Yvo de Boer’s resignation compounds sense of gathering climate crisis
Despite his steady hands at the helm of climate talks, de Boer was losing his touch and navigated into rancorous territory
How can everything have gone so wrong so quickly? A year ago, the prospects for successful climate change regulation were bright: a new US president promised positive re-engagement with the international community on the issue, civil society everywhere was enthusiastically mobilising to demand that world leaders “seal the deal” at Copenhagen, and the climate denial crowd had been reduced to an embarrassing rump lurking in the darker corners of the internet.
Now there seems to have been a complete reversal. Obama is held hostage by a deadlocked Senate, which will agree to neither domestic climate legislation nor US participation in a new legally binding treaty.Copenhagen was a disaster from start to finish, and even the face-saving Copenhagen accord is winning at best lukewarm support even from the countries that helped draw it up. To add to the sense of crisis, the climate denial lobby is suddenly resurgent, and the conspiracy theories that underlie the hacked climate emails controversy are in danger of becoming popular received wisdom.
These are dark times. And the resignation of Yvo de Boer as executive secretary of the UN climate change secretariat today only compounds the sense of gathering crisis. De Boer has been a steady pair of hands guiding the international negotiations through some very rocky periods — not least the dramatic episode in Bali two years ago where he himself burst into tears on the plenary stage — and his trustworthy, solid presence will be sorely missed. Despite the official denials, there can be little doubt that this resignation indicates his frustration at the general unravelling of the process that was so depressingly evident at Copenhagen.
Whether de Boer himself should shoulder any of the blame for the Copenhagen debacle is arguable. Most of the responsibility for the conduct of the negotiations, which were marked by poor organisation, suspicion, bitterness and almost absurd levels of chaos on the final night, rests with the hosts Denmark. But the secretariat also appeared powerless to navigate past procedural blocking tactics employed by Sudan and other retrogressive developing nations, suggesting a creeping lack of confidence on the part of the UN. De Boer seemed to be losing his touch.
Even after Copenhagen was finally over, things continued to deteriorate. It was unclear what, if any, legal standing the accord actually had given that it was only “noted” by the Conference of Parties rather than adopted as a decision. And a 31 January deadline for countries to decide whether they wanted to be “associated” with the accord was allowed to slip, while governments continued to be confused as to what, if anything, they were supposed to be sending the secretariat.
In the meantime, the prospects for a legally binding new treaty being agreed at Cancun, at the next major UN climate meeting in December, seem to recede by the day. The only countries that support a new round of Kyoto targets are those that would not be bound by them — namely the developing countries.
Even the EU, Kyoto’s most stalwart supporter during the Bush era, is now backing away. The more logical idea of tying the world’s biggest emitters – China, the US, the EU, Russia and India, in descending order – into a single, fair framework for emissions reduction seems even less plausible, given the current political mood.
All in all, the next few months look grim. There is now no serious prospect of Obama getting legislation through the Senate, this year, or possibly ever. Following the sustained attack by climate deniers on both individual scientists and the IPCC, public confidence in climate change as an urgent issue is also steadily eroding, further reducing the room for manoeuvre by politicians. The next round of intermediate negotiations,due to start in Bonn on 31 May, look set to take place in a poisonous atmosphere of bitterness and rancour.
No wonder Yvo de Boer wanted to get out.
Source Mark Lynas Guardian
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Posted: February 24th, 2010 under Climate Change, Climate Politics, General, Negotiations, World News.
Tags: Climate Change, climate negotiations, Copenhagen, global warming, International negotiations, United Nations, World News
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