Behind climate speeches, a ‘bloodbath’ of negotiations

Amanpour, CNN – Paris


AMANPOUR: So let’s talk about all of this now with the former Australian prime minister, Kevin Rudd, who joins me here. He was at the last major summit in Copenhagen in 2009 and now he’s president of the Asia Society, the policy institute which also spearheads climate projects in China and India. And you’ve been active at the summit and behind the scenes. So tell us a little bit, are all these speeches, is all this good political will, is all the optimism justified? What’s happening behind the scenes?

KEVIN RUDD, FORMER AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: Well, you have this great set of political speeches and then you have the unfolding bloodbath in negotiations. That’s what it was like in Copenhagen. It will be a bit like what it is here but —

AMANPOUR: Don’t say that. Nobody wants this to be like Copenhagen; that was a fiasco.

RUDD: — I’m about to go on — but as Christiana Figueres said just before, the bottom line is this: there is just a radically different mood. In some respects, people have learned from Copenhagen. Copenhagen gave us some very good building blocks, 2 degrees centigrade, measurement reporting and verification, action by both developed and developing countries. But the mood now is vastly different to Copenhagen. One of the reasons for the change is China.

AMANPOUR: Well, you have written that China, India, the United States, this whole thing, the fate of the planet depends on those three major countries. Are we going to get there with them?

RUDD: I think with China and India, it’s really — as far as with China and the United States, it’s fairly clear we will. And the three of them represent now about 40 percent of total emissions. But if you look at what India’s trajectory is, it’s going to be about 50 before too much longer. So India is a key question. And the Indians have a fair point. They say we’re about 30 years behind the Chinese industrial curve; we’re about to go into our big carbon intensive industrial phase. So the rest of us have actually, rather than criticize the Indians, have to support India through a transition process on technology and investment.

AMANPOUR: So what will that look like, because it does sound dreadful to think that they’re about to go into the kind of emissions that the United States and China did at dreadful cost to the planet. President Obama said that right now the targets add up to 2.7 degrees. That’s way higher. But he put a lot of faith and so did Christiana Figueres into the billions of dollars going into innovation and also something you’ve been writing about, these periodic reviews. Tell me what that means practically.

RUDD: It means that if the math doesn’t add up now in terms of the total aggregation of national commitments by all the economies represented here in Paris to the amount necessary to keep temperature increases within 2 degrees, we now have a mechanism with a review in five years’ time to see is the maths adding up; if it’s not, to go back and ask for higher commitments or greater compliance with existing commitments. If you didn’t have that, then I fear this would be a hollow document.

AMANPOUR: And the president also said that new technology could actually speed up the targets. One might get to the 2 degrees even faster than one imagined.

RUDD: I think that’s true. There’s a lot of fear around the changes necessary to give effect to real climate change action. But the bottom line here is technology is evolving. Solar technology is evolving rapidly. We still need the moonshot on solar energy storage.

But if we cross some of those thresholds in frankly what seems to be impossible and difficult now then becomes more possible in the future. The key is, as Christiana Figueres said before, is to have a legally binding framework which locks people in to the way in which we handle this and then the national commitments to give it effect.

AMANPOUR: And I know they’re trying to finesse the U.S. side of that because of the congressional obstruction but they still think they’ll get something binding in some way.


RUDD: I have one point on that, just on the legal stuff in the United States and I think we all know what our friends in the United States Congress can be like when it comes to treaties. But this agreement, this Paris agreement, does occur within the framework of the United Nations framework convention on climate change, which is a treaty. And guess who negotiated it from the U.S.? George Bush Sr. He negotiated it, signed it and ratified it. So that’s the parent treaty here. This is an agreement within that treaty. And I think, therefore, when you look at it and it represents the machinery of how this international agreement will work on delivering climate change action, I don’t think people in the U.S. should get too hot and sweaty about its treaty status.

AMANPOUR: You have just explained why they will potentially get the U.S. to sign onto something legally binding under this framework that you mentioned. But you’re a politician. Christiana Figueres says that world leaders have come to the political understanding that this is actually good for them. It’s good for their economies. Really?

RUDD: Well, Christiana was talking about enlightened self-interest and that is it’s good for the planet and good locally. I think why it’s good locally, if you’re sitting in Beijing in the polypore today, what’s good about this? Number one, you’ve got to deal with the reality of air pollution. You saw the footage today from Beijing. And carbon emissions affect not just climate change long-term but air pollution now. So bringing down levels of carbon pollution affects people’s physical lives now. But the second thing is this, by bringing about this legally binding framework, what we’re also doing is making it possible for renewable energies to suddenly become more financially feasible, more technically doable and more applied in peoples’ lifestyles and their consumption of energy.

AMANPOUR: Kevin Rudd, thank you very much indeed.

RUDD: Fingers crossed.

AMANPOUR: Fingers crossed, blood on the floor.