Is it time to play bad COP in South Africa?

Published: 25 November 2011 at 13:42

Anglia Ruskin’s Dr Aled Jones suggests the US should be asked to step aside

Dr Aled Jones, Director of the Global Sustainability Institute based at Anglia Ruskin University, believes it might be time to ask the United States to step aside and concentrate on their domestic challenges – and let China lead the green revolution.

Political leaders from all over the world gather in Durban, South Africa, next week for the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

However Dr Jones, who also chairs a working group on climate finance within the Capital Markets Climate Initiative on behalf of the government, doubts whether the world will be any closer to agreeing a global framework to tackle climate change.

He said:

“Durban was always supposed to be the meeting at which leaders met to congratulate themselves on a job well done following a global agreement which was agreed in Copenhagen (COP15) with the fine detail agreed in Cancun (COP16). This of course is not the case.
“Recent domestic turmoil across the Arab world has raised hopes for tackling other key global challenges – namely equity and development.  Other domestic turmoil, in the United States in particular, has meant a complete standstill on most, if not all, international policy negotiations.
“The back-and-forth nature of Australia’s relationship with carbon has settled, at least for the duration of COP, with the introduction of an ambitious carbon tax while the small island states continue to shout as loud as they can for survival.
“To achieve the overall objective of the UNFCCC as laid out in 1992 – to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions to prevent ‘dangerous’ anthropogenic interference with the climate system – requires society and business to fundamentally change their mode of operation.  This is why, year after year, COP after COP, progressive business groups, investors, community groups and political commentators call for more ambition and more certainty from the policy negotiators. This is still to be delivered.
“Therefore, is it now time to play bad COP?  Should political leaders now grasp the challenge and sideline countries that are not in a position to negotiate seriously because of domestic challenges that they face and develop a highest common denominator solution rather than a lowest common denominator one?
“The Arab world may need time to elect their new leaders and draft new constitutions but they will be, on the whole, good allies.  Europe will continue to try and lead the debate but will be held back by the knowledge that we can’t bring very much to the table at the moment.  Maybe Canada will lose its usual first place and come second in the annual ‘Fossil of the Year’ awards at COP this year? 
“With a split as wide as there currently is in the United States, maybe it’s time to ask them to step aside and let the world’s banker, China, lead the green technology and green economy revolution?”

The Global Sustainability Institute was launched earlier this year and is a research institute based at Anglia Ruskin which encompasses a broad portfolio of areas and interests including environment, climate change, technology, business practice and finance, education and health.