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Gordon Brown: A Nordic makeover, then back to frying the planet

Joan Buades | Alba Sud

Copenhaguen will be the venue of the next United Nations Summit for Climate Change, where it is expected to reach a new agreement to substitute the Kyoto Protocol. With this section, Alba Sud begins a series of articles named COUNTDOWN TO COPENHAGUEN, through which this process will be followed. 

The date is set for December in Copenhagen. The world is going to try to devise a new agreement to replace the current Kyoto Protocol. Contrary to 1997, we now know that the scientific community was mistaken: each new report from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issues ever more dire forecasts on the increasing greenhouse effect. Sectors so far lucky enough to dodge common efforts to stabilize the climate and docile governments insensitive to the vital interests of humanity have started scrambling to whitewash their image because there is a risk that the upcoming agreement may impose steep and compulsory emissions reductions on key industries, especially in the North.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown provides a revealing case in point. This past July, he proposed raising US$100 billion by 2020 through a new ‘emissions market’, focused on the sky-high climate bill for air and maritime transport neglected in Kyoto. The money would be used for mitigating the effects of climate change, especially in the South. Simultaneously, his government was launching The Road to Copenhagen, which makes a show of how “small” Britain’s climate footprint is and, in passing, puts its stock in a substantial increase in ultra-dangerous nuclear power. Naturally, the roadmap presents the United Kingdom as aspiring to be a world leader in the fight against climate change and shows its hand by betting on the creation of a vast new financial ‘market’ based on pollution ‘rights’ invented by the Kyoto climatocracy. This ‘intelligent’ solution to a climate in ruins would come from efficient cooperation in neoliberal terms among some industries capable of making it profitable to go nuclear and creating neo-colonial carbon dioxide sinks in many countries of the South, which, even more, could be presented as a new wave of ‘development aid’, even riding the wake of the UN Millennium Development Goals.

Brown’s move is illustrative because it affects two pillars of globalization ‘overlooked’ in Kyoto: international aviation and maritime container logistics. Just in the part related to tourism, their climate bill accounts for 5% to 14% of all emissions and the trend is pointing to an enormous increase, when the scientific consensus is insisting on a minimum reduction of 50% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. The most telling aspect of Brown’s play is that, just one week following his ‘climate spot’, his government was confirming that ‘no it was not ready’ to set the emissions level for the strong British aviation industry that is to serve as the baseline for complying with the EU Emissions Trading Directive. In a nutshell: the fear of a strong Copenhagen agreement that would make global environmental law and could affect sectors up until now enjoying impunity (e.g. international tourism and maritime transport of goods), is triggering, through friendly Nordic governments, ‘greenwashing’ strategies for industries that are lethal to our shared climate. With one crutch, he is propping himself up on nuclear power proliferation and with the other attempting to squeeze even more out of the South using the climate pretext. The hand will either go to this turbid makeover a la Brown at the service of industrial lobby groups or to the sensibleness of the scientific community and global climate justice movements. Because the cost for us as a single human race under threat is so high, we must not overlook this.

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