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).

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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.

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

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“[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