When I say green, you say money!

United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moonUnited Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said that achieving a deal at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference may not be possible. Good, I say and I hope that deal is never possible, because while I don't know if the Secretary General has read the deal, I have and it scares me.

I can already hear the cyberscream starting, chants of "climate change denier!" being hurled my way, nasty comments are already being crafted and I haven't even explained myself yet. Such, unfortunately is the level of debate surrounding climate change; the thing we used to call global warming.

The deal being negotiated at Copenhagen has very little to do with climate change; it may touch on it, but it also uses this issue to put in place a massive world wide redistribution of wealth. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper still takes flak for calling the Kyoto Protocol "a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations." If Harper were to say the same thing about Copenhagen, he'd be right.

Copenhagen is short for The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen (taking place December 7-18th), a conference and international treaty all wrapped up into one that beyond the surface has very little to do with climate change, but don't take my word for it, listen to the supporters.

Tim Flannery. Photo credit Mark CoulsonAustralian scientist, author and climate change activist Tim Flannery came to Ottawa recently to promote his latest book, Now or Never and to press the Canadian government to sign on to Copenhagen. Now I must say that compared to many Canadian green activists, Flannery seems highly reasonable and a nice chap; he even has a sense of humour, a quality that seems to have leeched out of our own green movement some time in the ‘90s.

When I asked Flannery about the notion reported in such climate change boosting newspapers as Britain's left-wing Guardian, that the deal would mean a massive transfer of wealth from the developed world to the developing world, Flannery didn't flinch. In fact he called this essential to the deal.

"We all too often mistake the nature of those negotiations in Copenhagen. We think of them as being concerned with some sort of environmental treaty. That is far from the case," said Flannery. "The negotiations now ongoing towards the Copenhagen agreement are in effect diplomacy at the most profound global level. They deal with every aspect of our life and they will influence every aspect of our life, our economy, our society, our relationship with the developing world, our relationship with the environment as well."

So there you have it, a man who is firmly on the side of climate change, who runs his own council full of business executives who push for a legally binding treaty at Copenhagen, saying this all has little to do with climate change. So what is it all about then?

It's about money, plain and simple. While most of the focus in the media is on the attempts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the behind the scenes negotiations are about how much developed countries will have to pay to developing ones. Ban Ki Moon says that the $150 billion USD in annual contributions to help developed countries adapt to climate change will have to be "scaled up." That's a fancy way of saying the bill just got bigger.

According to the draft treaty, in sections pushed by Flannery and the Secretary General, developed countries, in addition to being required to cut their own emissions of greenhouse gasses by 25 to 40 percent by 2020, must also make several different kinds of payment s to the developing world. There is the payment for historic or past emissions of greenhouse gases; that unspecified amount will be due almost immediately. In addition, the agreement also says (page 16, sect. 33), "Annex I Parties [developed countries] shall provide new and additional financial resources to meet the full costs incurred by developing country Parties" for any undertakings to curb emissions in the developing world. None of these payments, according to the agreement, should come from money currently set aside from foreign aid money to the developed world. Also, green technologies developed by wealthy nations must be transferred, without compensation, to developing nations to help them deal with climate change.

So, the 23 countries deemed "developed" shall pay for their own past emissions, future emissions, the reduction of their own emissions, the reduction of the emissions of developing countries and for the mitigation of any damages caused by climate change in developing nations. They will also hand over potentially lucrative technology and continue to pay aid to the developing world. Have I mentioned that India and China are among the countries that will benefit from all of these payments as their robust economies are considered developing and are therefore in need of support? If boosters of the deal have their way, not only will developed nations pay to see their jobs exported to India and China but neither country will need to sign on to binding targets for reducing their own greenhouse gas emissions.

Over the last weekend in October, tens of thousands of mostly young people around the world staged events, some 5,000 in 182 countries, calling for "an ambitious, fair, and binding global climate deal." Like most people concerned about the environment, it's doubtful these young people have any idea what is in the proposed treaty. I doubt most world leaders have read it, but if they think this deal is about climate change, they should listen to Dr. Flannery. He'd tell them this is about more, much more.

Brian Lilley is the Ottawa Bureau Chief for radio stations Newstalk 1010 in Toronto and CJAD 800 in Montreal. Follow Brian on Twitter to get the latest as it happens.

Photo credits: Tim Flannery photo, Mark Coulson, 5th World Conference of Science Journalists. Ban Ki-moon photo, World Economic Forum. Both published under Creative Commons Licence.



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