Saturday, January 14, 2006

Montreal: the Kyoto Accords Limp Along

Well, it happened – sort of. The stodgy mechanism of plotting a future for the Kyoto Protocol in Montreal. And the parties agreed – barely, after Hiram Walker, the hired gun from Exxon who is our chief climate change negotiator, walked out in a huff late in the game, Saturday night December 10 – to meet again to plan the next set of mandatory caps after 2012, when the present accords run out. Of course the US has only agreed to meet and talk, which is all we did this time. The US, and Australia, and Bush is right on this one – China and India are not party to the current agreements. Since the US and and China are the biggest emitters of CO2, this is a serious omission. Bush says he won’t sign onto the accord without China and India doing so as well. But another piece of good news is that Bush signed an agreement to build a prototype coal plant with no emissions, using C02 sequestration techniques. He had agreed in principle, but only signed the commitment after pressure from other western governments in Montreal.

Meanwhile, the faith community convened a few events across town, and was invited to make a statement on Friday December 9 which addressed this blogmeister’s premise: that without the deep motivation of religious faith, the world is not likely to get a handle on this. As the World Council of Churches statement to the delegates put it, the damage is already unfurling, and it’s now a matter of acting as fast as possible to keep it from heading into a runaway condition caused by a positive warming feedback loop. The consensus of the world’s climate scientists is that we need an immediate 70% cutback of CO2 emissions to halt the cumulative heatwave. The irony is that in a few decades, burning up the most economically feasible oil available is going to achieve this goal, but only after we’ve pumped virtually all the stored hydrocarbons back into the atmosphere. What took tens of millions of years to store we release in the big bang industrial revolution in about 200 years, most of it since WWII.

The faith community, mostly folks from North America, convened a meeting on Climate Justice on December 3, after which they took to the streets with the kids for a civil demonstration. On December 4, there was a major inter-religious celebration, a Call (or Cry, from the French “cri”) of the Earth, at Montreal’s favorite shrine, St Joseph’s Oratory. This was a multi-media event, with commissioned music, dance, and theater. Kids from regions seriously affected by climate change paraded to elicit the sympathy of the converted. It might have helped build more than in–house solidarity had it been broadcast on one of the major networks. On December 6, the WCC sponsored a “side event” on Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change, featuring a dialogue among parliamentarians and religious leaders.

And then there were the kids, mostly twenty-somethings. Remember Earth Day, and all its giddy promise? Remember how we, the Sixties Generation were going to change the world? Well we have, by helping through our consumption habits to burn those hydrocarbons, global leaders, besmudged gold medalists in the Burn Baby Burn Games. In Montreal the youth were only 500 strong, but true to the new sophisticated tactics developed since the Seattle WTO demonstration, they were at all the right places, using street theater and articulate, passionate questions of delegates to advance their purpose: "Major social changes start with a shift in philosophy, and then a new generation is born with that at their core," said Josh Tulkin, 24, who works for a group focused on climate issues in the region outside Washington, D.C., and also for a network of youth organizations called SustainUs. "That generation is us." But the article (“Youths Make Spirited Case at Climate Meeting”, A. Revkin NYT, 12/9/05) goes on to say that Josh emerged in tears after the US delegation stonewalled him.

Over Christmas, I heard a Joseph Rutter choral piece with the haunting line, the humble creatures whom no man sees. These are the meek, the hope of a sustainable future, who will inherit the earth.

Next: Sapblood: the author-as-woodsman is challenged by a gushing oak. My apologies for my long absence. Holidays can be disruptive for a pro bono journalist with no boss.

another great entry bob, and it's nice to have you back on. did i miss your second call last night or did your guests keep you? the party was excellent and a packed house utnil midnight or so, then all died down around 1am. missed you. (of course, i blogged about it). i like the fact that i learn something new every time i visit your page.
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