Friday, December 18, 2015

The Paris "Agreement"

All the excitement, the back-slappings, the hubbub is over, and the 40 000 have jetted back home. COP21 has come and gone. We have now had time to assess all 32 pages of the Paris Agreement.

In spite of the claims about saving the planet, there is little for your carbon comfort. Much of the Agreement has to do with noble intentions: ”Each Party shall prepare, communicate and maintain successive nationally determined contributions that it intends to achieve. Parties shall pursue domestic mitigation measures, with the aim of achieving the objectives of such contributions.” (Article 4.2) Legally binding? No! And wasn't there something about the path to Hell being paved with good intentions?

Much of the Agreement has to do with accounting: “Parties shall account for their nationally determined contributions. In accounting for anthropogenic emissions and removals corresponding to their nationally determined contributions, Parties shall promote environmental integrity, transparency, accuracy, completeness, comparability and consistency, and ensure the avoidance of double counting - -.” (Article 4.13) It will be nice to be able to tell how rapidly we are committing carbon suicide (if indeed we are), but it is difficult to see how this is going to save the world.

An issue largely left unresolved is what to do about the big emitters who have emerged since 1992, when the Convention on Climate Change came into being. It is all very well for the Agreement to say “Developed country Parties shall provide financial resources to assist developing country Parties with respect to both mitigation and adaptation in continuation of their existing obligations under the Convention. “ (Article 9.1), but there is no clarity of who is ‘Developed’ and who ‘Developing’. Which category does China fit into? Or South Africa, for that matter?

On the money, the Agreement is gloriously vague: “strongly urges developed country Parties to scale up their level of financial support, with a concrete roadmap to achieve the goal of jointly providing USD 100 billion annually by 2020 for mitigation and adaptation.” (Para IV, 54) In other words, for all the pious promises, S100 billion a year will not be available soon.

You will understand that I am seriously underwhelmed by the Paris Agreement. The fact that it is little more than hand-waving is made clear by Article 28: “1. At any time after three years from the date on which this Agreement has entered into force for a Party, that Party may withdraw from this Agreement by giving written notification - -. 2. Any such withdrawal shall take effect upon expiry of one year from the date of receipt - - of the notification of withdrawal, - -” An agreement from which you can opt out any time you feel so inclined? That’s no agreement!

As the Romans would have put it, “The mountains have been in labour, and given birth to a little mouse.” (Horace)

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The hot-air balloon has gone up!

The 21st Conference of Parties has ground to a halt, predictably late. It has produced a 31-page Paris Agreement. It looks very like previous agreements, with much gnashing of teeth over climate threats. It is full of pious decides, also decides and further decides. But nearly all the decisions are about forming new committees, or making progress on earlier decisions. Decisions on real action are conspicuous by their absence, which is probably a merciful release for us all. The basis for carbon-cutting is the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDC's. Most nations were urged, after COP 20 in Lima,to dream up ways they could cut their emissions. Many responded. The UNFCCC sausage machine ground up the INDC's and found that by 2030 the world would emit some 55 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, rather than the hoped-for 40 million tons. Note that the INDC's are only intended - there are lots of good intentions paving this particular path to hell. But right at the end, it becomes clear that all this teeth-gnashing has worn the poor molars away: "1. At any time after three years from the date on which this Agreement has entered into force for a Party, that Party may withdraw from this Agreement by giving written notification to the Depositary. 2. Any such withdrawal shall take effect upon expiry of one year from the date of receipt by the Depositary of the notification of withdrawal, or on such later date as may be specified in the notification of withdrawal. 3. Any Party that withdraws from the Convention shall be considered as also having withdrawn from this Agreement." Some agreement!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Copious Parisian hot air.

I thought you would really REALLY like to know how the Paris talks are progressing. With three days to go to reach a consensus, I have the feeling that consensus is still a long way away: "Each Party shall regularly prepare, communicate [and maintain] [successive] ### and [shall][should][other][take appropriate domestic measures] [have in place][identify and] [pursue] [implement] [[domestic laws], [nationally determined] policies or other measures] [designed to] [implement][achieve][carry out][that support the implementation of] its ###]." I don't like to ask about "###" - I fear it may be something naughty and unfit for readers of this blog. But there it is, in all its triple hash glory, for all the world to see. What will they get up to next? The mind boggles at the idea of 40 000 people descending on poor Paris, to waste each others time in this way. Do they sincerely believe that they can control the global climate? Are they honest in their ambition? Do they really have a clue just how strong Mother Nature really is? Can they possibly be blind to how energy has made this world a better place to live in? Is it credible that the future they seem to believe in will prove achievable within the lifespan of those born today? Slowly the world is coming to the conclusion that violent storms must have stripped the UNFCCC emperors of their clothing - either that, or they were never properly dressed in the first place. Expect more hot air from Paris!