Capitol Hill not China could scupper a climate deal

Whatever the outcome in Copenhagen, the battle will move to the Senate

Everything we're hearing from Copenhagen suggests that in the past 24 hours hope has begun to win out over gloom. I was never one of those who feared the summit would end in ignominious failure. No country (not least sensitive China) wants to be branded the one that sabotaged an agreement.

But there now appears every chance it will end in a profoundly inadequate deal. A leaked UN report suggesting the emissions cuts offered so far would still lead to global temperatures rising by 3C on average reminds us that future generations are still likely to face a climate breakdown. In human terms, a rise of 3C would put 550 million more people at risk of hunger and make up to 170 million more suffer severe coastal floods.

Naomi Klein contends in today's Guardian that no deal is better than a weak deal. She quotes the climate change adviser Matthew Stilwell, who argues:

I'd rather wait six months or a year and get it right because the science is growing, the political will is growing, the understanding of civil society and affected communities is growing, and they'll be ready to hold their leaders to account to the right kind of a deal.

I can't agree; the science may be growing but (however counter-intuitively) so, too, is climate change denialism. Failure at Copenhagen would be hailed by deniers as a victory. "The political will is growing"? There is little will for another summit on the scale of Copenhagen to take place in six months or a year.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama has arrived in town, hailed as the man who can deliver a "knockout punch". What's forgotten is that he faces the formidable task of getting any treaty past the Senate.

The Senate famously rejected Kyoto by 95 votes to zero and Obama is determined to avoid a repeat of this defeat. As a result, he'll only agree to relatively modest measures. Whatever the outcome in Copenhagen today, it is Capitol Hill, as Jeffrey Sachs has predicted, that will be "the last great holdout" preventing a deal.


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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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What Jeremy Corbyn gets right about the single market

Technically, you can be outside the EU but inside the single market. Philosophically, you're still in the EU. 

I’ve been trying to work out what bothers me about the response to Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on the Andrew Marr programme.

What bothers me about Corbyn’s interview is obvious: the use of the phrase “wholesale importation” to describe people coming from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom makes them sound like boxes of sugar rather than people. Adding to that, by suggesting that this “importation” had “destroy[ed] conditions”, rather than laying the blame on Britain’s under-enforced and under-regulated labour market, his words were more appropriate to a politician who believes that immigrants are objects to be scapegoated, not people to be served. (Though perhaps that is appropriate for the leader of the Labour Party if recent history is any guide.)

But I’m bothered, too, by the reaction to another part of his interview, in which the Labour leader said that Britain must leave the single market as it leaves the European Union. The response to this, which is technically correct, has been to attack Corbyn as Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are members of the single market but not the European Union.

In my view, leaving the single market will make Britain poorer in the short and long term, will immediately render much of Labour’s 2017 manifesto moot and will, in the long run, be a far bigger victory for right-wing politics than any mere election. Corbyn’s view, that the benefits of freeing a British government from the rules of the single market will outweigh the costs, doesn’t seem very likely to me. So why do I feel so uneasy about the claim that you can be a member of the single market and not the European Union?

I think it’s because the difficult truth is that these countries are, de facto, in the European Union in any meaningful sense. By any estimation, the three pillars of Britain’s “Out” vote were, firstly, control over Britain’s borders, aka the end of the free movement of people, secondly, more money for the public realm aka £350m a week for the NHS, and thirdly control over Britain’s own laws. It’s hard to see how, if the United Kingdom continues to be subject to the free movement of people, continues to pay large sums towards the European Union, and continues to have its laws set elsewhere, we have “honoured the referendum result”.

None of which changes my view that leaving the single market would be a catastrophe for the United Kingdom. But retaining Britain’s single market membership starts with making the argument for single market membership, not hiding behind rhetorical tricks about whether or not single market membership was on the ballot last June, when it quite clearly was. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.