Good news about climate change from one international conference. No, it’s nothing to do with the non-event in Durban. The European heads of state meeting in Brussels were the ones who made the big contribution. By committing themselves to the doctrine of austerity they will send much of the developed world into recession.

That absence of growth might compensate for the failure of the climate talks in Durban to do anything meaningful.

Just love the titles. So now we are going to have a new international body — the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action. It’s supposedly going to negotiate a global agreement by 2015. Why anyone thinks a AHWGDPEA is going to succeed where Copenhagen, Cancun and Durban failed is beyond me. I’ll settle for the verdict of the boffins from the Climate Action Tracker:

“With a new agreement not scheduled to take effect until 2020 the new agreement appears unlikely to affect the level of action in 2020 already pledged.

As the agreements in Durban do not propose additional action before 2020 the risk of exceeding 2°C remains very high.  Action to implement the  Durban Agreements will need to be quick to increase emission mitigation and hence have a chance at reaching this goal. Catching up on postponed action is costly and the technological and economic options required to do so are largely untested – or unknown. The Climate Action Tracker estimates that global mean warming would reach about 3.5°C by 2100 with the reduction proposals currently on the table.”

A terrible mistake. It is now clearer to me than ever that building the present Parliament House in Canberra was a terrible mistake. It has resulted in a variation on Parkinson’s law whereby the number of ministerial employees expands to occupy the space available. That realisation came to me when I read in a column by Lenore Taylor at the weekend that Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s “50 or more staff” would  head to The Lodge this week for their annual Christmas party and a friendly game of backyard cricket.

50 or more staff! When I came to Canberra I doubt that Sir Robert Menzies had 10.

What has now happened is the introduction of a whole new layer of bureaucracy into the structure of government with no evidence that the system is any better than when the Prime Minister relied on his department for advice.

A clue to Europe’s future. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development gives some frightening clues as to the future course of events in Europe as the European Community punishes the poor with its renewed belief in the the economics of austerity. In its recently released report Crisis in Transition: The People’s Perspective it draws attention to the findings of the a 2010 EBRD — World Bank Life in Transition Survey which found:

… that support for markets and democracy has fallen significantly in most of the more advanced transition countries since 2006, but has increased in many of the less developed CIS countries. This chapter investigates several hypotheses to explain these changes.

One group of explanations has to do with crisis experiences.

The LiTS data reveal that the more people were personally hit by the crisis, the more they turned away from democracy and the free market. Moreover, it seems that it is the impact of the crisis compared with preceding crisis experiences that matters. People became less supportive of democracy if the recent crisis hit them hard relative to their memories of past crises. Since the more advanced transition countries experienced deeper downturns in this crisis but milder ones in the early and mid 1990s, this could go some way to explain why markets and democracy lost support, particularly in the new EU Member States.