Tuesday 22 December 2009

Sinophobia and Copenhagen: open letter to the Guardian's Mark Lynas

PREVIOUSLY: The story so far ... One moment we were told there was a scandal brewing with the leaking of the 'Danish Text', a stitch-up of the poor nations by the wealthy, with the US and Britain among those implicated (8th Dec 2009 onwards), the next moment, this happened.

The Copenhagen blame game continues with the media reaching a hysterical pitch in their attempts to demonise China over the disappointing results at the climate change summit.

The Guardian publishes another lurid smear, this time by someone called Mark Lynas and titled: "How do I know China wrecked the Copenhagen deal? I was in the room"
Starring Mark Lynas as Sax Rohmer which, I guess, makes me Fu Manchu. (I recommend you read all the comments on the Guardian thread.)

UPDATE Wednesday 23rd December : Comment is free but only if you agree. The Guardian removed my comment below from their thread, posted 22nd December 9.23pm. Not only mine, but I notice some other very good posts robustly rebutting Lynas's assertions and errors have been removed. Now I'm BANNED

Dear Mark,

So the cold war is alive and well.

Western spin is really pulling out all the stops, perhaps because we are onto you as the various blogs and forums show.

if anything, China got strong-armed into signing a weak deal when it should have held out as Bolivia, Venezuela, Cuba and others have said.

The US and the rich nations use up almost all the carbon allowance in the atmosphere over the past 160 years, the US dithers over ten years of Bush, they refuse to ratify Kyoto, the Danish summit chair has to resign when she's caught fast-tracking the rich nations' deal, the West fail in their Kyoto pledges, Canada rips up its Kyoto deal and proceeds with exploiting its huge reserves of dirty oil, the US will only reduce emissions by 4% against the 1990 base year and not the 17% you describe as "serious cuts", while China makes real strides in green technology, and so on.

But it is all China's fault.

Hillary Clinton bursts into the conference demanding China eat merde when the US didn't even have anything to offer. They knew that the terms of the "verification" they demanded was an exercise in humiliation and China would not stand for it. The US can't get anything meaningful past their senate, which includes some "wholly owned subsidiaries of the energy industry" (Monbiot) and resorts to sleight of hand.

But China is the villain.

As for Merkel, she is a massive hypocrite when you look at what her government's been doing.

Even John Prescott pointed out that we've had our industrial revolution yet the poor countries have to halt in their tracks and people live on an average of $2 per day. [Update: see Prescott's take here.]

But according to you China twirls its moustache and strokes its cat as it eats the planet for breakfast.

What other country has an entire city using solar powered appliances? Who else has planted such huge tracts of forest while loggers tear down the rest? China aims for 15% of its energy from renewables, it has revolutionised wind-turbines, makes a key component of electric car batteries, and so on. We in the UK can't even meet our Kyoto promise.

The world says it'll pay $100 billion into the global kitty. Yet how much does the US spend each year on wars? Something like a million dollars a day on petrol alone.

This game of smoke and mirrors is shameful. Dividing the world into angel and devil does not help, neither does throwing a hissy-fit when China baulks at signing the rich nations' deal which condemns the poor nations to a slumdog future. At an early stage in its industrial development China is moving onto the right track. By all means criticise them when they screw up but give them credit for what they're getting right. The future of the planet is too important for these political football games.

Seasons greetings, although seasons may soon be a thing of the past if the rich nations get their own way,


Practically a lone voice in the Guardian, George Monbiot writes:
Obama went behind the backs of the UN and most of its member states and assembled a coalition of the willing to strike a deal that outraged the rest of the world. This was then presented to poorer nations without negotiation: either they signed it or they lost the adaptation funds required to help them survive the first few decades of climate breakdown. ... Pushing a strong climate programme through the Senate, many of whose members are wholly-owned subsidiaries of the energy industry, would have been the political battle of his life. Yet again, the absence of effective campaign finance reform in the US makes global progress almost impossible.

Almost forgot, Naomi Klein: Copenhagen's failure belongs to Obama

UPDATE 2: A recent comment (not mine) at the above Guardian CIF thread:
The Guardian writer was trying to confuse the public by omitting the fact that the EU couldn't even agree to its binding emission cut targets even by 2020 and they couldn't fill that blank. He also omitted the fact that the US also refused to have its emission cut target by 2020 included in the draft. An 80% cut by 2050 on a global scale obviously would have painted a big panckage in the sky. When the rich countries have not honored their pledges to the Kyoto Protocol to cut their emissions and they couldn't set binding short-term emission targets, how do we expect them to honor a long-term emission cut targets by 2050? In fact, Yvo de Boer in his last press conference said that the commitments to cut GHG emission by individual developing nations combined are far larger than those of the developed countries combined.
They want 80% cut by 2050 written into the accord so they could pressure the developing nations, because after all, the developing nations are the ones whose emissions will have to grow and peak as the year 2050 gets closer.
Above all, the writer didn't even tell how the US and other rich nations were pretty successful in detrailing and deviating the negotiations over the Long-term Cooperative Action and amendments to the Kyoto Protocol, especially the Kyoto Protocol, the two documents that have legal binding over the rich countries. The writer didn't even have the courage to mention the two most important documents, upon which any political declaration should have been based on.
It is the rich countries, the US, particularly, which has hijacked the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference. That much should be clear to us all.

Wonder how long that'll stay posted.

The real reason Copenhagen failed.

UPDATE 3: AAARGH! Just read at a debate here that I have a typo. The international kitty is, of course $100 BILLION not million. Apologies. And thanks to the peeps at www.metafilter.com/87766/General-Tsos-Climate

UPDATE 4 (sigh!): A very clear article on what went wrong at Copenhagen.
"But what was this ‘deal’ that these obstinate rascals obstructed? “A 50% reduction in emissions by 2050 and an 80% reduction by the developed countries,” laments Mr Milliband. “Both were vetoed by China.” What he refers to of course is none other than the infamous Danish Text. But what he carefully omits from his account is the reason why this deal was ‘obstructed’.

"The Danish Text, which had been secretly put together by the US, the UK and Denmark, revealed the true aim of the rich countries in Copenhagen. There was to be a gesture towards cutting emissions, sure there was… on condition that the natural order and balance of the world remains unaffected, that the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor, that growth and accumulation continue unhindered. The proposal would have sidelined the UN by handing power and control to the rich countries themselves; it would have entrenched global inequality by allowing the rich countries to emit 2.67 tonnes of CO2 per capita while granting developing countries only 1.44 tonnes; it would have handed control of climate change finance to the World Bank; it would have locked the world into a disastrous system of carbon trading; it would have attached tight strings to any financial aid; and it would have abandoned any interim 2020 targets. All in all, the ‘deal’ would have condemned the world, and the South in particular, to a climate catastrophe of unimaginable horror."

Big thanks to Harpymarx, Socialist Unity, Liberal Conspiracy and Sunny at Pickled Politics.

The BBC says

John Prescott on China at Copenhagen

Martin Khor in the Guardian on the Copenhagen failure

George Monbiot on what the US has to offer

Global Comment with something useful to say on sinophobic hypocrisy

Madam Miaow banned in the Guardian, Comment is Free. Free speech, much? Here's another stunt they pulled when I was shortlisted for the 2010 Orwell Prize — read the thread.

Anna Chen on BBC World TV on the opening day and the final day of the Copenhagen summit

Ed Miliband accuses China.

Guardian admits China's green plans leave US red-faced.

March 2012 and the Guardian acknowledges huge investment in renewables.



VenerableSage said...

Captain, our sensors are picking up a communication from the Chinese government to Barack Obama:

'Barry, the $793bn you owe us is due next Tuesday.

'And, by the way, you can start manufacturing your OWN crap now ...'

Organized Rage. said...

Well said Anna, I have just read this article and I agree it is full of the cold war crap. By the way, did I miss it or did this guy fail to say which delegation he was part of at the UN conference?

I posted a letter on my blog today, which was in yesterdays Guardian, it tells a different story about China's attempt to combat global warming.

Madam Miaow said...

Cheers, Mick. I've just checked and they've removed not only my comment but others which have contradicted Lynas. Comment is Free, but only if you agree!

I've added an update to my original post.

Organized Rage. said...

That is very interesting, this normally only occurs when the writer has powerful 'friends' who have the power to pull down the comments, otherwise they are not brought to the papers attention as they cannot moderate every comment no matter what they claim.

Madam Miaow said...

The plot thickens. Interestinger and interestinger ...

almostwitty.com said...

Personally speaking, your comment looked to me as a pro-China rant - and since blogs and forums tend to be full of pro-China folks, it might have looked like a 'hack' to Guardian moderators.

Personally, I think there's more than enough blame to go around about who stopped Copenhagen. It helpfully stops people from actually confronting the fact that climate change is going to happen, and we're all doomed. A bit like everyone pointing fingers at the side of a road accident while the passenger dies.

and what's so bad about verification? It happens for nuclear weapons after all...

Madam Miaow said...

Almost Witty: Given the racist tone of the blame game in the media a robust response was needed. When the press publishes articles calling the Chinese "inscrutable" you know it's time to draw the line.

The author of the article and others on the Guardian made false claims such as a 17% reduction in greenhouse emissions by the US when they'd cheated the figures which are only 4%. Another Guardian article says the US put $100 billion on the table when they only backed an international sum this size. We still don't know what proportion they'll pay.

This was a rich nations charter to which the poor nations object, so well dine China in this instance. Credit where credit is due.

Re verification, as I've written elsewhere, China afreed to international verification if there was an international agreement, but won't have US snoops poking around to check voluntary national targets. Scott Ritter admits his WMD investigation teams were also espionage groups. You think it would be different this time?

I'm actually really disappointed that some UK Chinese have again chosen to ignore scapegoating China which stirs up a racist dimension. There are plenty of issues to get them over and I'm sure they were no angels at Copenhagen. But the anti-Chinese tone, not just anti-China, is revolting.

BBCs need to get their finger out and stop siding with forces that demonise us. Creepy!

Anonymous said...

CiF only remove comments if they are deemed racist, sexist, homophobic, overall abusive etc (well, in theory ...)

So why have they deleted yours, you are arguing a point, you are engaging in robust debate.... It smacks of censorhip and the Guardian not being up for a debate and it really reflects on them. They resort to censorship when criticised. Robust debate? Only if you agree with the Guardian's line.... Pathetic really!

Anonymous said...

Btw: Have re-posted your CiF letter on my blog and written a quick post. Hope it's ok..


Nevin said...

Of all the papers, I would have never guessed Guardian would stoop so low....

Madam Miaow said...

Tee hee!

BTW, I see from what David Hillman posted at my Gordon Brown thread that Mark Elf received similar treatment at CIF.

Terry Townsend said...

I think a more accurate account of China’s (and that India, Brazil and South Africa) is contained in patrick Bond’s analysis at http://links.org.au/node/1426

* * *

By Patrick Bond, Durban

December 23, 2009 — In Copenhagen, the world’s richest leaders continued their fiery fossil fuel party last Friday night, December 18, ignoring requests of global village neighbours to please chill out. Instead of halting the hedonism, US President Barack Obama and the Euro elites cracked open the mansion door to add a few nouveau riche guests: South Africa’s Jacob Zuma, China’s Jiabao Wen (reportedly the most obnoxious of the lot), Brazil’s Lula Inacio da Silva and India’s Manmohan Singh. By Saturday morning, still drunk with their power over the planet, these wild and crazy party animals had stumbled back onto their jets and headed home.

The rest of us now have a killer hangover, because on behalf mainly of white capitalists (who are having the most fun of all), the world’s rulers stuck the poor and future generations with the vast clean-up charges – and worse: certain death for millions…

So if only two things were accomplished in Copenhagen, they were the unveiling of Pretoria, Delhi, Beijing and Brasilia as willing criminal accomplices to the Washington/Brussels/Tokyo/Canberra/Ottawa axis, and the rise of Climate Justice Action, Climate Justice Now!, 350.org and parallel movements whose hundreds of thousands of protesters swarmed streets of the world’s cities.

The next question is whether in 2010, before the next fiasco in Mexico City, the latter can cancel the former. We all depend upon an affirmative answer.

Madam Miaow said...

glparramatta: That's not an entirely unfair comment from Bond. Like I wrote already, the real criticism is that China caved in to pressure from the rich nations whereas it alone had the muscle to withstand them. But I need to find out more of the details.

I'm shocked that Lynas, who's supposed to be an environmentalist, has sided with them.

Denis said...

Get to know Mark Lynas at http://www.ageofstupid.net/people/mark_lynas

opinionsaretreason said...

I think you rather reveal quite a lot of ignorance about this issue by starting off with the phrase "someone called Mark Lynas". Mark Lynas is an extremely well-informed and well-respected author who has done voluminous research into both the science and the politics of climate change. Had you known anything about him, perhaps done the bare minimum of research before your post, you would have realized that he is frequently extremely critical of the USA's position on climate change and the environment. He is also a realist who recognizes the need to find feasible solutions now. His writings can tell you everything you need to know about which countries contributed which pollution and when but his piece in the Guardian focuses on why Copenhagen was such a failure, not the historical blame game. I'm sorry, I don't want to sound hostile at Christmas - I've no idea who you are - why don't you buy or borrow a copy of his book "6 Degrees" - you may even disagree with it, but you can't deny it's actually based on copious evidence

Denis said...

I liked this comment left by Jeremy East at the New Statesman version of Lynas' article (http://bit.ly/7sHdl1):

"At worst, China turned a terrible deal into no deal at all. If it had gone along with the offer on the table from the US that Lynas calls serious then we wouldn't be debating why Copenhagen failed, we'd be debating what to do now that a terrible deal is locked in until 2020. Lynas has been on the way out since he said equity was the problem and we should limit immigration, but this article does provide a lesson in how climate desperation can take you down a political cul-de-sac: if you focus exclusively on cutting carbon emissions, then developing countries developing their way out of poverty quickly becomes a bad thing. Even if you adopt Lynas's racist colonial mindset, you're never going to get developing countries to agree not to develop as quickly as possible. So the only credible position is to demand that rich countries come up with serious offers to show the way. The fact that Lynas feels free to publicly blame China while advising the Government of the Maldives shows who's still got the real power and influence. This is the nail in Lynas's coffin as a credible commentator."

Terry Townsend said...

CPI (ML): `Shameful betrayal’ at Copenhagen — India and China sign undemocratic US-scripted accord

December 24, 2009 — Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation — The 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) has finally ended in Copenhagen, and it is now time to officially write the obituary. This week-long conference, where 110 countries got together to try and evolve a blueprint to handle the climate change crisis, has quite predictably and most unfortunately ended in failure. Predictable, because for a long time now there have been indications that the US would continue to hold the rest of the world to ransom by refusing to accept responsibility for its role in creating the climate crisis…

US President Barack Obama (representing his corporate funders) came to Copenhagen armed with the usual bullying tactics and United States’s oft-used trump card: unless India and China agree to binding emissions cuts, neither will we. In a most shameful betrayal of Third World unity, India and China responded to this blackmail by breaking away from the Group of 77 countries (G-77) and signing a US-scripted “deal” on the last day of the conference. It is indeed shocking and shameful that India and China, along with Brazil and South Africa, decided to sign this deal – an agreement which signifies an important departure from the developing countries’ long-standing position at the climate change talks.

Full article at http://links.org.au/node/1429

Anonymous said...

I'll be following Naomi Klein on past analysis (say the opaque GFC bailouts of Wall Street, especially in light of the comment seen recently that the US fed has NEVER been audited). NK should be an interesting read too.

I was skeptical of Copenhagen and global governance for years now, to resolve this real scientific horror.

Montreal Protocol notwithstanding on the ozone hole notwithstanding. Reinforced with ABC (think PBS) here in Sydney reporting climate was way low on the issues of concern in the USA: Sure enough Cop15 result was a footnote on Washington Post and New York Times front web pages.

They led with Obama health reform bill. That's real politik USA style.

On the other hand the Chinese dictatorship are always suspect, and easy to smear accordingly. You gloss the failure of attendance by the Chinese leader.


Was interested enough to check you profile here. Regards,

Tom McLoughlin


Anonymous said...

Oh, and just to add Prof Hansen has gone into print on the silver lining of failure at Cop15, in The Guardian spotted via Grist.

Madam Miaow said...

Hi Tom,

Wasn't meant to be a gloss. I just can't make out the truth of the walkout from all the different accounts. Basically, these fall into two categories — Wen walked out as a deliberate pointless snub or he saw that Obama had nothing to offer.

Did Wen feel insulted that Obama had promised the agreement would not be legally binding, then Hillary blasts in and makes this a condition knowing full well what the result would be, effectively playing Wen? Obama thus went back on his word.

Aslo, as the US president can't make any firm offers without getting it past Congress, Wen may have felt insulted. There seems to be little point in him hanging around when there's another layer of US government bureaucracy to deal with. We all know that Obama could have promised all the cuts asked for but Congress would have squished it.

The BBC has a comprehensible take on Obama's negotiating powers.

Unknown said...

Sorry, not a satisfactory answer to Tom I'm afraid. The leaders of great powers represent their national interest not their personal feelings. Please try to analyse the Chinese negotiating tactics in terms of what they were aiming to achieve and how successfull they were in achieving those aims. To say that Wen may have felt "insulted" is about as facile as saying that he stayed in his hotel because he was enjoying the room service.

Madam Miaow said...

"Sorry, not a satisfactory answer to Tom I'm afraid. "

Ooh, get you.

Keith, sweetie. Tuff.

Unknown said...

Madam Miaow, you describe yourself as a "centre-left" blogger, I believe.

Well, I am British, very much “centre-left” politically, live and work in Hong Kong and the mainland, and never cease to be amazed and depressed by these commentators on the left who pen apologias for the Chinese government.

Look, Madam Miaow, get real, remove those roseate-hued spectacles, and inform us how you can label yourself as being from the left and yet even romotely defend a regime that not only is one of the most authoritarian states in the world, one that regularly imprisons democracy and other human rights activists, but that also allows rampant free-market capitalism, has created one of the worst rich-poor divides in the world, where a new ruling herditary class of rich cadres exploits the impoverished rural poor, one that doesn’t allow independent trade unions, and one that fosters a decidely jingoistic nationalism.

At least those of us from the “old left” were once able to identify a proto-fascist society when we saw one.

Madam Miaow said...

(Typo free this time, I hope.)

David, in order for there to be an honest debate, you need the facts in the public domain, whatever conclusion they may lead you to.

I had two main points. The first was that China's changing policy regarding the environment had been ignored. It is a scandal that, as the nation that invented carbon capture technology, Britain has none while China has been building them at the rate of one per month. I'm informed they are only 44% capture efficient but it's a massive improvement on what went before.

Not only that but China has made serious inroads into green technology. As I write in my blogpost, this may not be because they are angels: both necessity and the potential profitability makes it inevitable that China will invest where we won't.

The figures being doled out by Lynas and the West are misleading. What the West is proposing leaves the US still belching out carbon emissions four times per capita that of China.

Then there's that Danish Text document they were caught red-handed trying to sneak through. The summit was a stitch-up from the start. To offload anger onto the Chinese with such diversionary tactics as the round of China-bashing that we witnessed really does not help.

If you read my posts properly instead of projecting your assumptions on them you will see that I am critical where I believe it is right to be critical: China's free market capitalism is very much of concern. I've already covered the much of what you list. But I will not blindly stand up for any side right or wrong, whether that's Beijing, London or Washington.

After all, China isn't starting World War III in the middle east or poisoning the world's oceans with an unstoppable flow of oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

All forms of capitalism are taking us to hell in a handcart in their own way. While depressed about what China gets wrong, there are also some areas where she's getting things right and that's to be encouraged.