Why the Paris climate treaty will be the flop of the year
The chief obstacle to such an agreement is exactly the same as it was at Kyoto in 1997
At the end of this month 40,000 politicians, officials, green activists, lobbyists and journalists from 195 nations will converge outside Paris – at Europe’s largest airport reserved only for private jets – for a conference that they hope will change the world.
Their declared aim is to agree a treaty committing everyone to such a massive cut in their emissions of greenhouse gases that this might somehow prevent the earth’s temperatures rising more than 2 degrees C higher than they were when the climate began naturally warming again two centuries ago.
The chief obstacle to such an agreement is exactly the same as it was at Kyoto in 1997 and at that last mammoth conference which so signally failed to get Kyoto renewed at Copenhagen in 2009. The vast majority of countries have argued all along that, if man-made CO2 is causing a problem, the fault lies with those “developed” nations that became rich before everyone else by burning fossil fuels to power their industrial revolution.
It is therefore up to the developed countries of the West to make the most drastic cuts, leaving the still “developing” nations to catch up. They say they are prepared to make some contribution to reducing CO2, but only if they are paid to do so out of a $100 billion a year “Green Climate Fund”, financed by the rich countries that originally created the problem.
Now, as Paris approaches – although scarcely noticed by the Western media – we can see just what the 20 countries responsible for 81 per cent of global CO2 emissions are proposing as their “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” to cutting emissions by 2030. These have been meticulously analysed on the Notalotofpeopleknowthat website, with further reporting on that site of the Global Warming Policy Foundation.
China, now easily the world’s largest emitter, contributing 24 per cent of the total, plans by 2030 to double its CO2 emissions, not least by building 363 more coal-fired power stations. India, now the third-largest emitter, plans by 2030 to treble its emissions.
The fourth-largest emitter, Russia, despite slashing its emissions after 1990 by closing down much of its old Soviet industry, now proposes to increase them from their 2012 level by up to 38 per cent.
Japan, the fifth-largest emitter, does claim that it will cut its emissions by some 15 per cent, but is still planning to build more coal-fired power plants. Although South Korea, the world’s seventh-largest emitter, claims that it will cut emissions by 23 per cent (not least by buying “carbon credits” that will allow it to “offset” its continuing production of CO2 for cash), even its proposed target will still be 100 per cent higher than it was 25 years ago.
As for the Middle East, the oil states such as Saudi Arabia and Iran (the eighth and ninth-largest emitters) have not yet submitted any proposals.
But the United Arab Emirates, which have more than doubled their emissions since 2002, show no sign of slowing that increase, apart from a promise to invest in more “carbon-free” solar and nuclear power.
As for Brazil, which as the 11th largest emitter has been rapidly increasing its dependence on fossil fuels, it sees its main contribution as being to slow the felling and burning of the Amazon rainforest.
So which countries are obviously missing from this list?
President Obama may talk the talk about his ambitious plans for the US, the world’s second-largest emitter. But there is no more chance of Congress agreeing to the proposed treaty than there was in 1997, when the Senate unanimously voted no to Kyoto.
All of which leaves the EU as the only part of the world committed to cutting its emissions by 40 per cent within 15 years. Even here, Poland is already refusing to sign the treaty, as it builds more fossil-fuel power stations to keep its lights on, while Germany, the sixth-largest emitter does the same.
The only government in the world wholly committed to meeting that 40 per cent target by 2030 is Britain, the 14th-largest emitter, responsible for just 1.3 per cent of global emissions. This is less than China or India are now adding every year, as we shut down those fossil-fuel power plants that still manage to provide 70 per cent of our electricity.
And what about that Green Climate Fund, supposed by 2020 to be dishing out $100 billion every year to help developing countries to “adapt to climate change”? Firm pledges received so far total just $700 million, leaving $99.3 billion still to go.
The only real question that will remain after the failure of this bid for a binding treaty in Paris is how much longer it can be before the most expensive and foolish scare story in history finally falls apart