What will be lost in all the hype will be the need for a paradigm shift in energy use if we are to save the biosphere from the accelerated impact of global warming. There will be a lot of haggling over emissions, but no real plan of action.
Poor countries will hem and haw about compensation for adaptation, technical assistance for mitigation, and insist that their historical low per capita emissions absolve them from doing anything. Rich countries, still in the throes of economic crisis, will continue to try to push back the deadline for emission cutbacks or reduce their minimum threshold levels.
There are only 16 hours of negotiation time left in the preparatory meetings in Bangkok and Barcelona before leaders gather in Copenhagen to pontificate from the pulpit. By then, we need the United States to agree to greenhouse gas emissions levels of at least 20 per cent below 1990, as the Europeans have. Even this is way below the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change's recommendations of up to 40 per cent cuts if we are to keep average global temperatures from rising more than 2 celsius in the coming decades.
Nothing we do (or don't do) in Nepal will affect global temperatures. But whether or not we switch to renewable energy as the mainstay of our economy will determine whether we survive economically as a nation. Nepal needs to reduce its carbon footprint not to save the planet, but to save itself.
As the world approaches Peak Oil (the maximum rate of petroleum extraction possible) and our petroleum import bill widens our huge trade deficit with India, continued dependence on fossil fuel and climate change will exacerbate all the economic, development and social challenges we already face.
Nepali politicians have such short time horizons that the last thing they are bothered about is glacial retreat. The prime minister had a hard time filling the slot for environment minister because no one wanted it.
Our elected representatives, think-tanks and the climate experts in the bureaucracy must exert pressure on the politicians and persuade them to begin the switch to a hydro-economy. It's not the ecology, stupid, it's the economy.
In full retreat - FROM ISSUE #466 (28 AUG 2009 - 03 SEPT 2009)
"Nepal is a potential winner" - FROM ISSUE #466 (28 AUG 2009 - 03 SEPT 2009)
A climate for change - FROM ISSUE #466 (28 AUG 2009 - 03 SEPT 2009)
Climbing to keep the Himalaya alive - FROM ISSUE #466 (28 AUG 2009 - 03 SEPT 2009)