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Weekend catch-up: COP21, Australia-PNG, China's military base in Djibouti, memory chips and more

Weekend catch-up: COP21, Australia-PNG, China's military base in Djibouti, memory chips and more
Published 5 Dec 2015   Follow @BrendanTN_

The first week of the Paris Climate Conference, or COP21, has drawn to a close. Leader statements have been made and detailed negotiations have begun. Erwin Jackson, Deputy CEO of The Climate Institute, is in Paris and says that so far progress is 'uneven':

We will not get a good sense of what will have been accomplished this week for a day or so but it is fair to say that progress is uneven. This is being driven by certain regressive countries in the Like Minded Developing Country group attempting to suck energy out of the process and weaken the effectiveness of a possible agreement. Saudi Arabia, a wealthy and diplomatically effective oil state, is the focus of much frustration.

Jackson also wrote on Opposition Leader Bill Shorten's climate speech at the Institute last week:

All independent economic modelling in Australia has shown that cleaning up our economy would see economic growth continue strongly. Putting aside the fact this modelling explicitly ignores the economic impacts of climate change itself, any cost to businesses and the economy is largely determined by the policy to achieve the target, not that target itself. For example, the modelling commissioned by the Government shows that the overall economic cost of achieving a 45% reduction in emissions by 2030 through domestic and international action is the same as achieving a 26% reduction through domestic action alone.

International law Professor Tim Stephens looked at the legal aspects of any agreement coming out of Paris, particularly at what the US would be able to commit to without having to get consent from Congress:

The draft also obliges all parties to have targets and to implement them. To meet US constitutional requirements, it seems likely states will agree that the targets themselves are not obligatory, but there would be a legally binding obligation to pledge them and to have plans to implement them. The draft also includes a provision requiring targets to be set for five year periods, with each target to be stronger than the last, and justified in terms of being a fair contribution to the 2°C objective. There is to be a regular stocktake of individual and collective action, and a system of transparency to ensure that states do not make empty promises.

Mike Callaghan  said that Australia needs to take putting a price on carbon seriously: [fold]

If the world is serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the most efficient way possible, putting a price on carbon is a must. Currently about 40 countries are implementing some form of carbon pricing at the national level and over 20 sub-national governments have carbon pricing schemes. China is introducing an emissions trading system. But not Australia, which has the unenviable distinction of being the only country to abolish a carbon tax.

If Australia is serious about reducing emissions in the most efficient way possible, it should put pricing carbon on the tax reform table for, as the Prime Minister has said, nothing is off the table when considering tax reform options. It is time for Australia to move on from the simplistic claim that a price on carbon is nothing more than a 'great big new tax'.

Jenny Hayward-Jones on Australia's immigration policy and bilateral relations with Papua New Guinea:

A number of prominent commentators on Papua New Guinea have publicly and privately regretted the impact of the political imperative to maintain the Manus island refugee processing centre as a deterrent to future asylum seekers. The ANU’s Stephen Howes and I are on the public record saying that this imperative dissuades the Australian government from tackling tough issues in Papua New Guinea and constrains Australian policy options. Anti-corruption campaigner and head of the now de-funded Taskforce Sweep in Papua New Guinea, Sam Koim, has also cautioned about ignoring corruption at the highest levels in Papua New Guinea in order to preserve the O’Neill government’s cooperation with refugee resettlement processing and resettlement.

Are we right? Is Australian policy in Papua New Guinea beholden to its immigration policy?

How do the theories of economic historian Douglass North and the TPP relate? Stephen Grenville:

North's interest was in generalising from this experience, analysing the evolution of rules of conduct. He called these 'institutions' — 'the humanly devised constraints that shape human interaction' — and likened them to the rules of sporting games.

For North, the rules evolved out of social interaction (often by the participants) rather than being imposed by governments, and in response to perceived needs. Whether a particular set of rules persisted or evolved over time depended on whether they served the objectives of the participants. 

The US military released the results of its investigation into the airstrike on a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders that killed 30 people in the Afghan city of Kunduz. Perhaps there is a deeper problem with the way the West fights war, says Susanne Schmeidl:

The story however, shows more than just human error, and the problem is unlikely to go away if the blame shifts solely to individual soldiers without addressing the underlying question of how the West fights wars. Kunduz, after all, is not the first and won't be the last such 'tragic mistake' by the US military. Perhaps it is time for a system overhaul, or possibly an urgent effort to address what I feel has been a slow erosion of human rights within military circles due to the frustratingly long wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iraq and now Syria against non-state adversaries not bound by the Geneva Convention and which care little about international humanitarian law.

Leon Berkelmans took aim at DFAT this week, specifically the Department's reasoning over opportunity costs and free-trade agreements:

Here’s a challenge for DFAT. If it chooses to model the effect of the Trans Pacific Partnership (and I think it should), then try doing it with different assumptions about which other agreements exist, for example, the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). I reckon it would make little difference to the cost-benefit analysis.

A very good piece from David Brewster this week on China's announcement regarding its first overseas military base:

Overall, the decision to site its first foreign military base in Djibouti was probably a good choice for Beijing. And for those concerned about China's intentions, Djibouti may be less worrying than other possible locations. Djibouti already hosts several foreign naval and military facilities, including French, US and Japanese, so it can hardly be said that China has Djibouti in its pocket. Previous reports indicated that China plans to build new port and air facilities near the town of Obock, some distance from other foreign military facilities. Nevertheless the existence of these other bases in Djibouti might be viewed by some as reducing the likelihood that China would use its new facilities in opposition to Western interests in the region.

Emma Connors delved into the history of the use of the surname 'Rodham' by Hillary Clinton and how the US presidential candidate has mirrored society's changing attitudes toward women changing their names when they marry:

And, as it turned out, Hillary was pretty flexible on the issue as well. In 1982 she took the double surname route, becoming Hillary Rodham Clinton, to help her husband reclaim the seat of governor in Arkansas. Now, it seems, 40 years since she married, she has given away her maiden name for good. In 'Hillary's Story' on her campaign website there is not one mention of Rodham. Her campaign has confirmed there will be no Rodham on the ballot. So what does this do to her feminist credentials?

Casper Wuite on the fight against ISIS in Libya:

With this in mind, the rise of ISIS in Libya should be given greater priority by the international community. Stopping its spread will certainly not be an easy task. The jihadist field in Libya remains highly fragmented and localised, and the threats emanating from it are firmly embedded in the conflict between Libya’s two main political-military coalitions. This makes the terrorist threat in Libya bewildering and unpredictable and a military intervention ill advised.

Is there a new Cold War forming around the Syrian civil war? Hussain Nadim:

Events in Syria demonstrate that despite all the advancement and progress of human society, the global South continues to remain under the hegemony of North. The great powers may no longer have colonies, but instead they have 'national interests' in regions as far off as Afghanistan or Syria. Despite the rhetoric over decolonisation since World War II, the fact is that the Middle East and numerous other former colonies have remained under the shadow of these 'national interests'. The threat from ISIS has allowed swift increases in military and defencespending, but taxpayers have little clue that it's not their security at risk but the security of the 'national interest' somewhere in Middle East.

An informative article from Julian Snelder on the global and geo-strategic competition over memory chips:

The dilemma for Taiwan and Korea is painfully apparent even as they too rebuff China’s approaches. They have seen the technology-for-access movie before in the LCD sector: first Chinese import tariffs are raised, then a 'price-fixing' probe, then one foreign company buckles and agrees to share its crown jewels with Beijing, and the rest quickly fold and follow. As in LED, solar and flat TVs, once Chinese firms are established, they proliferate and grow aggressively. Margins and returns implode. Chinese semiconductor executives, supposedly motivated by Mao 'to serve the people', beam insouciance about the financial rationality of their adventure.

What Australia is doing in terms of its US-China policy is not unique within the region, says Andrew O’Neil

Australia's hedging in relation to China is analogous to that being practised by many other countries in its region, including most of ASEAN, New Zealand and South Korea. This undermines claims that Australia and other middle powers in particular confront a Manichean 'choice' between China and the US — claims made, incidentally, not just by Hugh White but also by some of his pro-American alliance critics as well.

Rodger Shanahan explains what Turkey is getting wrong on its Syria policy:

Erdogan has proven himself to be an adept domestic politician, but on the international stage his Islamo-nationalist outlook and short-termism has resulted in Ankara becoming increasingly isolated from states that had been its close partners. The West believes it to be duplicitous when it comes to Syrian Islamists, the Arab regimes (with the exception of Qatar) believe it to be in bed with their natural enemy, the Muslim Brotherhood, and it has now picked a fight with its second-largest trading partner in Russia. None of this augurs well for the future.

And Nick Bisley on the successes and failures of institutionalism in Asia:

But even though this year's meetings showed much of what is wrong with the region's mechanisms, one should not underestimate their basic importance. That they exist at all in a region beset with historical animosity, rising mistrust and a slew of territorial disputes is an achievement. These entities have real potential not only to build personal connections among elites and to manage crises, but also to establish the foundations of a more stable platform for Asia's future. The recent summit season shows us how much work we have to do before this can occur. It is a significant challenge but one from which Mr Turnbull's self-styled 'grown up government' must not shirk.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user UNclimatechange.

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