As the climate talks in Durban conclude with yet another fudged, delayed and grossly inadequate outcome, climate negotiations are beginning to look less like a failure of political will and more like simple stupidity. In what other area of governance on this planet, after all, are decisions ever made on the basis of just one issue? Where in an individual nation, for example, does the government ever keep its population satisfied by legislating on one issue alone, without bringing in or taking into account other issues that allow those who may be unduly disadvantaged to be compensated in some way? Indeed, without being able to mix and match different issues so that what some may lose on one issue, they can gain on another, national-level governance—our present nations and representative democracy itself—would hardly have come into being at all!
But if some other global issue were included alongside the climate negotiations—a global financial transactions (Tobin) tax, for example—the billions of dollars this tax would raise could be used to compensate the big losers on the climate part of the agreement, as well as to assist developing countries to adopt clean technologies (and it might help calm financial markets to boot!). Moreover, making the Tobin Tax the subject of global negotiations, rather than the European Union trying in vain to force it on the UK, would neatly meet the UK’s condition that Tobin must be implemented globally if it’s to gain Britain’s support. By mixing more than one issue in a single global negotiation, in other words, opportunities for compensations and trade-offs are created and the chances of making it in everyone’s interests to co-operate become vastly greater.