[Toronto Star, Canada]



El Pais, Spain

2009: The Year Earth Outgrew the Nation State


"Today, when negotiating over climate change, the Obamas, Jiabaos, Medvedevs, Singhs and Lulas aren't so different from ancient lords bent on preserving their own autonomy. … Somalia is governed by multiple factions that look only to their own interests - and we call it a failed state. How should we define our climate system, where no one looks after collective interests? A failed planet?"


By José Ignacio Torreblanca


Translated By Halszka Czarnocka


December 22, 2009


Spain - El Pais - Original Article (Spain)


A demonstrator wears tree roots at the Climate Summit in Copenhagan, Denmark. About a thousand people were arrested during demonstrations on Saturday.


BBC NEWS AUDIO: Where do we go after Copenhagen? Former government scientist, Sir David King, and Lord Stern, author of an influential report on the economics of climate change, discuss the question, Dec. 21, 00:08:11RealVideo

The Copenhagen summit was the last opportunity for the some-200 countries that form the international community to show that they could be part to the solution to the problem of global warming. Unfortunately, after what we've seen in Copenhagen, it's obvious that nation states are a big part of the problem. It is therefore time to take a qualitative leap and begin thinking about how to strip them of the capacity to decide the future of the planet.


It sounds revolutionary, but don't be alarmed: at its root, politics is about deciding just how much authority we assign to which level to solve what problem. For politicians, politics is the art of the possible. For political scientists, politics isn't about gut feelings, but science. If we know anything, it's that institutional structures matter; in other words, the chances of solving problems are intimately linked to the mechanisms we use to try and solve them. The government of Spain has renounced the issuance of its own currency, delegating that power to a supranational monetary authority: Because the government can't turn to printing money to get itself out of the crisis - the crisis isn't becoming even more serious.


We only have one planet, but we manage it through a ridiculous system of governance based on an obsolete concept called sovereignty. In its time, sovereignty was a useful invention for ending religious wars and imposing a single authority over feudal lords. But today, when negotiating on the issue of climate change, the Obamas, Jiabaos, Medvedevs, Singhs and Lulas aren't so different from those ancient lords bent on preserving their own autonomy, even at the cost of collective disaster. Somalia is governed by multiple factions that look only to their own interests - and we call it a failed state. How should we define our climate system, where no one looks after collective interests? A failed planet?



Oh, yes, Copenhagen could have ended differently. If the United States and Russia have been able to achieve major agreements on disarmament, the United States and China could have achieved a far-reaching deal committing themselves to reduce emissions through a series of binding and verifiable agreements subject to verification and backed up by a range of sanctions. We could also have seen the other 168 states agree to a decentralized system of climate management in which each nation would voluntarily comply with some very ambitious objectives - and with minimal coordination. In fact there are precedents for such agreements (such as the communal irrigation system in Valencia, the study of which was crucial to the recent Nobel Prize in economics awarded to Elinor Ostrom). But both of these options were highly improbable.


Life is plagued with cases in which the sum of decisions that seem rational from an individual point of view lead to collective disaster. From arms races to the deforestation of the Amazon, through bank panics and the extinction of anchovies along the Cantabria coast, the absence of binding agreements between the parties and a higher authority capable of monitoring them are often at the root of the failure. The case of climate change is a paradigm of a decision-taking system structurally designed to produce suboptimal results.


Curiously, the European Union, despite having been marginalized by the fight between the United States and emerging economies, is in possession of two types of key technologies needed to solve the problem of climate change. The first group of technologies encompasses systems for emissions trading (subject to improvement, but opening an important avenue), and Europe’s capacity for technological innovation for improving energy efficiency, capturing carbon and in the use of tax policy to encourage green solutions. These are clearly exportable technologies which already make Europe a world leader in efficiency, emissions reduction, renewable energy, green taxation, etc.  



But the most important technology at Europe’s disposal is institutional. For all that we criticize it for its irrelevance in the world, the European Union is proof positive that it's possible to create effective, supranational solutions to the irreconcilable problems of nation states. The European Coal and Steel Community resolved the Franco-German rivalry that had cost so many millions of lives with an imaginative and equitable formula of access to and distribution of the production of coal, steel and nuclear energy. Today it seems obvious that only a supranational authority, capable of imposing and collecting green taxes in a global manner and distributing the revenue equitably and with such resources financing the necessary adaptations and technological innovations, can prevent global warming. So for once, Europe has something like an ideal solution to offer. They only need to find the capacity to sell it.


My prediction? The planet will warm.



El Watan, Algeria: The 'Madness' of Copenhagen

Le Quotidien d'Oran, Algeria: Fiasco!: West Bets Climate Change Will Hurt Poor

Der Spiegel, Germany: German Press Concludes: 'Copenhagen Was All-Out Failure'

The Telegraph, U.K.: British Leader Says China and U.S. to Blame for Summit Failure

The Telegraph, U.K.: There'll Be 'Nowhere to Run' from New World Government  

Liberation, France: Global Cooperation - Gone Like a 'Mirage'

Le Monde, France: Copenhagen Climate Talks - 'Failure and Disappointment'

Le Figaro, France: The Climate and the Challenge of Governing a Planet

Der Spiegel, Germany: Gunning Full Throttle Into the Greenhouse  

Estadao, Brazil: The Rich Show Their Hand at Copenhagen

Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Russia: Gorbachev Presses World Leaders to Deliver on Climate

Kurier, Austria : Potentially Negligent Mass Murder: Climate Change Must Be Faced

Guardian Unlimited: Climate Summit in 'Disarray' After Leak of 'Danish Text'  

Frankfurter Rundschau, Germany: 'Grotesque Behavior' of Climate Powers

Financial Times Deutschland, Germany: Beijing Instead of Copenhagen  

Hurriyet, Turkey: History's Judgment of Our Generation Depends on Climate Summit  

Rossijskaya Gazeta, Russia: Gorbachev: Dialogue Only Way to Resolve Korea Crisis


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Posted by WORLDMEETS.US, Dec. 30, 1:30pm



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