At least for now. Despite the best efforts of skeptics, conservatives and a few lobbyists, Those in power in countries with high emissions and high populations are proceeding as if there was no more debate to be had. (The exception is India, which quite rightly feels as if their developmental pathway is being constrained in a manner no other country had to submit to.)
China is all on board, although pragmatic concerns over conventional pollution, coupled with their position as manufacturer to the world for both solar and wind power might have just a little to do with their newfound green conscience. There’s no room for debate in China and no opportunity for it either.
The United States, number two emitter behind China, may not have the votes but it does have an EPA controlled by the executive branch of government and that branch is foursquare behind cutting emissions. Despite the protestations from the sidelines, the greens and the government have quit debating. When Republican candidates say they don’t believe climate change is primarily caused by humans, it is ignored. We lukewarmers, like skeptics, are allowed to say whatever we want–but we’re speaking to ourselves in an otherwise empty room. (Oh, yeah–almost forgot. Want to buy my book?)
Japan, busy reviving their nuclear fleet despite its unpopularity, can use emission control as a shield while they bring the nukes back on line. They’ll continue funding solar and a little wind to look good, but it’s all about the nukes. And they don’t have time, money or desire to debate the point.
Russia–well, Russia. Their economy is in such dire straits that they may go green because they don’t have two sticks to rub together and make a carbon dioxide emitting fire. Their fossil fuel of choice is natural gas and they have just enough hydropower and nuclear plants to claim green fame. But they have no patience for debate on anything, let alone nuclear power.
That leaves only India. This article (h/t to Judith Curry) explains the situation India finds itself in clearly and succinctly:
- India must be the first country in the world (of size and significance) to successfully transition from a low-income, agrarian existence to a middle income, industrialised society without burning even a fraction of the fossil fuels consumed by other developed countries. China was the last country to enjoy this privilege. India will be the first that will have to cede this option and of course this may well be the new template for other developing countries to emulate.
- The scale of this transition and the current economic situation in some parts of the world, alongside the complex and privately controlled innovation landscape, means that there is limited ability for the Annex 1 countries (the developed world) to offer any meaningful support in terms of financing or technology transfer. Official Development Assistance (ODA) is a small fraction of what is necessary today, and India will therefore need to mobilise domestic resources to power the non-fossil-fuel-fired Indian story.
- Even as India adopts this ‘exceptional’ approach to industrialisation, and creates the necessary financial and commercial arrangements to achieve it, mostly through its own endeavors, the developed world and others want to retain the right to judge Indian performance. India will be monitored with an increasingly extensive system of compliance verification, and will be criticised for its missteps on the journey despite the novelty and scale of its undertaking.
China and Russia are dictatorships, Japan dominated by a privileged elite. The U.S. is rich enough to afford the inefficiencies inherent in a premature race for green gold.
It is only India that has both a lot on the line and a desire for debate. Expect to hear a lot from them in Paris. And expect to hear a lot about them (most of it unflattering) from the green gurus who have succeeded in other big countries.
These five countries will account for 60% of human CO2 emissions by 2040. The stakes are high as there is a lot to play for. But the playing field will shift to Delhi and Mumbai as the last battlefields.