Isn't it curious how, when it comes to trade deals, governments willingly, sometimes foolishly, even rashly, surrender some pretty important incidents of state sovereignty, but when it comes to climate change and, especially, agreements to slash greenhouse gas emissions, the national sovereignty issue is used to thwart any outside interference.
We'll agree, promise even, to cut emissions by this amount or that by this year and that, but don't you dare monitor us. We'll tell you how we're doing and you'll just have to take us at our word. Don't even think about enforcement, actually holding us to our word. No, no, no - sovereign states don't tolerate that sort of meddling.
When it comes to climate change, one of the top voices is that of Hans Joachin "John" Schellnhuber of Germany's Potsdam Institute. He's Angela Merkel's 'go to guy.' Same, same for Pope Francis.
Schellnhuber is guardedly optimistic that the Paris climate summit in December might just spark something unstoppable - other than global warming. What he's hoping for is nothing less than an implosion of the global carbon economy.
“If some countries really honour their pledges, including China, Brazil, South Africa, US and Europe, I think we will get a dynamic that will transform the development of the century. This is not sheer optimism – it is based on analysis of how incumbent systems implode.”
In July, Schellnhuber told a science conference in Paris that the world needed “an induced implosion of the carbon economy over the next 20-30 years. Otherwise we have no chance of avoiding dangerous, perhaps disastrous, climate change.”
“The avalanche will start because ultimately nothing can compete with renewables,” he told the Guardian. “If you invest at [large] scale, inevitably we will end up with much cheaper, much more reliable, much safer technologies in the energy system: wind, solar, biomass, tidal, hydropower. It is really a no-brainer, if you take away all the ideological debris and lobbying.”
The hook here is, "if some countries really honour their pledges." If.
“The verification will not be delivered by an international scheme,” he said. “You will not send in emissions inspectors like people wanted to send to Iran [for nuclear technology inspections].” Instead, he said: “It is prestige, it is image, it is a moral issue, it is how you appear to the world. If the Chinese, for example, make a pledge, they want to keep it. They do not want to lose face.”