“Hold tight,” said UNFCCC secretary Yvo de Boer yesterday at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen. “Mind the doors. The cable car is moving again.” De Boer – who has lately been snapped in photos with his head hanging down in his hands at UN negotiations tables, looking utterly beaten-down by the task at hand – was responding to an announcement from secretary of state Hillary Clinton, that the US will throw itself behind a $100 billion fund ($100 billion a year until 2020, that is) for climate change aid to developing countries.
The $100 billion a year is not as much cash as many European countries would like to see on the table, but it’s a big enough figure that, according to the New York Times, it’s moving things forward at what had been a mostly dismal picture at COP15 for the past week and a half. Clinton didn’t say how much the US would actually contribute to the $100 billion fund, but according to the New York Times, if the numbers line up the way they usually do in this sort of international effort, we’ll be coughing up about 20% of the fund, or $20 billion a year. The good-good news is that those dolla dolla bilz will be securing the livelihoods of not just our brothers and sisters in Africa, India, and beyond, but also those of our children, grandchildren, and great great great – well, our progeny. Since we’re all, you know, in this thing together. As protestors’ signs have screamed in Copenhagen this week: “There Is No Planet B!”
And isn’t it even a little bit exciting – if you can look past the scary picture we all have in our minds about how the world might look if we don’t cut greenhouse gasses in time, if sea levels rise as much as they could, if all arctic ice melts, if we’re stuck with no energy alternatives when the end of oil comes – that this is a time when every country in the world has to work together for our mutual survival? Sure, China’s been a little stubborn in COP15 dealings so far. Sure, we could let the smoggy country deal with its coal addiction on its own, but we’d suffer in the not-so-long term, too. If sea levels rise here, they rise there. If temperatures rise here, they rise (generally) there. Isn't this sort of like history's best-ever, highest-stakes team building exercise?
Since there's no such thing as a free lunch, though, Clinton's promise on behalf of the US did come with stipulations. The fund would be put in place only within “the context of a strong accord in which all major economies stand behind meaningful mitigation actions and provide full transparency as to their implementation,” she said. In other words, recipient countries had better be on board with set emissions cuts, and fess up as to how they're doing meeting those agreements.
Side note: Obama shows up at COP15 tomorrow with his magic wand (just kidding!), so stay tuned.
This $100 billion bit of good news aside, is COP15 getting you down? Here's your antidote - a video produced by Grist. The green news service sent comedian Eugene Mirman to Denmark to try to help COP15 protestors laugh at themselves a little, or at least get a laugh out of their shenanigans.