Time for a New Deal: Perhaps It's Time to Scrap the UN Climate Change Process for Something That Actually Works

By Beyer, Jeff | Alternatives Journal, March 2010 | Go to article overview

Time for a New Deal: Perhaps It's Time to Scrap the UN Climate Change Process for Something That Actually Works


Beyer, Jeff, Alternatives Journal


WITH ALMOST 20 years of negotiations behind us and greenhouse gas emissions rising faster than the federal deficit, perhaps the time has come to look for alternative approaches to tackling climate change. As University of Victoria professor Michael M'Gonigle suggested in The Tyee in December, could it be that Copenhagen's failure was a good thing?

Opportunities for multilateral cooperation on emission reductions within forums such as the G8 and G20 summits, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and Association of Southeast Asian Networks have arguably been sidelined because of people's faith in the UN process. But smaller forums may be better at bringing about effective action. They can't be any worse, when it comes to success in handling what two-thirds of Canadians, according to recent polls, believe is humankind's "defining crisis." Indeed, success is blooming across the pond in the more manageable European Union, which has reduced emissions by nine per cent since 1990 despite a corresponding economic growth of over 40 per cent.

Guy Dauncey, author of The Climate Challenge: 101 Solutions to Global Warming, would dominate the discussion at a vegetarian dinner party. He throws out ideas with the enthusiasm of a CFL quarterback. Dauncey insists that we need to replace our defensive approach to climate change with an offensive one that promotes solutions. Rather than be penalized for burning coal, nations could be rewarded for ramping up solar production and installing a certain amount of solar power by 2020. "Right now, the move towards lower-priced solar is being entirely driven by the taxpayers of Germany, Japan, California and to some extent China," says Dauncey. A co-ordinated global solar push would distribute development costs more fairly. It would give investors and manufacturers the confidence to increase production because they have a guaranteed market. Ontario's feed-in tariff program, which offers long-term contracts at a stable price, demonstrates how it can work.

Another impediment is the broad-strokes approach that fails to differentiate between the six major greenhouse gases. Dauncey says, "We need to break open the basket of gases and have separate treaties, separate approaches for each gas. …

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