Monday, December 08, 2014

Alberta is Lima Bound: Let's Talk Climate Change at COP20

As the Alberta delegations joins other Canadians at the annual green festival of talk known as the Conference of the Parties (COP) – this time in Lima, Peru – they arrive just in time to watch the talks fall apart. China has rejected some of the language and the terms of the draft agreement as has India. The less developed countries are upset at the focus on mitigation and the lack of a binding agreement. All are upset with Canada just for producing oil from the oil sands. It will not be a pretty sight.

The Alberta Minister of the Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, Hon. Kyle Fawcett, has much he can talk about. Alberta has CO2 regulations and taxes – at $15 a ton for high polluters, Alberta’s CO2 emissions tax is more than twice as high as the current European Trading Scheme price of around $6.83 (the recent high). Alberta’s regional land use planning is based on some of the most progressive land use legislation in the world and Alberta’s forest industry is amongst the most green third party certified forest stewards in the world. None of this will matter to the serious green lobby. They are not interest in evidence, only in stopping oil sands production.

That they are no interested in evidence is clear from the lack of attention to actual data about warming (it isn’t and hasn’t for 18 years and 2 months according to satellite data), about sea level rise (it isn’t), extreme weather events (not connected to climate change according to the UN’s own climate change experts) or other factors at play in determining climate variability (they only look at CO2). The delegates have adopted a narrative which is now independent of the evidence available and does not change, whatever the evidence says. This is one reason the talks are bound to fail. They are driven by a “story” not by science and that “story” is becoming incredible (more accurately UN-credible).

The second reason the talks will fail – remember this is the 20th attempt to reach agreement – is that the 190+ national negotiators are trading commitments from a base of different expectations and interests. India and China both want and need to sustain high levels of economic growth which require energy. The “green talkers” want this energy to be largely renewable, but this is light years away from being a viable option, except for nuclear (which most greens reject).  China and India want others to cut emissions but want to increase theirs.

The developing nations want compensation for the impact of climate change “caused by CO2”. This should be easy, since there is very little compelling evidence that the world is warming or that the cause ongoing climate change can be attributed solely to CO2. But this is not the narrative any of the green talkers accept. They are looking for big money - $100 billion. Occasionally, nations pledge their contributions but they rarely actually make the funds available. For example, at the recent meeting in Europe, $9 billion was pledged. This upsets the green talkers who want all of the funds available now.

Everyone seems to expect a voluntary agreement (as opposed to a legally binding agreement) to fail. This despite the fact that Kyoto – a legally binding agreement – also failed to cut emissions. The “best” the green talkers can expect is a voluntary, non-binding agreement  which some nations will not sign up to.  By the end of March next year, all countries are expected to announce the level of their efforts to cut carbon as part of the expected deal to be concluded in Paris in 2015. But there is no agreement on what should be included or excluded from these statements.

What will happen between now and Friday is that delegates will settle on a document which is really a hollow shell of a deal – everyone will walk away with different interpretations of what the document means and everyone will say it was a great success. Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of the UN and UN climate chief Christiana Figueres will declare the document a “breakthrough” heralding a deal to be concluded in Paris and all will go home and celebrate Christmas or their appropriate holiday. Nothing of substance will then happen for some time.

In Paris, some kind of deal will be hobbled together. No one will be happy with it. The green talkers will say that it does little to “save the planet”, the skeptics on climate change and CO2 will say it does too much and governments will use it in whatever way suits their current, short term political purpose. Its all a lot of effort for very little discernible outcome. But then, this is really all politics and talk…its not about the climate or the environment or hasn't been for some time. Its talk-talk.

1 comment:

david oldroyd said...

Again, a persistent David, you confront the conspiratorial Goliath using clear arguments but also derisory language – “Jamboree”, “Gabfest”, “green talkers”, “hot air” – to predict their “green festival of talk’s” inevitable failure to “hobble together” a solid agreement to limit carbon emissions. The 192 nation states, however, do agree on one thing (from very different current levels of affluence) - to grow their economies as fast as they may for the benefit of their institutions and their people. Capitalists, corporate shareholders, consumers, citizens with pension funds, those trapped in poverty – all 7.4 billion of them have a vested interest and most of them a faith, in the benefits of exponential economic growth as measured by GNP. To grow only at 1% (measured ‘wealth’ doubling every 70 years) is deemed disappointing; China’s 8% growth is greatly envied (doubling every 8.75 years). Exponential growth produces the ‘J’curve of remarkable acceleration of whatever is growing or depleting in the space it occupies. Those 192 economies are growing on a finite planet on a trajectory towards infinity, whatever their present rates of growth. Can China quadruple its GNP in 17.5 years? Can it have eight times its present GNP in less than 27 years? UN–sustainable accelerating exponential human impact on the planet is the elephant in the room that needs your acerbic focus. UN-precedented rates of carbon (and other greenhouse effect) emissions are a by-product of this greater issue. Another by-product is the minimum of 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic estimated to have been added to the oceans The coming contribution of Alberta’s tar sands (any vested interest here?) to this human and more visible modification of the natural world and food chains may be worth further comment even at a “Jamboree”!