Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Reality bites

After the blood-curdling warnings, the hubris, the triumphal declarations and the drama, it looks as if the Copenhagen experience is about to undergo a mood change as the US chief climate negotiator Todd Stern arrives in town.

The United States is willing to pay its fair share towards a multibillion-dollar climate change accord, but would not accept American taxes ending up in China as a result, he immediately told reporters – who otherwise seem to be struggling for hard news, such is the paucity of material coming out of the summit.

This then is where the battle-lines are being drawn – just how much the "developing" countries feel the so-called "rich" countries should pay them to take part in their collective fantasy, as against how far the US and other governments are prepared to wreck their own economies.

It is one thing suspending the laws of science to produce fantasy graphs and lurid projections of doom, but quite another for elected politicians openly, in full public gaze, to throw billions at nations such as China.

Thus does Stern say: "China has a dynamic economy which has led to it sitting on $2 trillion of reserves ... I don't envision public funds, certainly from the United States, going to China."

Of course, such reservations do not apply to the UK. As Christopher Booker reminds us today, the British government has already committed us to spending in the order of £18 billion a year from now until 2050 on implementing the Climate Change Act, and is ready to put more on the table in order to stitch up a deal at Copenhagen.

Nevertheless, for all the demonstrations in that sad little Danish city, it does not look as if the US – even under Obama – is prepared to ditch its economy with quite such verve as the British. Reality might be about to get a quick airing, for a few days at least.