Al Gore is scheduled to give his slide show on global warming–made famous in the film An Inconvenient Truth–to a sold out audience tonight at the University of Toronto. The Toronto Star reports that people have paid $200 (Cdn) for the tickets on the black market!
A quick search of Craigslist reveals people willing to pay $500 (Cdn) for a last minute ticket! I’m wondering if the lucky sellers of the $20 tickets are going to donate their profit to a carbon offset scheme? For those Torontans unable to attend, Greenpeace is hosting a “candelight vigil” at Convocation Hall on the University of Toronto campus prior to Gore’s speech.
If any Canadian readers happen to attend Gore’s talk, please offer your impressions in the comments.
Yesterday the Financial Times reported on an effort spearheaded by German chancellor Angela Merkel to engage the Bush administration in talks about creating a “transatlantic trading zone” between the US and the European Union. The report quoted the US ambassador to the EU, Boyden Gray, as saying that the administration is willing to engage in talks later this year with their EU counterparts.
Obviously, at this early stage, it is unclear what a “trading zone” would look like–particularly given the traditional unilateral streak in American politics. According to the article, the effort for coordination is being introduced by members of the Transatlantic Policy Network–an organization consisting of EU parliamentary members and members of Congress.
Tomorrow, US Senator Robert Bennett is meeting with the EU President Jose Manuel Barosso to discuss a timetable for negotiations that deal with key sectors.
It is clear that emissions policy will be a potential sticking point of the discussions. This comes on the heels of yesterday’s decision by EU environment ministers to unilaterally cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20% of 1990 levels by the year 2020. They agreed to push that percentage up to 30% if the US joined the agreement.
New York Times economics columnist David Leonhardt has an interesting report from last week’s debate at Yale University between Sir Nicolas Stern–author of last year’s high-profile analysis of the costs of inaction on climate change–and a variety of more skeptical economists, including noted environmental economist William Nordhaus.
The debate seems to boil down to the perennial question facing practitioners of environmental policy: namely, how to deal with risk. Nordhaus faults Stern for making unreasonable assumptions about intergenerational equity. Stern’s basic argument is that we must make costly changes to human behavior now in order to avert economic catastrophe far into the future. Nordhaus is uncomfortable with this claim primarily due to the fact that there is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding technical changes and economic growth. Nordhaus argues that future generations will likely be richer than our own and, hence, more able to respond to challenges posed by climate change.
Obviously both Stern and Nordhaus need to make certain assumptions about the future when developing models relating to the effects of particular policy interventions. Stern is much more precautionary–an approach that seems to have much more currency in Europe than in US policymaking circles.
Yesterday in the Canadian House of Commons, opposition parties passed Bill C-288 which instructs the minority government led by Conservative Prime Minister to develop a climate change plan in the next 60 days that will meet the country’s obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. Under the bill, if the government fails to do this any Canadian citizen or pressure group can take the government to court.
This is a unique occurrence in Canada’s parliamentary system, since it generally difficult for opposition parties to pass legislation. The bill still has to pass the Senate, but there is a clear Liberal majority in there which will likely approve the measure.
This comes at a time when Harper’s government has been gutting the government’s Clean Development Mechanism office which coordinates Canadian funding of offset programs in the developing world as part of the Kyoto agreement.
It will be interesting to see if this is the beginning of the end for Harper’s government and if the Liberals will use climate change as the vehicle for taking back control.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is planning on leaving office sometime this summer, is apparently going to dedicate his post-Ministerial days to building global consensus on climate change. According to The Independent this will involve heavy lobbying of US politicians and engaging India and China to develop a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol.
Whether Blair will be effective is unclear. His main environment adviser, David Milliband, is taking an interesting approach by engaging with state and local politicians in the US rather than the Bush Administration. The assumption appears to be that if many of the large states like California adopt CO2 emissions reduction targets, then systems will be in place for Bush’s successor to easily establish a federal program.
Climate change policy influence and change is proceeding in an interesting fashion. It is separate from the traditional singularly elite stage of negotiations between heads of states, on the one hand. But, on the other hand, it is not clearly a “grass roots” global movement. Rather, we have high-profile elites engaging sub-nationally to affect policy change.
The situation resembles a loose coalition of like-minded advocates intervening at the most opportune governmental levels and employing a variety of methods. A good example of this process might be the efforts by California’s Attorney General–and former governor–Jerry Brown who is proceeding with a lawsuit against major automobile manufacturers for repayment of damages caused by greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles. Even the threat of a lawsuit from the largest state in the US could prompt automobile makers to produce more environmentally-friendly cars nationally.
Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott gave a speech yesterday in London where he introduced a new salvo in the company’s battle to improve its “green” credentials. Calling sustainability “cool,” he called on suppliers to reduce waste, packaging, and increase the use of renewable energy.
Whether the company will be as cut-throat in enforcing their stated environmental values as they have been about demanding low prices from suppliers remains to be seen.
Its not too much of a surprise, but the UN-sanctioned panel of scientists studying climate change have came out with their most forceful assertion yet that human activities are responsible for global warming.
The panel has been meeting in Paris and today released the summary for policymakers [.pdf] in advance of a larger study to be released later in the year.