The road to Copenhagen: The influence of the economic effects of climate change on the negotiation positions
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Mevrouw N. de Deugd
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What was the research about?
Newspaper headlines are shouting at us these days: “Arctic sea ice around the North Pole is disappearing fast”, “UN: the poor suffer from CO2 emissions”, “Climate change can cost thousands of billions”, “Hottest spring since 1862 in 2007” and “Emission of carbon dioxide exceeds nightmare scenarios”. It is printed in capital letters in all the newspapers: climate change. According to the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) this climate change is mostly due to the emission of greenhouse gasses. The international community sees climate change as a big danger, that’s why in 1997 an international treaty was signed that restricts these emissions (the ‘Kyoto protocol’). This protocol ends in 2012, so therefore negotiations on a successor of this Kyoto protocol are taking place in Copenhagen by the end of 2009.
Climate change will have different effects on different world parts, so because of that we investigated what will be the predicted economical consequences in various regions, namely Russia, the European Union (EU), the United States (US), China, India and the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). We also examined what will be the negotiation positions in Copenhagen of these areas. Last we tried to point out to what extent the predicted economical effects of climate change of each region would define the negotiation position of that region.
We have presumed that the average world temperature will have risen 2,5 degrees Celsius by 2100 compared to 1990. This will lead to a rise of 3,7 °C in Russia, whereas the temperature will rise 2,8 °C in Africa. The economical effects due to this temperature rise differ strongly. Russia will expect a rise of 0% up to 4% of it’s GDP, while the predictions for the EU range between a descent of 3% and a rise of 3%. China and the US will have a slight loss or a slight win of GDP due to climate change. India and the LDCs will suffer the most from the changing weather: their loss is estimated around 10% (India) and 4% (LDCs) of the GDP.
Is is no surprise that the negiotiation positions of the regions also differ strongly. Russia seems little cooperative, and wants no binding protocol. The minister of economic development and trade even declared that Russia would never sign a protocol which slows down its economic growth. The EU on the opposite is willing to contribute a lot to the retrenchment of greenhouse gas emissions. They have already agreed that they will decrease their emissions by 20% in 2020, no matter what other countries will do. If other countries follow their example, they are even willing to decrease 30% of their emissions. With the election of president Obama the US are also more willing to follow an ambitious climate policy. Obama wants to bring the greenhouse gas emissions back to the level of 1990 by 2020. But as a result of the present economic crisis the economy will probably gain priority above restricting emissions. China made a big turn in its position on climate change. It used to be a country that would never cooperate unless all the developed countries did, but now it takes a leading role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and developing green technology. Still they think that the rich countries should cooperate in a new protocol. India relies a lot more on the “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities”. They say the Western world has polluted the earth for over two centuries, so climate change is their problem and they have got to solve it. India is not willing to bind itself to any protocol, unless the Western countries agree to reduce their emission of greenhouse gasses drastically. Even then, India doesn’t see itself signing anything that would restrain their economic development. The LDCs are on the same side as China and India. They blame the West for the climate change. The difference with the two big developing countries is that the LDCs aren’t big polluters and they have no means to tackle the climate change. They need the rich countries to help them out.
When these negotiation positions are compared to the economical consequences of climate change, it becomes clear that there isn’t always a positive correlation between the two of them. The regions that have rather mild effects of climate change are the ones who are willing to ‘voluntary’ restrict their emissions, like the EU and maybe the US. The countries that suffer most from climate change, India en the LDCs, point their finger to the West and are reluctant to make any binding agreements. Only in the case of Russia there is a positive correlation between the economical effects and their position: they benefit from climate change and are ‘logically’ not cooperative in the climate negotiations.
We have tried to explain this discrepancy through looking at other aspects which might influence the positions of countries in climate negotiations. We chose five other influences, namely the public opinion, moral leadership, energy security, the development argument and linkages. It appeared that for every region different aspects were decisive. The EU wants to be seen as a moral leader and at the same time they want to be less dependent of energy from other areas by reducing their dependence on (imported) CO2 and developing a green energy sector. These two factors play a bigger role than the predicted economical effects. Energy security is also important for the US, although it is not quite sure if it is more important to them than the economical effects. It is therefore not easy to say in which direction the US will go. China, like the EU, wants to present itself as a serious player and a leader in international negotiations. That is probably the main reason why they have made a big change and are now willing to cooperate on a new protocol. India and the LDCs however rely heavily on the development argument. They believe they have a right to develop and it is therefore not their job to reduce the greenhouse gas emission. With this argument they put the responsibility for tackling climate change fully on the developed countries. This position doesn’t stroke with the economical effects at all: looking at these effects India and the LDCs would have to take action instead of blaming the West.
In conclusion: the economical effects of climate change will not be all determining during the climate negotiations in Copenhagen. Other factors, such as being a moral leader or aiming energy security, will be of great importance as well.