11 September 2009

South Africa and Todd Stern on Targets and Timetables

South Africa emits the 12th most carbon dioxide among nations (2006), which places it ahead of countries such as Brazil, Australia and France. Yesterday a government spokesperson explained that South Africa is not going to sign up to targets and timetables for emissions reductions:
"We are committed to taking responsible action to reduce our emissions but we are not ready to agree to any targets that would undermine our growth trajectory... We think that it is premature for South Africa to agree to targets... If we were to agree to targets now, we think that it could actually hamper our economic growth... The only viable source of energy at this particular point in time is through the use of coal-powered stations."
Testifying before Congress yesterday and speaking on rapidly developing countries, U.S. chief negotiator Todd Stern displayed a bit of Yogi Berraesque philosophy:
I have said on occasion that countries like these are often willing to do more than they are willing to agree to do.
Stern's testimony indicates that he is apparently under the impression that South Africa has agreed to halt its increasing emissions by 2025, which looks suspiciously like a target and a timetable of the sort explicitly rejected by the South African government. Stern was able to include the following two statements in his testimony with no apparent deleterious effects of the resulting cognitive dissonance:
According to the International Energy Agency, 97 percent of the projected increase in global emissions between now and 2030 will come from developing countries... In some cases, they are taking action at the federal level that outstrips our own.
And similarly,
They [developing countries] must take actions that will significantly reduce their emissions below their so-called “business-as-usual” path in the mid-term (around 2020), to an extent consistent with what is called for by the science . . . At the same time, we cannot expect developing countries – or indeed any country – to commit to actions that they cannot plausibly achieve or to make promises that are antithetical to their need to fight poverty and build a better life for their citizens.
It'll be very interesting to see how the dissonance gets resolved in Copenhagen.