The verdict on Durban – a major step forward, but not for ten years

Following the marathon negotiations session at Durban, all the delegates should now be back home – and if not quite rested, certainly ready to assess the outcome with the benefit of some distance. In this (rather long) post I will look at the key documents agreed in the Durban outcome, and try to offer some sense of what they mean for the climate regime, and for the climate. (Apologies for some jargon, and for unexplained acronyms, which should be familiar to anyone following the negotiations, and without which this post would be even longer still.)

The Durban mandate

During the second week of COP17 the South African presidency operated an ‘Indaba’ system of high-level meetings, where an options paper was gradually whittled down into a decision text on the crucial issue of the future legal form of the UNFCCC regime. Various iterations of this paper produced some rollercoaster ups and downs from the perspective of a small islands state delegate (as advisor to the President, I once again joined the Maldives delegation). The final version, agreed in the small hours on Sunday 11 December – nearly 48 hours after the COP was supposed to have concluded – is titled ‘Establishment of an Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action’ (PDF link).

Some background: one of the most striking changes seen at Durban on the political climate landscape was the emergence of a new coalition, comprising of the EU, the small island states and the LDCs (least developed countries), working together to try to corral the major emitters (BASIC + the US) into a new legally-binding treaty which would include all parties, and would become operational as soon as possible. This coalition somewhat eclipsed the previous Cartagena Dialogue progressive coalition, and – thanks in particular to the stiffer spine showed by the EU – was surprisingly successful in terms of the outcome.

Here is the second preambular paragraph:

Noting with grave concern the significant gap between the aggregate effect of Parties’ mitigation pledges in terms of global annual emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020 and aggregate emission pathways consistent with having a likely chance of holding the increase in global average temperature below 2 °C or 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels

This is an important admission because it references for the first time the ‘gigatonne gap’ identified by UNEP (PDF link) and mentioned in interventions by many of the small and more vulnerable parties (including several by the Maldives). It also acknowledges the possibility that the global goal of the regime – so far pegged to two degrees above pre-industrial – may need in future to be strengthened to 1.5C, again a key demand of the AOSIS and LDCs groups.

The first operational paragraph decides that the unfinished business of the AWG-LCA should be concluded this year, and that the LCA will therefore be wound up at COP18. This means that the Bali Action Plan agreed back in 2007 – and supposed to have been concluded during the ill-fated COP15 in Copenhagen – will finally be finished.

The second operational para is probably the most important to emerge in any Durban document, in terms of what the meeting was supposed to achieve, and what it means for the future:

Also decides to launch a process to develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change applicable to all Parties, through a subsidiary body under the Convention hereby established and to be known as the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action;

The importance of this to the future of the UNFCCC cannot be overstated. This paragraph heralds the end of the Kyoto system of emissions targets only for industrialised-country parties and looks forward to the dismantling of the Annex 1/non-Annex 1 ‘firewall’ system through a new legal regime “applicable to all parties”. I and many others have been arguing for some time that the firewall is outdated and must be scrapped, and that the Convention principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ must be interpreted as a dynamic concept in the light of changing economic realities. The fact that this made it into the outcome is a massive concession by the BASIC group, and by China and India in particular. In essence this reverses the Chinese ‘no’ from Copenhagen, and cements the flexibility China signalled to the press as the high-level negotiations got underway in Durban.

Also of enormous importance in that paragraph is the nature of the legal regime that is anticipated. Since COP15, AOSIS has proposed that the Convention track should end in a new Protocol, as the strongest legal type of treaty. However, parties were unable to agree on this, hence the options of “another legal instrument” and “an agreed outcome with legal force”. It is very significant however that all of these options included the L-word, as this means that a strong, rules-based multilateral regime is very likely to continue into the future – even as the Kyoto Protocol is consigned to history (more on that in a minute).

Timelines to a treaty

Next, to the crucial issue of timelines – and here the Durban outcome is less of a cause for celebration. AOSIS and the LDCs were looking for negotiations on a legally-binding outcome to be launched next year, and hopefully to conclude at COP18. Admittedly this was optimistic, but it made sense as the opening offer. The EU however had its own timeline, aiming for a ‘Durban Mandate’ to be given at COP17, ending in a fully legal agreement by COP21 in 2015, to become operational as soon as possible thereafter. The US, along with India and China, instead argued forcefully that a post-2020 regime was all that could be considered.

This was a triple red line for AOSIS, because nine years is an awfully long time to wait for a new treaty, particularly when the next decade is so critical in terms of emissions paths and eventual temperature outcomes (e.g. global emissions must peak by 2015 to have a reasonable chance of 1.5C, and so on). However, thanks to the EU’s vagueness on this issue – due probably to its own internal dynamics, where 2020 targets have already been agreed and enshrined in European law – the major emitters won the day. Paragraph 3 decides that the Durban Platform AWG will begin its work “as a matter of urgency in the first half of 2012”, whilst para 4 says the following on the longer term timeline:

Decides that the Ad Hoc Working Group on  the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action shall complete its work as early as possible but no later than 2015 in order to adopt this protocol, legal instrument or agreed outcome with legal force at the twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties and for it to come into effect and be implemented from 2020;

In my view the very mention of 2020 is unnecessary and represents a big defeat for the LDCs and AOSIS, because it appears to foreclose the possibility of negotiating a treaty for earlier implementation, even were this to become politically achievable. It is on the other hand a victory for the US, whose own political straitjacket on climate seems unlikely to loosen before 2020, and for India and China, which are unwilling to go straight into a new legal arrangement of comparable targets – given that only a couple of years back they expected the Kyoto Protocol system to protect them from such an arrangement more or less indefinitely.

Mitigation – a lost decade, or a decade of doing?

This is of great importance too for the climate, because it means that mitigation ambition and the legal nature of targets are separated for a decade at least. Until a new treaty is in force after 2020 all we have on the table are the voluntary pledges offered after Copenhagen and inscribed properly in the Cancun Agreements a year later. Whilst Durban ensures that voluntarism (the so-called ‘pledge and review’) should be a passing phase, for another ten years this system is what we have – and we need to ensure that it is a decade of doing rather than a lost decade.

There is some cause for optimism here, as 80 or so countries have made pledges of varying degrees of ambition. These are laid out in two separate Appendices linked to the Copenhagen Accord – Appendix I for developed country parties, and Appendix II for the ‘nationally appropriate mitigation actions’ of developing country parties. It is the aggregate level of ambition of these pledges (or the lack of it) which is the subject of the UNEP gap study, which concludes that there is a gap of roughly 12 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent between what is so far pledged before 2020 and a ‘likely’ outcome of staying below two degrees.

Durban shows that the only way to tackle this will be through a period of confidence-building and multilateral assistance to ensure that these pledges are met and hopefully increased. The Maldives and several other countries have pledged carbon neutrality, for instance, but will need help – including new technologies which are yet to be invented or scaled up – if they are to achieve it.

It is in recognition of this that the final three paragraphs of the Durban Platform agreement address this need to raise ambition, referencing the IPCC AR5, the 2013-15 Review, and, in particular, para 7:

Decides to launch a workplan on enhancing mitigation ambition to identify and to explore options for a range of actions that  can close the ambition gap with a view to ensuring the highest possible mitigation efforts by all Parties;

Don’t forget Kyoto

Underlying all the negotiations over the past several years has been the issue of ‘balance’ between the two tracks launched in Bali – the LCA under the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol track. In my view Durban represents a surprisingly early defeat for the proponents of the ‘Kyoto or bust’ position that I criticised in an earlier post written before I arrived in Durban. Almost all developing countries – for varying reasons – wanted to see a second commitment period of Kyoto agreed in Durban which could be ratified during 2012 and come into force on 1 January 2013 to avoid a gap between it and the first commitment period.

The Durban KP outcome, however (PDF link), does not give us anything like that degree of clarity. It is quite notable therefore that BASIC signed up to the prospect of a legal outcome under the new Durban Platform without much being given in return on the KP track. In essence it is now clear that Kyoto is dying – already irrelevant in terms of mitigation, it will become increasingly irrelevant in political terms too.

A preambular paragraph makes an important statement about Annex 1 mitigation ambition, reminding us that Annex 1 emissions need to be 25-40% below 1990 levels (according to the IPCC AR4). Then, the first operational paragraph:

Decides that the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol shall begin on  1 January 2013 and end either on 31 December 2017 or 31 December 2020, to be decided  by the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the  Kyoto Protocol at its seventeenth session;

This is what is known as the ‘political’ second commitment period (despite the length, either of 5 or 8 years, still not having been agreed), to begin without either ratification of any amendments to Kyoto nor the inscription of new QELROs (quantified emissions reduction obligations). It is a face-saving compromise which does not in reality save much face.

Para 3 merely “takes note” of the proposed amendments to Kyoto which would inscribe new QELROs for the second commitment period; para 4 also “takes note” of the pledges already on the table which – according to para 5 – may or may not be inscribed as new commitments:

Invites Parties included in Annex I listed in Annex 1 to this decision to submit information on their QELROs for the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol by 1 May 2012 for consideration by the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol at its seventeenth session

Note that parties are merely ‘invited’ to submit ‘information on’ their QELROs, which is hardly a guarantee that they will go the full distance. Subsequent paragraphs note that agreement has still not been reached on the key issues of LULUCF (land use, forestry) loopholes, nor the carryover of Eastern European/Russian ‘hot air’ from the first commitment period. In my view, because these combined represent several more billions of tonnes of emissions, they make Kyoto worse than useless unless closed.

On the key issue of balance here – and noting that I am not a lawyer and could be wrong in my interpretation here – my reading of this is that the Durban Platform outcome gives a strong mandate for an eventual legal treaty within which “all parties” are included, whilst the KP outcome brings in a political second commitment period of undefined length and with no guarantee that it will contain any QELROs to make it relevant in terms of mitigation. Either way, this Kyoto will be a fig-leaf – the main game of mitigation action has moved elsewhere. (For the record, I think that Kyoto parties should inscribe QELROs – since BASIC have now agreed to the LCA outcome, they should deliver on their side of the bargain, for a five-year – and final – commitment period.)

Finance and the LCA outcome

What happens over the next decade and beyond in terms of mitigation depends an awful lot on money. Here Durban was a success in terms of agreeing a finance package, which properly establishes the Green Climate Fund – with the World Bank as interim trustee – together with all of the various governance arrangements it will need (PDF link). Many observers have criticised it for being an ’empty shell’ given that there are no guaranteed long-term sources of funding to make up the mandated pot total of $100 billion a year. This is true, but can be addressed at future sessions – the fact it was not resolved in Durban is not fatal.

For the LCA issues other than legal form, a weighty document of 130 pages at the beginning of the Durban second week was eventually reduced to 55 (including Annexes) but only because most of the contentious decisions were put off for later (PDF link). Of great interest to small island states and other vulnerable parties (and, to my mind, the entire planet) is the text on ‘shared vision’, which agrees neither a long-term goal for 2050 emissions reduction, nor a timeframe for peaking.

There is some progress on adaptation, capacity-building and accounting issues, but less so on REDD+ and the Review. Watch these spaces for developments at next year’s intersessionals and COP18, which is of course due to be held in Qatar. The latter is perhaps the highest per-capita greenhouse gas emitter in the world, and has a GDP per person of more than $60,000 – and yet is still a non-Annex 1 ‘developing country’ party. This will emphasise once again how important it is that Durban delivered a mandate which will finally enable the climate regime to transition out of its 1992 economic freeze-frame, and into a different system of differentiated legal commitments applicable to all parties.

That won’t come into force until 2020, it now seems – but over the next decade we all have a lot of work to do; both in terms of designing the new system and getting on with the all-important business of real-world mitigation. Durban delivered that mandate, and there is no time to lose on implementing it.


  1. Rupert Read

    Thanks Mark; v helpful.
    As you say the beginning of the end for the ‘Annex 1’ vs ‘non_Annex 1’ distinction is crucial. This opens the way for the starting-in-2020 agreement (or maybe 2017?) to be something modelled on Contraction and Convergence (or on GDRs, etc). This gives a crucial opening to achieve for the first time an agreement which encompasses everyone, is just, and is effective. So, although the long delay may well prove fatal, especially to AOSIS countries and LDC countries, we do now at least have a _chance_, for the first time, of achieving what we as a species need through the COP process.
    So: two cheers for Durban.

  2. Dr. Jay Cadbury, phd.


    I am concerned that the deadline does not allow enough time. 10 years to reach an agreement seems to be unrealistic. I’d like to see talks and discussions on a new climate treaty pushed back to 20-30 years from now. Now, we can still talk about it but I don’t think we should do anything about it for at least the next 20 years. Let’s not forget also that we have plenty of time. Currently, the earth is below global average temperature and below average atmospheric co2, so there is no rush.

    1. scas

      I swear you go site-to-site trolling various forms of climate denial. Is this your real name? Are you being paid by someone? I’m guessing you’re an old man who expects to be dead long before the climate shitstorm reigns down.

    2. PhilW

      I totally oppose any complacency about climate change, so I’m not trying to support what the troll above is say, but why does the response have to be so ageist? “You must be old.. etc. etc” That’s a really stupid thing to say.

  3. Aubrey Meyer

    Rupert – Mark Lynas [as advisor to the Maldives/AOSIS] calls COP17 “a major step forward”. AOSIS thinks the opposite with Chair Karl Hood asking ‘must we now die so that you can develop?’ This is what they asked for compared with what they got. The former [what they asked for] would have been a major step in the right direction. The latter [what they got] was a major step in the wrong direction: –

    BTW Mark Lynas took to denouncing C&C two years ago and persuading the Maldives to take that line.

  4. Aubrey Meyer

    Mark can contemplate the company he now keeps in the league of “Silly Comments” on C&C: –

    This list is a recent addition to the GCI web-site. You can imagine after 20 years, there are many more whose names and remarks will be recorded here as the comments are recalled and recorded.

  5. Aubrey Meyer

    Mark Lynas [Advisor to the President of the those lowest-lying islands, the Maldives] claims he never advised him against C&C. Not believable I am afraid: –

    Having promoted C&C like someone trying to win the X-Factor fom 2000-2007, Mark suddenly changed course and started denouncing it in favour of a plan to ‘auction of fossil-fuel production-permits [this would be conducted by a consortium of the world’s central banks] and nuclear power. “C&C is s stupid argument about equal rights to do wrong” opined this new girl with no dress on. He was unmoved by the response that it was possibly slightly less stupid than an argument about unequal rights to do wrong. The tricky bit was when he persuaded the Maldives President [Nasheed] to use his stupid argument, whereupon people pointed out that building tourist hotels on prime Maldives coastal real-estate and airports to fly the tourists in to fill them, doesn’t seem like the behaviour of an island preparing to go under water. Mark declined to go down with his islands and has decamped instead to celebrating the outcome at COP-17 [which the islands have said had served them a death-warrant – ]. Such stamina; such loyalty; such judgement.

  6. Bill King

    I’m with the Russians on this one; They stood up at the end of Durban and said “What did we agree to,I don’t understand.” It sounds like you all agreed to talk more later on,keeping your cushy jobs and incomes.Less talk more ACTION! Cheers Bill

  7. George Monbiot


    Could you tone the vituperation down please? Whatever disagreement you might have, I don’t see how it justifies comments such as “this new girl with no dress on”. Belittling people by comparing them to girls is something I thought we had seen the back of a long time ago.

    I’ve asked you not to use gratuitous insults like this in other forums, where your comparisons were even grosser and more insulting, but it doesn’t seem to make much difference. How does this help the argument?

    1. Mark Lynas (Post author)

      Thanks for that George – us girls have to stick together. Aubrey: I actually think C&C or some variant of it might have been in with a chance for serious consideration ten years ago, had it not been for your consistently offensive advocacy style. Don’t seek to pin the blame on me and others – you have done more damage to C&C than any other person alive. Still, too late for that now… the world has moved on, and as I said on twitter I haven’t heard it mentioned for years by any delegate or NGO or media in any negotiation in any place. So I think it’s properly off the agenda for all negotiators now probably forever.

  8. Aubrey Meyer

    George – I have obviously offended you. I am so sorry. Also, you’re quite right about girl’s with no dresses on [Same girl, new dress – those Latins!]. As before, I expect you will ‘threaten me with exposure’ in your Guardian-column, so I have replaced what was at the ‘Silliest Comments’ in Mark’s name, with his [even sillier] comments above. I have also referenced this site so that I will walk your fearsome auto da fe with my head held in shame.

    1. George Monbiot

      Aubrey, you are not exactly helping yourself here. Especially by making up quotes and threats from me. What’s the point?

    2. Aubrey Meyer


      Sadly, I didn’t make that up, it was your trump card in that stream of pious and innumerate comments you rained on the crisis forum all those year ago, as you prepared to denounce C&C in the Guardian in favour of ‘Kyoto-2’ [‘remember?’] which – truly not helping yourself or anyone else – you then did.

      Was ‘Kyoto-2′ central to the debate at COP-17? Say it and it must be so.

      What’s coming next I wonder? Maybe you’ll naively accuse me of having made up all that Mark Lynas’ drivel above too before the day is out. [Or was it actually you – didn’t he say you girls must stick together] . . . [and why not].

      Anyway feel free.

      However, your self-description as an ‘unreconstructed idealist and professional trouble-maker’ suggests you have grasped the ‘structure of idealism’ – trouble-maker yes, but that’s all.

      I think of you as a structure free zone. Part of your problem is that now after fifteen odd years, you have so many complete volte-face to defend on insight and policy, that your judgement seems to have now become a farcical mixture of voyeurism and gossip. You have no ‘centre’.

      Perhaps its time for to consider a new career at Hallo Magazine

    3. George Monbiot

      Aubrey, I never said any such thing. This is not the first time you have made up quotes and attributed them to me. I have asked you twice before not to do so, but it doesn’t seem to make any difference.

      I don’t know how this helps to advance your argument. Nor do I understand how issuing yet more gratuitous insults helps to resolve matters of contention.

    4. Mark Lynas (Post author)

      Aubrey – I am delighted to join the stellar list of influential people you have alienated over the years with your unique brand of autistic belligerence. Thankyou! And keep up the good work.

    5. Aubrey Meyer

      Oh George – & I told you as many times to stop un-making things up.

      So there we are all over agin – He said/She said – I don’t make-up, but I now give up. Your memory and your competence are fatally compromised. Could it be by your growing embarrassment over the fact that you continually press to ‘advance the argument’ with no credible argument to offer?

      In spite of all the stupid things you have said from that position, I didn’t name you in this, as K-2 was the aspirational argument offered by the man you have said you now – along with nuclear power and consortia of the world’s central banks – support.

      You might pause to consider for one moment that support for any ‘institution’ is a choice that should be made after you have fundamentally ascertained the constitutional understanding within which they operate and how much such institutions are willing to be governed by that constitution should they have found one.

      In a way that seems blind to all of that, I hear you and Mark bang-on that C&C is long-dead and forgotten and pigs can fly and all that. However, this quite technical file for example: – has been downloaded at an average of 300 times a day for the last two years [that is a total c. 100,000 times]. [The total hits on over the last year was nearly two million and as Dave Hampton points there is quite a lot of support for the argument: – ].

      Of course its small beer as there are 7 billion people on the planet as it goes steadily hell-wards; & God knows what users do with all that, but I.A. it compares C&C [it at least a coherent argument] with these ‘rivals’ [including K-2].

      Even these are arguments, if a bit incoherent and unrealistic. Why you chose to turn on all of this, I note as your ‘free choice’ and have never sort to restrain.

      All I ever asked you to do, repeatedly over many years, was – if you chose to address/advocate C&C [whatever] – to source it first to GCI’s source-material before you added all your third party commentary to it. You refused repeatedly refused to do this.

      And now you’ve taken to denouncing it – and why not? But all you offer now is your increasingly irrelevant analysis and opinion of a ‘process’ that has utterly lost its way. You don’t add anything and as you may have noticed, the game is slipping away from us all now.

      As I did say it elsewhere, I’ll say it again here, as a free agent in free-fall. You have no discipline and you are a notable disappointment.

  9. Guy Harris

    Thanks Mark for an informative and readable blog. A very valuable insight into the negotiation process and outcomes. Keep up the good work.

  10. Dave Hampton

    I am bemused.

    So just supposing who came up with the world’s Climate Peace Deal, fair, effective, numerate, self-consistent, negotiable, and popular with those on all sides of the negotiating table… actually did have a “consistently offensive advocacy style” as Mark accuses. (I don’t encounter Aubrey thus, far from it.) Would that matter a toss if he’d found a deal structure the whole world could literally – live with?!!!

    (*Setting aside for now that this man is a genius, a Nobel prize nominee, a City of London Lifetime achievement award winner, and one of the highest ethical integrity individuals I have ever met. Oh and there are millions of testimony’s to Aubrey’s work, thoroughness, fairness and the brilliance of his DISCOVERY, C&C, so it’s not just me.)

    Would that mean that the framework for survival that he came up with, worked tirelessly on, and persuaded vast numbers of people to back, was suddenly worthless? I think not. Nor do all these smart people >

    You two (Mark George) need to get over yourselves, take a good cold look at the depth, breadth and mass of support for C&C that exists – in the 99% – and stop trying to sabotage the planet because of sour grapes you didn’t come up with C&C first. Or that you don’t like the man who came up with THE current best chance for securing a binding fair working deal into any future.

    (Oh and George, I was copied in on the email Aubrey refers to, so what’s your point in making up that he made it up?)

  11. Dave Hampton

    There are words missing from the above that were typed in brackets that have been removed. I will try to revisit later to clarify.

  12. George Monbiot

    OK Aubrey, it’s a simple matter: provide the document in which the “quote” appears, or withdraw the allegation.

    1. Aubrey Meyer

      You pompous twerp – it was in a multi-party weblog that’s more than about six years old. If you can get whoever was responsible for hosting that at that time, to go there and discover that its extant and then trawl it to find that remark and get lucky – good luck.

    2. George Monbiot

      Er, no: the onus is on you to provide it, not me. I suspect that you will struggle to do so, as I never said it.

      And Dave Hampton: does the bullying and abuse Aubrey is using in these exchanges not cause you even the tiniest grain of doubt about the man you have chosen to worship?

    3. Aubrey Meyer

      Well I guess its ‘ . . . and your honour, to top it all he called me a girl!’

      As for your riposte to Dave Hampton, I’m amazed. Now that you and Mark are being is this a shower of ‘sour grapes’ from the Sultana herself?

      Dave can speak for himself, but if you suspended your free-fall for just a moment and actually looked through the links he sent you, you’ll see he’s hardly alone in appreciating what has been established with the C&C campaign. Apart from the links he sent you, try this: –

      But then on second thoughts, don’t, it wouldn’t be seemly if you changed your mind yet again . . . . and we wouldn’t want you to stop turning wine into vinegar now would we.

    4. Barry Woods

      If you are looking for a quote.. have you tried the wayback machine… ?

  13. rippon

    This discussion is about the biggest threat humanity has ever faced, but Monbiot is fixated on “the bullying and abuse Aubrey is using”.

    Seems Aubrey Meyer was right, then: Monbiot certainly does seem to be a little girl.

    If you can man-up for a moment, Mr Monbiot, then please forget about Meyer’s assaults on your feminine sensitivities and focus instead on debunking the substance of what Meyer argues. He does seem to positing a powerful case, with, apparently, widespread support.

    1. Jelle U. Hielkema

      Maybe I can clarify some of this discusion by informing you all that the name GEORGE MONBIOT, a ’28’, is ‘cosmically equivalent’ to the following:

      “The added negative complication of all this is that the process of environmental degradation and destruction is currently aggravated and accelerated by that, in all its facets, blinding word ‘Power’ a ‘28’, described as ‘a number of frustrating and puzzling contradictions’, like also its 20th Century epitome the ‘Military-industrial complex’ ‘Enemies’ ‘Death and Destruction’ and the words ‘Govern’,‘Egoland’, ‘Human Being’ ‘Prelate’, ‘Finance’ ‘Financial’ ‘Figures’ ‘Conceit’ ‘Greed and Distraction’ ‘Unreality’ and ‘The World is blind’ ‘Climate of denial’ ‘Duality-Reality’ ‘The power of fear’ ‘Tunnel’ and ‘Business’ ‘Nuclear energy’ as well as ‘The fall of Capitalism’ ‘Fiscal austerity’ ’The end of awe’ and ‘no Mafia, no Party’ which are all the same ‘28’, as are also the words ‘vacation’ ‘weather’ ‘mobility’ and ‘paradox’ as well as ‘mentality’ ‘modern mentality’, double ‘28’! ‘divorce’ ‘disorder’ and ‘mixed-up world’ ‘inequality’ ‘quantum jump’ ‘cloud computing’ and …..’Obstacle’ ’The Big One’ ‘See-O-Two’ ‘Green Climate Fund’ as well as ‘Creation’ ‘The God Particle’ ‘In the Name of God’ ‘Goddamn’ and…..’Pope’ and….’Vatican and Communication’ ‘Survival’ and ‘The survival of the fittest’ and ….’Here on Earth’!!!

      And that seems to make sense from what I see ‘ventilated’ in these exchanges. And there is nothing to do about George than just live with it!

  14. Dave Hampton

    I am fairly confident I can find the email exchange that Aubrey refers to, on my old computer George, and will gladly furnish it if I do later.

    You are good/clever with words George – a real ‘professional’.

    Good luck ‘blocking’ everyone else who thinks C&C is a pretty neat idea from challenging you on twitter. There are plenty of us, despite the privileged position you have guiding some of us ‘what to think’. Your u-turn(s) and dismissal of C&C – potentially THE one thing that has the potential to extract a fair viable agreeable global climate peace deal is simply disgraceful in my book.

    If there’s any justice, and there may not be, you may find you have progressively fewer followers as you spin around making news, but blocking deep progress.

    As one of my tweep pals said hearing you had blocked me “Don’t worry Dave, you won’t be missing much.”

    Mark. I like you. Dig around and you might one day uncover some deeper truths than you read about in George’s column.

  15. jo abbess

    Dear @MarkLynas @GeorgeMonbiot @AubreyMeyer @DaveHampton (in no particular order of preference or obligation),

    I follow your work, each and every one of you. Each one of you is a very passionate man, very creative, with excellent communication skills. I respect each one of you, even as I reserve my right to critique each of you.

    Where’s the collegiate approach ? Where’s the love ?

    What are the climate priorities here ? A workable global deal ? An appropriate global deal ? A politically-drafted global deal ?

    There is only one possible framework that can work, in my view, and that’s Contraction and Convergence. It is the only policy offering that can draw in every country, the only way to jump the business-as-usual political brinkmanship and jousting.

    Everyone has to make carbon cuts. The carbon economy must contract. Every country has to cut according to their current levels of emissions. And every country has a future of equal per capita emissions rights when convergence is achieved.

    There is no country that can refuse such a framework. National self interests can be assured. Civil Society can be brought on board.

    It will be hard to bring the energy industry to a global deal deal, because they influence many governments, but this can be done with Contraction & Convergence – because everyone will be in this together and everyone will have to divest themselves of carbon and invest in zero carbon energy at the same time and in the same way. This protects investments, shareholdings, share prices, company reputations.

  16. John Monro

    Thanks Mark for this summary, distilling some very complicated information into something more immediately comprehensible. However, I had to look every single acronym up – can’t your word processor help you spell out the full titles at least once?. I don’t think Durban can be considered anything other than a near-disaster. From a predictably and now provably unworkable Kyoto protocol and fifteen wasted years, and now nothing at all for the next eight years or more, other than further vague and disinterested commitments by various nations, each vying with the other to be the last out of the carbon block, it remains a fact that the planet is not going to wait for us. We had a chance to understand reality during the 2008 economic crash, just as the citizens of Europe had this chance in the years leading up to the First World War, but they didn’t bother to look or learn. The results of this oversight unfortunately might turn out to be similarly tragic for us.

    As to Aubrey Meyer’s comments, who is this man? I don’t always agree with George Monbiot, eg his sudden and naive enthusiasm for a completely unproven new nuclear power technology, and Mark Lynas I don’t know well enough to comment, but honestly Aubrey, what’s got in to you? I have been looking at your internet site, the principles you espouse seem to have some merit, and look to have been widely endorsed by many intelligent and ethical people. What seems to me to be missing is the mechanism by which C&C will come into being. For instance your graphs show the USA cutting its emissions at a rate which would seem to be politically impossible, even if we from and our positions judge such as ethical. But Aubrey, continued shrill and quite unnecessary harping on with George and Mark for past grievances, real or imagined, is very destructive of your position and arguments, and leaves this interested and concerned observer puzzled and annoyed, it neither enlightens me nor gains a sympathetic response.

    1. Peter Winters

      John, you wrote what I was thinking … what has got into Aubrey Mayer?

      Also, whatever the specifics of the situation he was talking about with George Monbiot, on these sorts of matters, I am actually encouraged when people change their minds from time to time. It’s an indicator of an open-mind, taking into account new evidence and other opinions.

  17. Gordon Kenney

    I respect the people, their work, and the opinions expressed on this thread.
    All are more knowledgeable on this topic than myself, and I thank those who have devoted themselves to truth over power, to educate on this topic.

    Unity and agreement to act in the common good we’re missing at Durban.
    Profit over people once again ruled empire.

    Thank you all for your effort and devotion to humanity

    1. Jelle U. Hielkema

      Good statement Gordon on my father’s 94th birthday had he lived which he did’t beyond half that age at 47 but I always say ‘he lived at least two full lives’!
      Your brief comment should be seriously heeded I feel, as Jo Abbess’ deeper one of yesterday! Life is too short and our common troubles, with emphasis on common, are just to impressively great. Must have been the ‘turbulance’ caused by the departing spirit of Christopher Hitchens which maybe George Monbiot tries to emulate but I don’t think he up to that level of energy! Here’s one of George’s key pronouncements: “Here is what I fear: other people’s cowardice”.
      This implies to me that he should just love Aubrey Meyer for more than courageously and moreover patiently standing up against prevailing pregiudices in the overall ‘climate of denial’, George’s own ’28’, when it comes to Climate Change and its repercussions!
      Vision is what is needed here and long term Vision too and that is just what Aubrey in C&C puts believably forward. And, based on the natural knowledge and insights of people in our common past who knew much more than we do about just ho Nature works. And Mark Lynas, whose excellent book ‘Six Degrees’ I just happen to re-read at present, call it ‘coincidence. I am now at ‘Four Degrees’ and mark should know better than what he exhibits in this discussion. He’s been admirably and painstakingly ‘through it’ and makes us understand what a 2, 3, 4 degree world means for our children, grandchildren and those beyond. And my prediction is that they will ‘curse us to hell’

  18. Mark Dowd

    Mark. Thanks for this very helpful summary which is invaluable to those who were not there.

    George/Aubrey and anyone else…..all this mud slinging just gives all our enemies and the deniers much more ammo….I echo what Jo says: we have to reign all this in and look forwards……our Earthly home matters more than the pain of bruised egos and reputations. Basta por hoy! Enough.

  19. Ivan Todd

    Mark – thanks for this really illuminating overview. If I could just make one comment on the ‘spat’, I think it’s a little mean of you to say that ‘no NGO.. has mentioned C and C for years’ – it’s a comment that runs counter to the key passage from the Durban platform you quote:

    ‘Noting with grave concern the significant gap between the aggregate effect of Parties’ mitigation pledges in terms of global annual emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020 and aggregate emission pathways consistent with having a likely chance of holding the increase in global average temperature below 2 °C or 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.’

    In discussions of how this can be fleshed out fairly, how could C and C, or something that looks very similar, not play a central part? Maybe the phrase has changed – call it ‘carbon democracy’ (like Ken Livingstone) or whatever, but it’s still the same thing, basically – a global solution with an ethical dimension. (Granted, I’ve become as pessimistic as anyone about the likelihood of this actually being achieved).

  20. George Monbiot

    Mark Dowd and others:

    Hold on there: all I have done is to ask Aubrey to stop slinging mud. I’m not slinging any of my own, and it is exactly for the reason you state that I made this request. The result seems to have been a redoubling of the mud slinging, and not just by Aubrey. Why? What’s the point?

  21. rippon

    The point of the ‘mud-slinging’ is that Meyer seeks to accurately characterise Monbiot’s position. That is, it is not mud-slinging at all; it is severe criticism.

    Now, one can argue whether Meyer’s choice of *tone* in that criticism is the best one, but Monbiot has made a choice too: he has chosen to focus on the tone rather than the substance of Meyer’s criticism; and that gives the impression, then, that the substance is unnerving to Monbiot.

    Monbiot is increasingly gaining form in this tactic. For example, he recently made great play of Chris Busby telling him to “fuck off”, conveniently skating over the issue of *why* such an accomplished scientist would treat Monbiot with such disdain.

    If Meyer, Busby and many others (e.g. real Greens, Media Lens) criticise Monbiot, and an abusive tone creeps into that criticism, then those critics make fools of themselves if the criticisms are unwarranted: Monbiot/Lynas/whoever can simply debunk the criticisms with superior knowledge, evidence, grasp-of-the-science, etc.

    On the other hand, if Monbiot et al keep bleating about others’ rudeness, then Meyer seems to have a point in suggesting that Monbiot is like a little girl, whining ‘Stop being so nasty to me!’

    – in which case, to answer Monbiot’s question (“What’s the point [in being rude]?”), there certainly is a valid point in injecting a bit of rudeness: it reveals that Monbiot/Lynas are primarily sensitive creatures rather than serious intellectuals.

    Monbiot himself has been very rude and ‘mud-slinging’ (correctly, as it happens) about others, e.g. Frank Furedi and the Spiked crew. Those people have never suggested that Monbiot’s criticisms are unwarranted *because* they are *rude*. Even that deluded bunch is masculine enough to tolerate the heat of the kitchen.

  22. Tim Ragan


    Thanks for the informative summary of Durban/COP17. I have been reading the various comments posted here and see the deterioration in the conversation to mudslinging between a handful of passionate — and obviously highly frustrated — researchers and commentators. Unfortunately, it’s not really that hard to see how we can end up retreating into that combative position among ourselves when trying to push something as complex and unwieldy as climate change solutions.

    Anyway, I’m a neophyte to climate change discussions and come at them from quite a different perspective — one that may ultimately be helpful in moving things forward.

    As a practicing engineer and business guy, I see the “reform of business” as the greatest possible change agent society has at it’s disposal. Key to that reform is the concept of pricing current externalities, and 1st on that list would be the pricing of carbon/CO2. To this end, I have developed a framework for implementing global pricing of externalities which embeds the following concepts:
    – agreement of a global price at a defined future point;
    — latitude for each jurisdiction (region, nation, or province/state) to define their own “pricing discount” to be applied to the global price;
    — latitude for each jurisdiction determine how quickly that discount goes to zero over the timeline of the agreement;
    — application of the same conceptual framework to other priority externalities that have global/international ramifications.

    The proposal is contained here in a PDF file published on my blog:

    The significant difference between this approach and what we have done to date is that this framework provides for both a clear unequivocal target price AND allows local jurisdictional control over that price through their own discount structure.

    Put into practice my bet is we’ll most likely end up with getting long term convergence to a globally set price, with all businesses globally and locally responding by ultimately reducing that externality in line with their business economics (in the example case — less CO2 emissions).

    Anyway, I hope this is a helpful addition to the conversation — I am very interested in hearing comments back from your readers in terms of how we might get some momentum behind this concept, assuming it warrants such enthusiasm.

    Best Regards,
    Tim Ragan

    1. rippon

      Surely the solution to ‘externalities’ is to abolish them.

      That is, make them ‘internalities’. That is, every business should be legally required to clean-up its own emissions.

      Then the ‘pricing’ of pollution simply becomes zero (to everyone not engaged in the business).

    2. Tim Ragan

      Hi Rippon,

      Yes, that would be the short-hand summary of what I propose. The challenge is in the implementation of that very straightforward edict (to make them illegal).

      All businesses generate numerous externalities and to regulate them all — and then oversee that regulation — would be prohibitively expensive. To regulate but not monitor would lead business very quickly to realize that there was no incentive to reduce the externality since there would be no penalties for breaking the law since there was not active monitoring by the regulatory body. (We can think of lots of examples of this type of behavior today, by both businesses and individuals)

      My sense is we have to pick and choose which externalities we care about reducing, and then focus on them with the full powers of the state, regulatory bodies, and such. My proposal describes such a framework and how my might put it into practice.


    3. rippon

      “All businesses generate numerous externalities and to regulate them all — and then oversee that regulation — would be prohibitively expensive.”

      That is surely wrong, as proved by BP’s Deep Water Horizon and TEPCO’s Fukushima (and Monbiot wants us to have loads more Fukushima plants because his expertise in nuclear power tells him that we could never suffer such disasters here). It is the cost of cleaning up those disasters which is prohibitively expensive, which is why the ‘clean-ups’ will be cursory and ineffectual. The cost of regulating to prevent such disasters would be peanuts by comparison.

      Also, you could pass the cost of the regulation onto the businesses themselves rather than government by taxing the businesses instead of the public.

      Moreover, the cost of regulation would be even smaller if crucial utilities (e.g. energy, banking, healthcare, transport) were nationalised. But, as a “business guy”, perhaps you believe that things run better when done for the benefit of shareholders rather than the public in general.

    4. Tim Ragan

      Rippon —

      I’m not sure how you can legitimately make the logical jump from my statement “All businesses generate numerous externalities and to regulate them all — and then oversee that regulation — would be prohibitively expensive.”

      …directly to your statement “That is surely wrong, as proved by BP’s Deep Water Horizon and TEPCO’s Fukushima”.

      In my mind the BP and TEPCO experiences illustrate various things pertinent about regulating businesses, but not that ALL externalities should or could reasonably be regulated.

      I have written a little bit about how we might instill more “prudence” in risk management in businesses, using the example of the BP Deep Water Horizon example (read in particular comments regarding an Unintended Consequences fund):

      I do agree with your point about passing on the cost of regulation/oversight to the business community — the way I see it the most efficient way to do that is through using existing mechanisms of setting pricing in markets, and through tax structures.

      You end with the statement: “But, as a “business guy”, perhaps you believe that things run better when done for the benefit of shareholders rather than the public in general.”

      If you are genuinely interested in understanding more about what I believe in, you will find chapter and verse on my blog. I will happily debate any of my work and ideas with you if you have at least done me the courtesy of reviewing my work first. I truly believe my ideas will improve through the constant review and critiquing of others.

      Unfortunately based on your closing comment I’m not convinced you actually care much about progressing a conversation and jointly reaching new insights.

      It would be wonderful to be proven wrong on this point.


    5. rippon

      More affectation (from Tim Ragan this time) at ‘rising above’ the vulgarities of combative debate.

      By the logic of ‘civilised debate’, one could (condescendingly) argue:

      It is ‘understandable’ why I battered wife would feel ‘passionately’ about her situation. But, in seeking to resolve her ‘differences’ with her abuser, it is very ‘mudslinging’, and does not ‘help move things forward’, if she refers to him as a “bastard”.

      Far better to adopt a civil tone and seek a negotiated settlement, with the more moderate starting position that, say, punches to the head should only be tolerated on Sundays – rather than the more extremist position that any punches at any time should not be tolerated, EVER!

      My point is: people should grow-up and man-up, and stop wrapping themselves in the smug narcissistic delusion that they are better-mannered than their critics, and that manners are even of any significance.

      For example, Monbiot presumably knows (in his own mind, at least) that his grasp of the facts, evidence, science and debate is superior that of Meyer (or the ‘crackpot’ Busby). So that’s why he looks dubious when he draws attention to the hurtful names his critics call him, rather than simply taking the substance of their (e.g. Meyer’s) arguments and thoroughly dissecting and debunking them.

      If he simply did that, then Meyer would automatically look ridiculous for suggesting that Monbiot is just a silly little girl.

      People who plead for a more ‘collegiate’ ‘polite’ approach were probably susceptible to the sentiments of Coca Cola’s 70s ad campaign where they would “love to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony!”

      I reiterate: grow-up, and man-up – or get out of the kitchen. Being more polite to each other has nothing to do with moving things forward. Getting the science and politics right is the only thing that matters. Anyone who gets it wrong should be severely criticised. Bleating that someone is being very nasty to you does not constitute a rebuttal in a debate worthy of grown-ups.

    6. Tim Ragan

      Rippon —

      The definition of “affectation” (from Merriam-Webster) is given as:

      a : the act of taking on or displaying an attitude or mode of behavior not natural to oneself or not genuinely felt
      b : speech or conduct not natural to oneself

      Since you don’t know me at all, it is a very big stretch to suggest my comments are an affectation.

      I entered into this “conversation” because I felt I had some meaningful contribution to make. I am constantly in search of people who are trying to advance meaningful and implementable solutions to our most pressing challenges. I am happy to have my ideas picked over, critiqued, and improvements suggested.

      Instead, I find too much of the focus in these posts is on willful character assassination. I don’t see how that is helpful.

      We need to strive for a higher level of civil discourse if anyone is ever to take what we write here seriously.


  23. NJP1

    Durban was said to offer a ‘road map’ to find a way out of our imminent problems, but when I look at a road map, I may have an aspiration to reach my destination, but it doesn’t mean to say I’m going to get there.
    Mark, this isn’t a major step forward, it’s just another exercise in kicking the can down the road I’m afraid, ten years is forever in politics, everyone goes away with the warm feeling of having ‘done something’, but nothing has been done, other than the production of more political hot air.
    Our commercial system cannot be halted, it has to consume fuel, that is what we do and have done for 2 centuries now. We know it’s wrecking our environment, but that’s a tomorrow problem. Today we have use fossil fuel input to work and eat and alter our environment to what we think it should be. That will last only so long as we keep pumping in more fuel at an ever-faster rate. The Chinese and the Indians have watched ‘western’ prosperity grow, they are not going to stop now. So they will go on burning too. If they stopped, or even tried to slow down, the result would be economic collapse and civil chaos. We have deluded ourselves that world economy depended on constant trade of infinite variety, that to increase prosperity all we had to do was sell stuff to each other. We missed the point that producing ‘stuff’ depends on fuelburning, and there are no alternatives.
    Unfortunately this means that virtually every ‘western’ nation is in hock, because we borrowed money to buy even more stuff to delude ourselves that our prosperity was infinite, now we must work faster and harder to service our debts. That means burning more fuel to produce goods that others want to buy. But they cant afford them either, so our debts accumulate, so we produce more, burn more, and push our climate nearer the edge. Ten years from now, we will still be engaged in the same futile struggle; if we’re not, our global economy will have collapsed altogether.

    1. David Colquhoun

      It’s clear to me that C & C and all inter/governmental initiatives require a clear PEOPLE back-up. That is, lots & lots of people need to have signed up to INVESTING in green energy. We need an easy system to enable this. There needs to be a web site with contributions from reliable scientists to enable the truth (of global warming caused by mankind) to be broadcast. Then there needs to be a system for each “customer-investor” to recruit 2 or 3 other people to sign up to an energy supply company which is keen to expand. This company, later joined by other such companies, would invest a given (and growing) percentage of cutomer-investors’ bills in the supply of green energy and research into it. Result: steady green energy growth – and also steady greening of the economy. We need committed leadership to assist in this. Only when we have an expanding green economy, based upon individuals’ choice can we expect the government to do anything effective! So, PEOPLE (ie, voters) first, THEN government action, THEN
      C & C (and green laws/subsidies) as other countries follow on. THAT’S the right order of things. Contact me if you would like to continue the discussion. DC

  24. Jeremy Palmer

    I had thought C&C was the best idea around until I read Oliver Tickell’s Kyoto2. I agree with Tickell that not selling permits to release CO2 is a massive lost opportunity and that it’s far more realistic to control carbon at source (e.g. oil refinery or coal washing plant) than to police emissions where they escape into the atmosphere and try to account for them within national boundaries.
    I wonder if Mark would comment as to whether the Green Climate Fund could become part of a Kyoto2-style regime to sell permits and fund the kind of measures to tackle (and adapt to) climate change that Tickell proposes?

  25. rippon

    Hi Tim,

    You illustrate my point regarding robust debate and ‘little girls’ again with your comment, “Unfortunately based on your closing comment I’m not convinced you actually care much about progressing a conversation and jointly reaching new insights.”

    What does it matter what I “care” about?

    I made a substantive point: I asserted that the best way to ‘regulate’ these crucial utilities is, firstly, to nationalise them. Anyone who genuinely cares about this debate would be focused on the science and politics (e.g. nationalisation); their ears wouldn’t be pricking up at the merest hint of someone possibly impugning their character.

    It seems you have nothing to say about the substantive point – the merits (or not) of nationalisation. It seems you’re more concerned that my substantive point was couched in ‘hurtful’ language.

    It is deeply disturbing that you say you DON’T believe “that ALL externalities should … be regulated.”

    Surely *any* activities that produce costs to others (‘externalities’) should *all* be regulated. The regulation might even have to as bold as *banning*. It took us many decades to get there, due to prostitute ‘scientists’ dutifully lying for their masters, and corporate lobby power buying prostitute politicians, but we have finally managed to regulate (i.e. ban) smoking.

    “I have written a little bit about how we might instill more “prudence” in risk management in businesses,” you say.

    You are completely wrong-headed here. It is nonsensical to talk about instilling prudence in business. Joel Bakan (‘The Corporation’, book and documentary film) and many others have clearly shown how corporations are fundamentally antithetical to human welfare. Trying to ‘instil prudence’ would be like trying to instil ethics in a psychopath – instead of pursuing the rational course of terminating their freedom to harm others.

    You seem hung-up on the notion that the way forward is for everyone to be nicer to each other: nicer corporations, and more politeness in debate.

    With corporations, we don’t need better ethics; we need transparency, accountability and legal sanctions. Some people are helping us towards greater transparency. Wikileaks is an example; and Wikileaks haven’t prioritised politeness at all. Assange is a real man. His mission is to make journalism more scientific for the sake of global citizens, not more polite for the sake of little girls.

  26. Natalie TP

    Thanks for sharing your views. AOSIS has shown its fractures in Durban, specially through the voices of those who were not cooperative in dialogues with EU. Therefore this “alliance” as you have called it was not a natural or thorough one.

  27. Tim Ragan

    Hi Rippon,

    I did actually think it mattered what you “cared about” in terms of progressing a conversation, as I believe the point of these exercises is to advance our joint thinking and gain new ground.

    “Robust debate” and belittling people are not the same thing, in my mind.

    To your “substantive point” about regulating industries by nationalizing them — your statement was: “Moreover, the cost of regulation would be even smaller if crucial utilities (e.g. energy, banking, healthcare, transport) were nationalised.” Why do you assert that, and do you have any actual data to back it up? I would be interested in any work you have seen that support that, as it does not seem immediately obvious to me. And what makes it a “substantive point”, anyway? Is that just different language for expressing your personal opinion?

    As a guiding principle, I do believe that corporations should be required to “pay their own way” and not impose externalities on society. Having said that, the realist in me realizes that it would be near on impossible to effectively regulate that in its totality. I do want us to strive towards it, and my “externalities pricing framework” is a significant step in that direction. So, with respect to this particular point I apologize for any confusion I created — in theory I like the guiding principle, and in practice I want to ensure that we spend our time and energy on realistic, enforceable regulations that truly move the needle.

    If you do review the work I pointed to, you will see that the “prudence” I suggest for better risk management is based on imposing a significantly high financial “insurance policy” in advance of the company proceeding with an unproven, risky endeavor. If the possible penalty for screwing up is high enough, it will absolutely serve to focus the attention of the company. Might that be a rational course of terminating their freedom to harm others?

    By the way, many of the ideas I have generated in this field are rooted in my own strong belief in Bakan’s contention that the modern corporation operates much like a psychopath. I have no dispute with the general findings of “The Corporation” and found that piece in particular to be a very clear and accurate analysis of how things really work in practice.

    If you ever do bother to check a little bit deeper into some of the stuff I have put together (again, you’ll find lots of stuff to chew on and possibly skewer me with at please let me know if at that point you would still suggest that I “…seem hung up on the notion that the way forward is for everyone to be nice to each other, nicer corporations, and more politeness in debate.”

    Of course, I’m betting you won’t actually bother checking, as that might take some of the fun out of your version of “robust debate”.

    1. rippon

      Thanks Tim.

      It seems obvious to me that nationalisation is indeed a substantive point in any political debate. You seem to suggest that it’s not obviously substantive to you.

      So that’s a point on which we differ (the reason being, perhaps, that we simply have different instincts in that respect).

      It also seems obvious to me (but not to you) that regulating a nationalised industry would automatically be far cheaper than regulating a private one.

      You happen to be correct to observe that that contention of mine is not based on any review by me of any academic work or evidence on that question.

      I contend that any serious work on that question that has been, or will be, done on that question will bear my hunch out.

      You are correct that what I argue are merely my own personal opinions. But that is a truism. That applies to everyone, all the time, even when people claim otherwise, i.e. that their opinion is based on ‘evidence’ – because then they are simply giving their *opinion* of what the ‘evidence shows’.

      It is encouraging to hear that you believe (if I understand you correctly) that we should at least *strive* towards regulating every human activity that has an impact beyond the people involved in that activity.

      We concur on that.

      It’s good to hear that you basically agree with Joel Bakan’s analysis of corporations.

      We concur on that.

      You are correct that I won’t bother going into your material, or, indeed, any other technical material, regarding this debate – certainly not in the near future.

      The reason why I won’t brings me neatly to the most substantive point I have made in my contributions to this thread.

      You have impugned my character by suggesting that my reason for not doing so is because I’m only in this for the “fun”. That happens to be incorrect. (My reasons are to do with lack of time, energy and expertise to contribute significantly to the technical side of this debate.) My substantive point is that, if I had delicate little girl sensibilities, my debating energy would be stimulated more by the hint of a smear against me (i.e. I’m disingenuous, only in it for the fun) than by the substantive disagreements between us (e.g. I favour nationalisation, you don’t – perhaps).

      Monbiot is also correct about me: I do indeed regard a person’s complaints about others’ abuse of them as a sign that that person is on weak ground. An example (one of many) of model practice in this respect is Noam Chomsky. He never complains when people insult him. All he ever talks about is facts, evidence and inconsistencies (hypocrisy).

      Radical change has never come from people being well-mannered in their advocacy. It is crass naivety to suggest that Greens (including pseudo-Greens) won’t be taken seriously because they are sometimes (or often) very abusive towards each other. The only thing that matters is the veracity of people’s scientific and political analysis. People’s manners only matter to little girls, not to real men and real intellectuals.

      I can actually cite an example of gutsy masculine behaviour from Monbiot himself (he’s not all bad): he has attempted citizen’s arrests of one (or more) major figures (can’t remember who now – Blair or Bolton or both and/or others). BUT, calling someone a war criminal (when it hasn’t been proven in a court of law) and invading their personal space (as any arrest requires) are very abusive and rude actions.

      Moreover, Monbiot has also been rude and abusive about Furedi and Spiked.

      Thus, Monbiot is not above abuse and rudeness himself.

      So get over yourselves, people. Stop whining about others’ rude behaviour and the hurt it causes you.

  28. George Monbiot


    Yours is one of the most blatant inversions I have ever come across.

    I remarked that Busby had told me to fuck off AFTER I had shown how his claims about leukaemia clusters had been completely discredited. In fact I suspect he told me to fuck off precisely because I had discovered things he would rather I hadn’t.

    Similarly, Aubrey began abusing me only after I had explained in a column why I now favoured Kyoto2 over C&C (not because I disparaged C&C but because I felt that K2 was more practical and easier to implement).

    Usually, one concludes that if someone is using abuse it is because they have lost the argument. I have never before seen someone maintaining that a person’s objection to that abuse is a sign that he has lost the argument. Remarkable.

    1. rippon

      Monbiot: “Usually, one concludes that if someone is using abuse it is because they have lost the argument.”

      Not at all.

      There has been plenty abuse of high profile people.

      For example,
      George W. Bush: moron, thick, stupid, fanatic, crook, ignoramus, liar, …
      Tony Blair: poodle, narcissist, coward, liar, smarmy, sickening, …
      Thatcher: witch, fascist, drag queen, liar, warmonger, …

      None of that abuse stemmed from people’s frustrations over losing the argument. Rather, the abuse served a very useful function in nut-shelling the flaws in the ‘victims’ of the abuse.

      For example, when ‘abusing’ Blair with the word ‘liar’, it begs the question, ‘Why? What’s your evidence for calling him that?’ And then the ‘abuser’ can elaborate on the soundbite. Thus, the ‘abuse’ actually serves as enlightenment about the true nature of the ‘victim’ of the abuse.

      No one, on any side of the Iraq debate, felt that the abusive term, ‘liar’, was being hurled at Blair because the abuser’s true feelings were ‘I don’t really know if he’s a liar or not; I just hate him and the stuff he says, but I can’t see how to win the argument.’ Everyone understood that the abusers hurled the abuse because they believed they had the evidence to substantiate it.

      Blair, on the other hand, was a model of excellent manners. He never hurled any abuse at his detractors. For example, he repeatedly said that he actually *respected* people ‘for taking a different position over Iraq’ to himself.

      War criminals are the most polite respectful people in the world.

      Now, the wantonly thick amongst you will interpret my post as advocating for more rudeness and abuse in political discourse. Others will understand the crux of my point: abuse is an incidental unimportant aspect of debate; anyone who focuses on it reveals that they are not very interested in the big urgent issue at stake.

  29. Sam Lee-Gammage


    C&C was a good idea. I think no one would question this or that conceptually it is very attractive from an ethical and moral standpoint. I would vote for it.

    However, the ship has sailed mate. Climate negotiations have a path dependency and we are well and truly locked in now – as Mark says – for the next decade. Common but differentiated responsibilities is off the table for a post 2020 agreement (at least for legal form).

    You should also disabuse yourself of the idea that climate negotiations conform to an ethical code and if they only knew of this idea, things would change. That’s the deficit model of science communication right there, and that model has been shown to be false.

    Sure, every party may have good intentions, but this is also about geopolitical power and that’s something that will never go away. International law only has force because parties consent to be bound by the agreements they make. Look at Kyoto, Canada pulled out exactly on the time limit to allow it not to be penalised by the compliance mechanism of the KP. The USA never ratified it! How many times have you heard of countries going to the ICJ over environmental issues…… never, yes that’s because both countries have to give consent to the outcome and even to go. What’s more, tons of countries are non-compliant with treaties and don’t want to be called out on it either.

    For international law to operate, there has to be buy in, domestic ratification, and strong compliance mechanisms (without doggy doors): both carrots (market mechanisms) and sticks. Look at the current domestic situation of Canada and the USA et al. Look at the rates of decarbonisation C&C would require. It would never get through the houses and no president (who is already weak) would attempt to do so currently or in the near future. The force of your moral argument would not change that one iota.

    If I were you I would look to influence the Durban platform which as a global instrument with a ‘legal’ nature, shall we say, might be more amenable to a C&C framework.

    Stop bitching about the past and look forward.


  30. Shilpa

    I find many things about this comments list that make me sad. But the thing that makes me angry is the use of gendered language. My niece is 6 years old. When she’s with her female friends, she behaves with far more dignity, compassion and intelligence than i’m spotting here. Her ego seems to be quite healthy – she’s not having to lash out to maintain her sense of self.
    Have your embarrasing arguments in public by all means, but leave the ‘little girl’ comments out would you.

  31. rippon


    Comments here make you “sad”. So what? Do you seriously think that good manners are an important priority when debating humanity’s survival?

    Info about your darling niece and her friends and their personal qualities (which are superior to the qualities on display here) are irrelevant to the substance of this debate.

    It is *your* piffling contribution that is actually embarrassing because, for all your holier-than-thou posturing, you have said nothing about anything important, e.g. nationalisation, privatisation, regulation, nuclear, renewables, C&C, Kyoto, Durban.

    And that’s the point I have repeatedly made: when people’s attention is so easily sparked by such trivia as the tone in people’s voice or rudeness or politically incorrect language, then that reveals how disingenuous they really are in their professed concern about the urgent issue at hand – saving millions/billions of humans from disaster.

  32. Sam Lee-Gammage

    Rippon you are 100% wrong,

    Using language is incredibly important, because language either written or spoken is the way in which we communicate and in which meaning is established and perpetuated in social discourse – and in the world. It is what makes up society because it is how ideas and concepts are communicated, legitimised and maintained.

    Do you think diplomats at the UNFCCC make progress by insulting one another’s countries. No they use courteous language whilst argue differing opinions.

    Sexism is something that should long ago have been deconstructed and it is language that maintains its specter in society as much as anything else.

    Your are ethically inconsistent. You appear to care urgently about climate justice, and climate action. Why is taking a principled position on anything else any less worthy. More to the point, how is tackling sexist language a detraction from climate action. I think you will find that tackling sexism internationally is a key strategy in tackling poverty and climate change and is recognised explicitly as such by the UNFCCC.

    Get off your sanctimonious podium.

    1. rippon

      I think my reply to Monbiot (above) addresses your criticisms of me.

  33. Mark Dowd

    And to echo Sam’s point….tone and manner and how we address one another ARE important…

    the substantive issues of C and C, permits, Copenhagen, Cancun and Durban, the pros and cons of the Climate fund, etc….no-one in their right mind is going to engage with the substance of all this if it is wrapped in poisonous, self-justfiying point scoring….they’ll just switch off and cease to read what may be perfectly sound points, but draped in vitroil.

    So it’s both content AND the manner of how we express those points of view that matter…it’s not an either/or.

  34. Chris

    Hi Mark,

    Many thanks for what I found to be a very useful summary.

    All the best.

  35. Chris Sanderson

    I wonder if comments from Aubrey Meyer could be banned?

    They don’t seem to add anything constructive or even amuse.

    They simply make it harder to find the useful comments……./Chhris

  36. Richard

    Please don’t start banning contributors – not unless they say things far worse than this, anyway. George Monbiot isn’t going to be initimidated by a bit of childish abuse, I’ll wager. Happy new year.

  37. B

    Thanks for a really useful overview of the outcomes of Durban Mark. For someone who was away from the internet when it was happening, this has helped to clarify a lot of queries.

    On another note, Aubrey, I have found your comments immature and useless. Does it matter that Mark may have advocated C&C a few years ago? Times change, people change, opinions change, science changes. Thus the basis of the whole conversation on here is pointless. As an outsider who knows only a bit of the three of you, it sees to me as though Aubrey started the attack for no reason other than to cause an argument, with comments that have no substance nor relevance. It pains me to read such immature and “high-school” dialogue. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and changes thereof, and the language one expresses ones disagreement or questions is vitally important so I agree with many others who have commented on this article – grow up and concentrate on what is important.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *