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Enduring UN Incompetence Can’t Address Climate Change

By: Javier Garay - @Crittiko - Nov 29, 2013, 8:59 am

EspañolOn Saturday, November 23, the Warsaw Climate Change Conference came to an end. These are annual conferences where state representatives meet to discuss how to deal with this phenomenon.

This year’s conference was full of expectations for two reasons. On the one hand, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently published a report with three main conclusions: climate change has existed, at least, since 1950; human actions have engendered its impact by approximately 50 percent; and the phenomenon will persist for centuries to come.

On the other hand, the Haiyan typhoon hit the Philippines a few days before the conference. This is relevant because, despite having no scientific evidence, many assumed that this tragedy had a direct and indisputable connection with the phenomenon of climate change.

United Nations Climate Change Conference
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addresses the Warsaw Climate Change Conference. Source: United Nations.

In the vision of its organizers, these elevated expectations were met. What were the results that gave such optimism? First, governments from around the world, with great effort, established principles that serve to further future negotiations. Second, in an act of unprecedented creativity, they created a new tool to deal with the phenomenon: developed countries will provide resources to undeveloped countries!

We need not belittle this. The fact that these governments did not reach any concrete agreement should not be a source of concern — rather the opposite. Consider that when they do agree on something, as in the case of the Kyoto Protocol, the only result is evermore statism. Meanwhile, the governments still fail to meet the agreed targets and, therefore, do not solve the problem.

In this case, the indecisiveness and lack of urgency on the part of the United Nations should be seen as a positive.

However, once again we see the shortcomings that arise from these international practices. If climate change is a real problem, these officials who are supposedly so alarmed should be thinking about real alternatives for a solution. But no, they have chosen to devote all their efforts to a strategy — endless summits and redistribution — that they know will never solve the problem. This could lead us to think that perhaps the issue is not their concern, or is not as worrisome as their words, but not their actions, make it out to be.

On the other hand, it is inconceivable that for a phenomenon that has been at the center of their international agenda, the only answer that is implemented — and for which they are so proud — is that of so-called international cooperation. Have they not noticed the visible failures that redistribution has generated in the field of development? Is the transfer of resources between countries the only way to address every existing problem in the world?

Even if, as is optimistically claimed by the organizers of the conference, they reach an agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol at the next meeting, the only result that can be expected is more violated commitments.

In the meantime, increased environmental awareness in the world will continue to strengthen, as has happened in recent years. Thus, individuals will contribute to resolving genuine concerns, as they have been doing, without obligation to any state. Companies, seeking to please their customers, will follow their lead.

This will happen while government representatives continue to play with international negotiations, travel the world in luxurious manner, and participate in meetings that do not lead to any meaningful decisions. They will continue to believe that these problems can be resolved by wasting resources and creating unachievable goals that only lead to the extension of state power — more bureaucracy.

They will continue to blame capitalism for climate change. They will disregard that only under this system can individuals afford to worry about environmental issues, given sufficient resources to both survive and pay for a healthy environment. They will not take into account that, in response, companies will rise to heightened consumer expectations, investing resources in production processes less harmful to the environment. They will disregard that the problem may well be resolved in the coming years, whether they meet or not.

They will continue to portray themselves as greatly concerned about global issues, while never recognizing that their decisions, rather than resolve, exacerbate the problems. They will never recognize that their meetings are a selfish way to convince others that they contribute to society, while in reality, they only hinder progress.

Are these participants worried about climate change? The latest conference does not show it.

Javier Garay Javier Garay

Javier Garay is a professor at the Externado University of Colombia. He has written two books on international issues, such as development, after his doctoral dissertation focused on the same topic. Follow him on Twitter @crittiko and through his personal blog, Crittiko.