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Hopenhagen's Dirty Secret
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BEIJING – A November 21 caption on the cover of China Daily read, “Three women seem to dwarf the Bird’s Nest [National Stadium] as they enjoy the winter sunshine and the blue sky on Friday. Beijing experienced its 260th blue-sky day in 2009 on Friday, reaching its target 41 days before the end of the year.”

One might argue that the Chinese secret for climate control and reaching “targets” is that God is a card-carrying member of the Communist Party – and he has the “targets” of five-year plans to meet, just like anybody else (except “splittists”). God, of course, would not dream of becoming a splittist.

Only last month, no less than 1.34 million cars were sold across China. Now that’s a greenhouse gas bonanza. Compare it to Beijing’s new target of reducing per-unit gross domestic product carbon intensity by 40-45% from 2005 levels by 2020. What will they do with all these cars – exile them in North Korea?

Chinese businessmen, though, remain on target. Many have landed in Copenhagen for the United Nations climate change conference, and apart from sealing a smorgasbord of great new deals they have already made public their “dedication to exploring models of low-carbon economic growth”.

Stretch limo from Kyoto

Congested by 1,200 stretch limos (and only five electric cars) and 140 private jets serving the real VIPs among the 15,000 delegates, 5,000 journalists and 98 world leaders gorging on rows of sustainable foie gras (plus free sex – courtesy of Copenhagen’s 1,400-strong sex worker’s union; talk about carbon dating …), Copenhagen has been dubbed Hopenhagen. But reasons to be cheerful are slim.

Speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 countries and China, the Sudanese ambassador, Ibrahim Mirghani Ibrahim, has made it clear the North’s maneuvers to circumvent the Kyoto protocol and at the same time to corner the South won’t fly. Under Kyoto, adopted in 1997, the industrialized North had committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 5% against 1990 levels over 2008-2012. Everybody broke their quotas.

Then, early this week, the “secret” text of a draft proposal for the final political agreement that should be signed by everyone – including US President Barack Obama – at the end of the summit on December 18 was leaked. And Lumumba Di-Aping, the Sudanese chairman of the Group of 77 plus China, went on overdrive, “The text robs developing countries of their just and equitable and fair share of the atmospheric space. It tries to treat rich and poor countries as equal.” China and India are obviously, resolutely against the “secret” text.

So this is what the wealthy North is basically concocting, according to the South – to “destroy both the UN convention on climate change and the Kyoto protocol”, in the words of Di-Aping. Kyoto is the only global agreement so far that legally obliges the North to reduce gas emissions. Now the North wants a shady “green fund” to be run by a secretive board, which in the end would translate into the World Bank and a consortium of non-UN agencies. In sum: the North got away with polluting of the planet for decades, but the South has to be regulated.

China’s cut alone accounts for no less than 25% of emission reductions necessary to avoid more than two degrees Celsius (four degrees Fahrenheit) of temperature increase on the planet. China beats even the environmentally correct European Union (EU), which has committed to reducing emissions by 20% by 2020. The world’s major polluter, the US, doesn’t want to commit to anything. Washington – which snubbed Kyoto – wants a “political agreement”, not a “legal treaty” – and it has vaguely proposed to cutting emissions by a mere 17% by 2020, and this against 2005 levels. The North has already decided anyway there will be no comprehensive deal in Copenhagen, just a vague declaration of purpose.

Holy cow

Whatever comes out of the Hopenhagen feast won’t really address how turbo-capitalism – a system that is a slave of oil – works. Most of real life as we know it essentially revolves around the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost – that is, China, the US and selected Middle East players.

It goes something like this. Middle East oil producers sell the oil that fuels an army of Chinese factories – especially the “factory of the world” in Guangdong province. These factories use the oil to produce virtually everything the world consumes – a great deal of which ends up in the US. American consumers buy all these products in department stores with maxed-out credit cards. Then Middle East oil magnates invest their surplus in the US itself. That’s how selected Arab players – mostly sovereign wealth funds – became key US creditors.

As much as the US is hurt by the biggest unemployment crisis since the Great Depression, China will still need all this oil to move its economy, Arabs will still need to sell it, and Americans will still need to consume made in China products at Wal-Marts they drove to in their SUVs.

The Chinese are the least likely to rock this comfy boat. They will silently cut their emissions and keep growing at 9% a year anyway – following the famous Chinese proverb “speak little, do more” (shao shuo duo zuo).

So who will win in the end? Who else but Wall Street, if a mandatory carbon-trading system designed to “save the planet” ever sees the light of day. Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley would make an absolute killing on a carbon trading market revolving around derivatives.

Be ready for a deluge of derivatives contracts and carbon-related financial products. Wall Street will attract key investors from hedge funds and pension funds – as it has already spent a fortune hiring lobbyists and making deals with companies that can supply “carbon offsets” to be sold to clients. Speculators will have a ball. Wall Street banks are bound to turn climate change into a new commodities market – and sell it as an investment product. Everyone has seen this movie before, but what the hell; welcome to the new trillion-dollar bubble – the still virtual carbon “cap and trade” market.


Big Oil – from Exxon Mobil to Shell and BP – along with a Fortune 500 cast of global corporations, many directly linked with Big Oil, will also make a killing. They want a direct global carbon tax – as ExxonMobil has called for, on the record. This carbon trading system will link national “cap-and-trade” markets; the “caps” will be in line with the targets for emission reduction. This explains the “paradox” of Big Oil actually being in favor of fighting global warming.

It’s hard to be astonished by the sight of Wall Street and Big Oil profiting handsomely from everything post-Copenhagen. Their proposed global carbon tax will hit everyone on the planet; but the beauty is that Wall Street and Big Oil won’t have to pay for it. But, one might argue, why not, if the world’s 1.5 billion cows will be taxed as well. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, cow “emissions” rank as a key cause of global warming. So despite all the white man’s burden shenanigans, it seems that mammals may be finishing off the Mother Earth that humans had already practically destroyed – evolution theorist Charles Darwin would have loved it.

(Republished from Asia Times by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: China, Global Warming, Oil Industry 
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