Monthly Archives: January 2010

Monckton Lecture, Melbourne Feb 1, 2010

Christopher, Visount Monckton, Melbourne Public Lecture Details

A num­ber of peo­ple have asked for these details:

Mon­day, 1 Feb­ru­ary 2010, 5:30 pm
Ball­room, Sof­i­tel Hotel (25 Collins St Mel­bourne)

Entry by $20 ‘dona­tion’ at the door (no reser­va­tions).

p>Christopher, Vis­count Mon­ck­ton is a seri­ous ana­lyst and good fun: he has mas­tered the art of keep­ing it sim­ple and exag­ger­at­ing (a lit­tle bit). So I expect a big crowd, a great atmos­phere and some clever, con­vinc­ing, talk.

Are the BRICS ready to lead?

BRICS graphic from the FT

Reflect­ing on the greater influ­ence of the BRICS, recent­ly, in glob­al forums, the always-inter­est­ing Alan Beat­tie asks:

Is this a piv­ot point such as the sec­ond world war, where the con­fi­dent, inno­v­a­tive US mus­cled aside the weak­ened, debt-laden economies of Europe and remade the glob­al finan­cial archi­tec­ture? ” Extract from FT.com

His guess? “No, not yet”. He points out the BRICS are dom­i­nat­ed by one coun­try, Chi­na, that is still depen­dent on for­eign demand for its eco­nom­ic strength rather than on its domes­tic resources.

A decade of rapid growth is not enough for the Brics to seize the baton of glob­al eco­nom­ic lead­er­ship from the US and west­ern Europe. The group­ing, or some of them, may have aston­ished the world with their progress over the past 10 years. But it will require a qual­i­ta­tive improve­ment as well as more growth to con­sol­i­date that shift of pow­er.”

In an accom­pa­ny­ing arti­cle he argues:

…Aside from the long-run­ning debate about giv­ing devel­op­ing coun­tries more votes in the IMF, it has proved hard to ham­mer out a sub­stan­tive set of sub­jects on which the dis­parate Bric coun­tries have the same inter­ests.” Extract from FT.com

Beat­tie points out that for all their capac­i­ty joint­ly to wield influ­ence in glob­al forums, the BRICS do not have much in com­mon in their domes­tic pol­i­cy approach­es and few com­mon exter­nal inter­ests. This has been evi­dent in the Doha nego­ti­a­tions where India and Brazil, espe­cial­ly, have oppos­ing inter­ests in mat­ters such as agri­cul­tur­al trade lib­er­al­iza­tion, and at Copen­hagen where China’s inter­ests were not appar­ent­ly those of many devel­op­ing coun­tries; effec­tiv­el­ly sui gener­is. Beat­tie con­cludes that:

In diplo­ma­cy, as in eco­nom­ics, the pow­er wield­ed by the Bric coun­tries may end up being dis­tinct­ly weight­ed towards the wish­es of Bei­jing.”

I think all this is pret­ty sound. But…in my view we are wit­ness­ing, nonethe­less, a sec­u­lar change in glob­al gov­er­nance, to be marked by con­fu­sion, delay and irrel­e­vance for glob­al insti­tu­tions such as WTO that cling to a mode of “explic­it con­sen­sus” (as the Doha Dec­la­ra­tion puts it) in deci­sion-mak­ing. Such pre­sump­tive una­nim­i­ty or com­pli­ance is no longer like­ly except where the deci­sions con­cerned are inescapable—like those on the glob­al ‘stim­u­lus’ (or oth­er­wise triv­ial in a pol­i­cy sense, such as human­i­tar­i­an aid). The future seems, for now, to belong rather to pluri­lat­er­al deci­sion-mak­ing and insti­tu­tions in dif­fer­ent forms.

U.S. looks for a ‘critical mass’ climate deal

There is absolute­ly noth­ing new in U.S. exas­per­a­tion with the Unit­ed Nations and its overblown process­es. This state­ment from the deputy U.S. cli­mate envoy recalls the respons­es of thou­sands of tech­nocrats exposed for the first time to the diplo­mat­ic morass; for decades, we’ve heard some­thing sim­i­lar from every new Admin­is­tra­tion.

Per­sh­ing said the flaws in the UN process, which demands con­sen­sus among the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty, were exposed at Copen­hagen. ‘The meet­ing itself was at best chaot­ic,’ he said, in a talk at the Cen­tre for Strate­gic and Inter­na­tion­al Stud­ies in Wash­ing­ton. ‘We met most­ly overnight. It seemed like we didn’t sleep for two weeks. It seemed a fun­ny way to do things, and it showed.’” Extract from UN should be side­lined in future cli­mate talks, says Oba­ma offi­cial | The Guardian

What is new is that the so-called BASIC countries—giant, rapid­ly grow­ing but poor economies—have become the nec­es­sary inter­locu­tors of the USA and, per­force, for Europe, Japan and the rest of the twen­ty-some­thing coun­tries that have com­mit­ted to sign the ‘pledge’ on emis­sions cuts by 31 Jan­u­ary this year.

p>Pershing goes on to say that he’s look­ing for a ‘crit­i­cal mass’ alter­na­tive:

p>

[He] indi­cat­ed the focus would be nar­row­er in scope than the UN’s all-inclu­sive approach. “We expect there will be sig­nif­i­cant actions record­ed by major coun­tries,” he said. “We are not real­ly wor­ried what Chad does. We are not real­ly wor­ried about what Haiti says it is going to do about green­house gas emis­sions. ”

Elaborating the Ag. travesty

It is dif­fi­cult to believe that the com­plex, weak, con­fus­ing, rent-pre­serv­ing, pon­der­ous white-ele­phant being pro­posed for an agree­ment on agri­cul­ture in the WTO Doha nego­ti­a­tions could be more bloat­ed or fur­ther compromised…but that’s exact­ly what seems to be hap­pen­ing.

Accord­ing to a report* from ITCSD, devel­op­ing coun­tries and the EU want to fur­ther slow the pace of change where open­ing mar­kets for prod­ucts such as sug­ar, cut flow­ers, veg­etable oils, fruits and juices might threat­en some high­ly prof­itable deals between of a small group of EU importers and devel­op­ing coun­try exporters. So much for the poor old con­sumer!

Trade sources told Bridges that this pro­vi­sion [to pre­serve tar­iff pref­er­ences] is meant to refer specif­i­cal­ly to sug­ar; how­ev­er, the lan­guage leaves open the pos­si­bil­i­ty that oth­er prod­ucts, such as beef, could qual­i­fy as well. Specif­i­cal­ly, if mem­bers use a com­plex method­ol­o­gy called ‘par­tial des­ig­na­tion’ to select very spe­cif­ic prod­ucts, then it is pos­si­ble that those goods, which would not oth­er­wise receive pref­er­ence ero­sion treat­ment, might also qual­i­fy.” Extract from ICTSD Pref­er­ence Ero­sion List Marks ‘New Era’ in WTO Farm Talks

It’s time to kill this ugly beast of an agree­ment and to start again with a sim­pler deal among coun­tries that want open, com­pet­i­tive mar­kets. If the cur­rent Doha text ever gets off the table it will serve only to anchor the devel­op­ment and expan­sion of inter­na­tion­al food trade in the mor­bid swamps of its infa­mous­ly pro­tec­tion­ist past.

* There’s no sign of the EU-ACP pro­pos­al yet on the WTO web­site.

Lamy’s assessment of Copenhagen

It’s called whistling in the wind.

The out­come of the con­fer­ence in Copen­hagen rep­re­sents a step for­ward. The Kyoto Pro­to­col address­es about 30% of glob­al car­bon emis­sions. In con­trast, the frame­work accord ham­mered out in Copen­hagen last week may encom­pass the major­i­ty of world emis­sions. ” Extract from WTO | 2009 News items — Lamy prais­es Copen­hagen efforts, calls for more to be done

The Direc­tor-Gen­er­al of WTO goes on to claim that “…in the end, it is only through a mul­ti­lat­er­al process that we can achieve results which are legit­i­mate and cred­i­ble.” But this is an argu­ment seems to stand only when propped-up by jar­gon. Process­es? What are they? Agree­ments to a coher­ent sin­gle-frame­work for action? Only a weak one at best, and like­ly com­pro­mised by excep­tions, con­ces­sions and deals (qv Copen­hagen, Doha). Or are ‘process­es’ just talk?

Rahmstorf rebuffed

The Pots­dam Insti­tute physi­cist whose 2007 paper Ross Gar­naut relied on for his asser­tion that “on the bal­ance of prob­a­bil­i­ties” CO2-dri­ven warm­ing was accel­er­at­ing dan­ger­ous­ly, has been exposed as a sci­en­tif­ic gad­fly.

At the time of the pub­li­ca­tion of Garnaut’s inter­im report, sev­er­al well-qual­i­fied scep­tics dis­put­ed Rahmstorf’s pro­je­tions, includ­ing David Stock­well, Lucia Lil­je­gren and Steve McIn­tyre with strong sup­port from for­mer Aus­tralian sta­tis­ti­cian Ian Cas­tles. Ian also kind­ly sup­port­ed my request to the Sta­tis­ti­cal Soci­ety of Aus­tralia to eval­u­ate the Rahm­storf method­ol­o­gy in the inter­ests of bet­ter informed pub­lic debate on Garnaut’s rec­om­men­da­tions (they even­tu­al­ly declined).

Now, A UK Met Office researcher and oceanog­ra­phers have harsh­ly crit­i­cised Ste­fan Rahm­storf for his extrav­a­gant pre­dic­tion that warm­ing would lead to sea-lev­el ris­es of 1.88 meters by the end of the cen­tu­ry.

Crit­ic Simon Hol­gate, a sea-lev­el expert at the Proud­man Oceano­graph­ic Lab­o­ra­to­ry, Mersey­side, has writ­ten to Sci­ence mag­a­zine, attack­ing Pro­fes­sor Rahmstorf’s work as ‘sim­plis­tic’.

‘Rahmstorf’s real skill seems to be in pub­lish­ing extreme papers just before big con­fer­ences like Copen­hagen, when they are guar­an­teed atten­tion,’ Dr Hol­gate said.” Extract from Sea-lev­el the­o­ry cuts no ice | The Aus­tralian

Inter­est­ing to note Rahmstorf’s weasly response to the crit­i­cism, report­ed at the end of The Australian’s sto­ry.

Spiralling down

The cred­it crunch of 2007-08 was the third phase of a larg­er and longer finan­cial cri­sis. ” Extract from John Kay (FT) — The cause of our crises has not gone away

Kay is always worth read­ing