Gordon Brown, the Governator and Others Descend on Copenhagen for the 'Big Push'

Gordon Brown, the Governator and Others Descend on Copenhagen for the 'Big Push'

Top image CC licensed by Flickr user al_green. http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/2923990549/

As if in response to yesterdays blog about feeling the pressure, Gordon Brown will grace COP15 with his presence a day early, the Governator is already walking the halls, none of the parties negotiating the fine detail of the treaties had much sleep last night and are shipping in industrial strength coffee for this evening.

Welcome to the big push.

We now have three days and three nights worth of official negotiation time left before COP15 shuts up shop. Based on past experience, in reality things are likely to roll into the weekend and into Monday. Most of the negotiators for the parties have booked flights home on this basis.

Gordon BrownHowever, there are still huge obstacles to overcome before the heads of state get something to sign. Africa feels bypassed in the talks, promises for developed country funds for mitigation and adaptation need to be solidified further and the ever present "elephant in the living room" of wanting to circumvent intellectual property (IP) rights, is again rearing its ugly head.

This isn't to say that transfer of technology isn't needed, it is in actual fact vital, and that possibly in really exceptional circumstances it may be deemed OK to take someone else's idea without payment. It's just that if it becomes normalized to do this without compensation, we will have stifled not just creativity, but the cash needed to make one person's dream another's climate saving solution.

Under that scenario, venture capitalists would have a hard time justifying continued investment in the already risky process of developing new technologies. Now it's arguable that some technologies can pay for themselves purely on the back of the developed world markets, but what if in 2010, developing world IP rights have been signed away and you were asked to fund a revolutionary new technology whose key use would be in the developing world. How would you raise capital?

The IP and tech transfer arguments have become synonymous and this is a mistake, they urgently need to be teased apart again. The ultimate aim is to get technology onto the ground in the developing world in a manner that doesn't stunt developing world growth, is sustainable and long term. Who pays for this and how is the killer question.

Emissions trading markets have a vital role to play in this.

{related_content}Industrial installations in the developed world that are placed under cap-and-trade schemes will, if allowed to, pursue the cheapest emissions reductions possible. The cheapest abatement opportunities lie in the developing world, where new infrastructure is being put in place at a high rate of knots. Providing extra money via the Kyoto Protocol's flexible mechanisms has and will hopefully continue to guide at least some of this development towards a low carbon pathway.

Environmentally, a tonne of CO2 reduced anywhere on the globe has the same environmental benefit. Financially for the developed world allowing emissions reductions in the developing world to be counted against targets means that the same environmental goal is achieved at the least cost to consumers. For the developing world it means that western companies will -- at a point between the projects inception and selling its first emissions reductions -- provide funding that makes the project viable.

Emissions trading however, relies on the caps that developed nations take on to be sufficiently deep to provide the rationale for large-scale investment, so maybe based on the slightly concerning signals to date in this regard it won't be able to do the whole job alone.

That said, much of the debate around emissions trading to date has ignored

two key facts, currently the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is the single most successful emissions reduction policy under the Kyoto Protocol. No one has yet produced a viable replacement that will get private capital onto the ground in the developing world. Many anti-offsetting groups talk about international funds with no idea where they will come from or how, in contrast to all previous international commitments to post money to the developing world, this particularly vital cheque won't get lost in the mail.

And secondly, human beings like trade. It's arguably the basis of our culture, predating money in the form of bartering. We intuitively understand the principle of quid pro quo from extremely young ages. This is neither a good nor bad aspect of human nature; it's simply something which is ingrained in our psyche. Emissions trading harnesses this to a positive end by placing a value on the environment where there was previously none.

Deep emissions cuts coupled with the right to use international emissions credits that fund emissions reductions, technology transfer, protect forests, provide jobs, incomes and the flow of capital, ideas and innovation can allow us to get to where we need to be.

We have every right to expect our leaders not to play games with the numbers. Science tells us we need cuts of 25-40 percent and more if we are to stand a better than 50-50 chance of avoiding a greater than two degree rise in temperature. We shouldn't be struggling to reach 25 percent, we should be supporting a different type of "big push" and discussing how much further than 25 percent we can go.

Miles Austin is head of European Regulatory Affairs for EcoSecurities.

Click here for full coverage of COP15 from the GreenBiz.com and ClimateBiz.com teams, including posts from Copenhagen by Executive Editor Joel Makower and Senior Contributor Marc Gunther, and from dozens of guest contributors from the business world.

Top image CC licensed by Flickr user al_green.
Images of  Gordon Brown and Arnold Schwarzenegger courtesy of COP15 Copenhagen.