Last Thursday evening I shared a platform with Lawrence Bloom, a leading light from the World Economic Forum, where I outlined my views about the forthcoming conference of the parties in Copenhagen for the post-Kyoto agreement on climate change.
First I expressed my concern that, whatever is agreed at Copenhagen, it is likely that the US will face difficulties in ratifying it, given the problems that are already occurring in the Senate with the Obama adminstration’s proposed cap-and-trade legislation. This indeed would be in line with what happened with the Kyoto agreement, where the US took the whole world down the yellow brick road of tradeable permits, only for Al Gore to be unable to get it ratified in the US. This time round it’s going to be a lot more difficult for the US to persuade the world to swallow market-based solutions anyway, given the paradigm shift away from the Washington consensus.
If there is to be a Plan B, l emphasised the importance of mega-cities like London working to limit the impact of climate change, as some 75 per cent of CO2 emissions comes from our cities and towns where over 50 per cent of humanity now resides. Nation states will meet in Copenhagen but there is a lot of scope for cities to collaborate and take their own initiatives, and even become a conference of parties themselves with international agreements at city level. There is a localised green economy effect possible, particularly in the transport and housing sectors, and with the right city level leadership it would help move us to a less carbonised world.
Finally l made a moral plea for some thinking beyond the box, in connection with climate refugees, because environmental degradation leaves the poor most vulnerable to natural disaster. Migration as an adaptative response to poverty, hunger and environmental disasters is a practice humankind has followed since the beginning when our species came out of Africa. Today’s environmental refugees should be acknowledged and assisted in the host countries by a similiar Geneva Convention to that for political refugees. Such a safety net is the least we in the developed world should offer, in recognition of our contribution to global environmental problems and our imposition of particular models of development on the developing world.