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Cancun in a nutshell: nothing achieved but it’s a Big PR Success


After the awful post-Climategate-and-Copenhagen year, more than anything else, the Big Scare Campaign needed a PR win. And in that sense Cancun was a major victory. Nobody agreed to anything legally binding, Kyoto was not extended, and all they achieved amounted to nothing more than an extension of the yearly junkets, and the promise that the gravy train is not dead yet. But the headlines will warm the hearts of all on Team-Scare-Us. The most important thing for the side that’s losing friends, faith and face, was to regain momentum. They’re trying to stop the death spiral.

The Australian ABC is only too happy to help be a part of the cheer-squad:

Cancun climate talks reach ‘historic’ deal

BBC lends as much momentum to this as it can swing in a headline:

UN climate change talks in Cancun agree a deal

Andy Revkin, NY Times, talks about “pivotal moments” in reverential tones. It’s a bit like the second coming:

Consensus Emerges On Common Climate Path

No one has actually agreed to anything enforceable, but you’d have to read the subtext to know that.

Richard Black, BBC Environment Correspondent sums it up unusually well:

“The dog is resuscitated and up and running…

we’ll see how far it goes”

Expect the raves to grow in western recollections. But in the rest of the world things are different. India is congratulating itself for avoiding any commitment:

No commitments in Cancun Agreement,

India’s interests ‘protected

See below for the 4 ingredients for a PR victory, and then see how Australian tax dollars are used to “help the environment” by adding 5000 Mega Litres of water a day into a flooded river.

Val Majkus found the UN Official release for Cancun.

The four ingredients for a PR victory:

Ingredient 1: Play down expectations so no matter how dismal it is, no one can write that it was worse than expected. (This has the added bonus of  keeping away protesters and real analysts.)

Ingredient 2: Make you sure ask for money on behalf of some eminently appealing victims: “just for starters we need $100 billion for the world’s poor” — who could say “No”?

Ingredient 3: It’s all a draft anyway. It’s just a statement of intent that no one really has to fight too hard over or struggle too much with the fine print. It’s easy to get a consensus. And it makes for great headlines where editors drop the words “draft” and report it as a “done deal”. This helps the support crew feel like they are getting somewhere and adopt the language of “certainty” (also known as the “bluff”). The draft deal also turns all the draft-signees into “players” who will feel compelled to defend the draft they signed back on their own home turf. (Handy.)  It’s a bit like the people signing pledges to donate to Telethon, or to remain celibate: the public pledge only costs them a few words, but makes them more likely to carry out their pledge.

Ingredient 4: At the same time as expectations for Cancun were played down, a huge ambit claim quietly underwrote the whole arrangement. Utterly preposterous statements are spoken as if someone is just stating the bleeding obvious — the matter-of-fact-voice conveys the ambit under a cloak of invisibility: “We all agree to control the weather to within 2 degrees C?” Unstated is the assumption that we can. Stating the big position as if it were banal allows the Team to sneak in other massive goals as if there were piffling extras.  In the light of planetary thermostats, what’s the odd $100 billion? When you’ve been asking for world government and control of the weather, $100 billion here or there is really nothing. Thus, the PR win is that agreements for “$100 billion” can sneak through and be described as if they are just a spot of spare change, described as: “it’s not enough” but “it’s a heartening start”. In any other forum, mass protests in the street would begin for much less.

Nonetheless, this is not “$100 billion” in the bag by any means, not until 2020, and it’s not guaranteed either, but it sure softens up the path for success in the near future. Do you suppose the chances of the climate gravy train getting more money in the next few years have not just ramped up a notch? CEO’s of companies will note the words “$100 billion” and they’ll be asking a staff member to start writing down how they can get some of that action… plans will shift the company closer to the gravy train several years before the gravy itself starts to flow.

So the bottom line of Cancun was that the puppet masters have sharpened up their game, and played things much more strategically. They got over-confident before Copenhagen and deservedly crashed and burned, but using a disciplined approached (backed by billions of your dollars) this time they are working to turn the losing team around.

Despite the evidence of corruption, or of satellites or radiosondes, or of killer peer reviewed papers, and despite the savage cold weather! The scare team are paving the way and all roads lead to Rome (or at least the Club of). Nothing has changed.

Post Note: Look out! Bureaucratic incompetence writ large.

Part of the Eastern Australian flood IS Man-made.

Jennifer Marohasy has pointed out that despite the massive flooding in Eastern Australia, the Snowy Mountain Hydro Dam is committed to releasing 4000-5000 Mega litres of water daily to “help the environment”. Marohasy must have spent a whole day phoning and emailing bureaucrats, almost all of whom refused to answer a simple question about whether the extra water was being released. If the dam gates were always shut when floods were downstream, wouldn’t every person in the office be able to say that?

Did no one writing those contracts think to add in a flood clause? Did they assume Tim Flannery knew what he was talking about? Did the team in charge of planning the water flow “know” somehow there would not be another flood on the Murray?

Yep! Blowering Dam may be out of control, the water belting out of Burrunjuck, the Central Murray likely to go under again as early as Wednesday, but because of a formal agreement between NSW Office of Water and Snowy Hydro, involving an obligation to South Australia, approximately 500,000 megalitres, equivalent to one Sydney Harbour of water, must be released as soon as possible as environmental flow.

Read more here.

h/t Binny.

Richard C sums up Cancun in comments on the last post:


Funding – No “how” agreement

Kyoto Protocol – Extension undecided

REDD – Deal not done

Emissions – Not binding

Adaption and Mitigation – Fast Start distribution undecided

A spectacular non-achievement (for them)

A breathing space (for us – except for a large OZ disbursement)


BTW: Baa Humbug hit a popular note with this comment #7 on the previous post.

There is more analysis of the meaning (or lack of) from Cancun in my last post and comments below that too.

UPDATE: What did I say?  Success at Cancun is already being used as an excuse here in Australia

THE Gillard government will use progress at the climate change summit in Mexico to step up political pressure for a price on carbon at home. ” [The Australian Monday]

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