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“The best lack all conviction…” The Climate Change conference

14 November 2010

The World Climate Change Conference, scheduled to be held in Cancún 29 November to 10 December probably will achieve exactly nothing.  I don’t mean to sound so pessimistic, but beginning with the site selection (originally it was to be held in Mexico City, but last January,  for political reasons — and to showcase Mexico’s beach resorts — the conference was moved from the capital city, which has become something of a laboratory experiment in human created climate change ever since the Spanish started draining Lake Tezacoco back in the 16th century.  Surely the relative difficulty of getting to Cancún from the rest of Mexico… and the dearth of facilities for non-wealthy interested parties to stay there had nothing to do with it), it’s becoming more and more obvious that the conference will not craft any solutions to any global issue, nor is it designed to do so.

The problem with climatic change — and the human role in it — is known, and has been known here in Mexico for years. But, with the conference looming, Mexico has nothing to show in the way of progress.  The shame of all this is that the Calderón Administration’s single positive initiative was taking global warming seriously.  Of course, while I never expected a billion trees to be planed over the sexenial (the 6-year Presidential term), I hardly expected the entire program to just dry up and blow away as the Administration turned its entire focus on fighting the proxy war for U.S. narcotics control.

Well… Mexico does have ONE climate-related agenda item.  As Sean Goforth reported in Foreign Policy Blog: Mexico:

Mexico’s Environment Secretary Juan Elvira Quesada is pressing on China and India. Both countries have shirked binding commitments to curb their carbon dioxide emissions, claiming that the West was allowed to develop without such constraints. Given the Obama administration’s scant appetite to press these nations, it is unlikely that a significant commitment will emerge in Cancun.

It wasn’t so long ago that Mexico, India and China were all mentioned together as having a common interest in climate change policy, and — in countering the domination of climate change policy by the major carbon-emitting, so called “developed” nations and in crafting solutions that would allow for what was called the G-5 (Mexico, India, China, Brazil, South Africa) to expand their industrial production in a responsible manner, while the rest of the planet did likewise.

Of course, with the present Mexican Administration has always seen its own interests as dependent on the more PANista of the two U.S. parties, the Republicans.  While this may have something to do with the dubious electoral victory of both Calderón and then U.S. president George W. Bush, and/or “Plan Merida” (which many argue is more designed to legitimize the Calderón Administration than to actually resolve violence in Mexico), the fact is that Calderón infamously broke diplomatic precedent during the last U.S. campaign by openly supporting the Republican candidate.

Given the apparent willingness to support the United States (even when not in Mexico’s best long-term interests), the reason for the Calderón Administration’s willingness to turn on potential allies India and China aren’t hard to fathom… although to find them, we might need to turn to Asian specialists, like Juan Cole.

In an essay on U.S. President Obama’s recent trip to India (and the Republican victory in the U.S. legislative by-elections)  Cole, writing in Tom Dispatch, notes that:

Obama has been on the money when he’s promoted green-energy technology as a key field where the United States could make its mark (and possibly its fortune) globally.  Unfortunately, as elsewhere, here too the United States is falling behind, and a Republican House as well as a bevy of new Republican governors and state legislatures are highly unlikely to effectively promote the greening of American technology.

In the end, Obama’s trip has proven a less than effective symbolic transition from George W. Bush’s muscular unilateralism to a new American-led multilateralism in Asia.  Rather, at each stop, Obama has bumped up against the limits of American economic and diplomatic clout in the new Asian world order.

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney thought in terms of expanding American conventional military weapons stockpiles and bases, occupying countries when necessary, and so ensuring that the U.S. would dominate key planetary resources for decades to come.  Their worldview, however, was mired in mid-twentieth-century power politics.

Dr. Coles is arguing that the United States is only competitive in weaponry (one reason to keep the increasingly lethal proxy war against some narcotics exporters humming along), but — in the 20th century economic sphere of creating and selling consumer goods — is unable to compete.  So… rather than create newer and better goods and services, the United States needs to stop development of India and China.

Ergo, the Calderón Administration, having come into office by the narrowest of possible margins against an alternative vision of a less U.S. dependent economic platform, is willing to sacrifice progress on climate change for avoiding economic change.

And, while whichever party controls the White House would probably get the same consideration from the present administration in Los Pinos, the Calderonistas have to walk a fine line.  Philosophically closer to the Republicans, many of whom ran on overtly anti-Mexican platforms, Calderón cannot afford to give the new congressional majority any further reason to attack Mexico.  With over half the new Congressional Republicans not believing climate change is real, or related to human activity, turning the attention away from Mexico and towards economic rivals of the United States only makes sense.

Alas, poor Mexico… too close to the United States, too far from God.

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