio studio where I waited for a broadcasting slot for the last twenty minutes. Climate change was sidelined by the resignation of Niall Crowley from the Authority. I made the point on RTE Newst One that promoting and defending equality cannot be seen as a luxury to be marginalised when finances are constrained.

Meanwhile back in the Polish conference hall, it's Hamlet without the Prince. While parts of a Climate Change deal are being negotiated here, at the UNFCCC COP 14 talks, the real deal is being struck in Brussels at the Heads of State meeting. COP 14 is the fourteenth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and this is part of a process began in Bali a year ago that will hopefully conclude in Copenhagen in a year's time. We're also waiting to see how a new US President will tackle the issue.

There's some good news in the last half hour, a deal has been concluded in Brussels on a European package. French President Nicolas Sarkozy says the deal is historic, but I've just been handed a press release from Friends of the Earth International accusing industrialised countries of failing to commit to immediate binding emission reduction targets. On the positive side of things, Europe can take credit for being (roughly speaking) the first continent to set out a clear plan for tackling high emission.

John Gormley heads up the Irish delegation in Poland. Being a Leo, his weekly horoscope courtesy of Young Friends of the Earth Europe states that "This week the stars are in a perfect position for powerful decisions which can make a real difference for future generations. The Leo should more than ever use its leadership qualities , its creativity and passion to lead the world in the right direction." Well, that's just what the John and the rest of the Irish delegates appear to have been up to for the last fortnight. Pat Finnegan from Grian wants a 30% reduction by 2020, and the Irish branch of the Friends of the Earth want climate change to be enshrined in domestic legislation. All eyes will be on the US over the next few months to see what Barack Obama can deliver.

In Ireland the next wave of economic activity can and should be in green collar jobs. Green energy, green construction, green transport - all of these can create and foster employment in sectors that have experienced a downturn. I'm hoping that this will be part of the economic plans that are under preparation by Brian Cowen. A "Green New Deal"is the obvious way to kick-start a lagging economy, and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said as much yesterday.

I'm heading back out to the afternoon events, now. I'm hoping to attend a talk by the 350.org group on what is required to stabilise CO2 at 350 parts per million in the Earth's atmosphere. On the way over I'll pass a great collection of stands manned by NGOs, academics, business interests and institutions. Feasta is represented by Richard Douthwaite and others with material on 'cap and share' ; the International Atomic Agency has a glossy brochure of nuclear powers station surrounded by trees, the Heinrich Boll Foundation has leaflets on the right to development in a climate constrained world, and I picked up some good background information on the UK Hadley Centre (run by the Met Office) and the UK Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, named after our own John Tyndall from Co. Carlow.

As I head in to the meeting rooms Yvo de Boer of the UNFCC has just issued a statement saying that "The European Union's climate deal sends a clear message to the negociations in Poznan and onwards to Copenhagen that difficult roadblocks can be overcome and resolved", and European Commissioner Stavros Dimas has reiterated that the EU will commit to 30% cuts by 2020 "if other developed countries make comparable reductions under the Copenhagen agreement."

Concerns about leakage from these targets remain, but for the moment there's cautious optimism in Poznan.

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