17 September 2009

Time for a "Plan B"?

Lots of discussion of a need for a "Plan B" on climate policy. ClimateWire reports:
A day after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) hinted that climate legislation might be postponed until 2010, some analysts wondered whether that actually could mean 2011.

Or perhaps that it wouldn't be considered in the Senate at all.

With congressional midterm elections looming next year, they say the timetable is limited for politicians to act on a major bill before partisan rancor dominates Capitol Hill. That is raising speculation that lawmakers and the Obama administration may go for a "Plan B" next year that involves passage of a general energy bill without its most complex climate elements.

And in Nature today David Victor makes the same sort of observation about the international process:
'Plan A' for the United Nations climate-change conference in Copenhagen is an ambitious new global agreement to replace the ageing Kyoto treaty. But most signs point to disaster. Negotiators are grappling with issues more complex than practically any others in international diplomacy. Their progress has been so slow that the most recent round of climate talks, held last month in Bonn, Germany, ended with strident calls to work harder and faster.

In reality, no amount of hard work can meet the goal of producing a fully useful treaty in time for the conference in December. Working faster, in fact, would be counterproductive because slapdash fixes will make it harder to craft an effective, long-term strategy to slow global warming.

Rather than a mad sprint, success in Copenhagen hinges on crafting a more realistic 'plan B'. Some negotiators are privately pondering the question of what to do if Copenhagen fails. Those debates must now happen in public — starting in the upcoming meeting in Bangkok, Thailand — while there is still time to sift the issues that can be settled by December from those that require a new strategy and more realistic deadlines at least two years away.

Here is what I asked last April:
Proponents of action on climate change should be asking themselves, when is it time to go to Plan B?
I guess we now have the answer.