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COPENHAGEN POST MORTEMS

Posted 20 December 2009 (updated 27 Dec)

Time for Plan B: LINK 

"All out failure" - Der Spiegel & other German papers: LINK 

Accord keeps Big Carbon in business: LINK 

IPCC chairman's fortune from carbon trading: UK Telegraph: LINK 

Skids under the climate scam - Gerald Warner in The Scotman : LINK

"Strictly Hans Christian Andersen" - Gerald Warner in UK Telegraph: LINK

"A lot of hot air" - Washington Times  - LINK

China blamed; anger mounts - UK Guardian: LINK 

Ends in chaos and 'toothless deal' - UK Telegraph: LINK 

A grudging accord - New York Times: LINK 

 

 
   
 

18th December 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What next for climate change policy?

To quote from the last newsletter of 2008:

' And the expectation is that the USA under President Obama will play a leading role in this [climate change mitigation], alongside the EU, which already regards itself as setting an example for the rest of the world to follow.

 

Unfortunately (or, if you think the policy direction is misguided, fortunately) economic realities are forcing a throttling back of the commitments and action by many Member States. The same will almost certainly be the case across the Atlantic . No US president will compromise his country's economy for the sake of the goal of climate control. There will doubtless be a face-saving agreement in Copenhagen , or possibly a delay to accommodate the ramping up of American policy under the new presidency. . . .But it is difficult to see a new international agreement being any more effective than the Kyoto protocol itself.'

 

Although the outcome of the Copenhagen conference - even during the final day - is not yet clear, events have followed a predictable course during 2009. The pressure on negotiators was raised, only for expectations to be reduced as the year progressed and it became clear that even a new President keen to take action could do little to change the real American position on emissions policy. Hopes of activists were raised again when President Obama agreed to attend the all-important final session of the conference, along with a host of other world leaders. Gordon Brown even went earlier than planned, in an attempt to broker an agreement (and maybe to enhance his international standing when his popularity at home remains dismally low).

 

Given the political capital invested in this conference, it is almost inconceivable that some form of agreement will not be announced. The real question is how much meaning it will have and whether that same political capital will be sufficient to command support from sceptical electorates. For those who want a global, binding agreement which will effectively reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the signs do not look good.

 

The past fortnight has been presented in the media largely as a clash between the industrialised and developing worlds. No-one will commit much until they know what other countries will do. And cards have been kept close to chests in this game of international high-stakes poker. A day or so ago, the fact that the USA would only offer to reduce its 2020 emissions by 4% below a 1990 baseline (17% from 2004) and 80% by 2050 was seen as inadequate by developing countries. It became more acceptable after Hillary Clinton committed the US to a major contribution towards a projected $100bn a year fund by 2020 to finance these same countries' adaptation (and/or mitigation: it is not entirely clear what this money is intended for).

 

Another key issue is monitoring. America was clear that no deal could be reached unless developing countries ( China in particular) would agree to inspection to assure compliance with emissions targets. After a flat refusal to consider this, China 's leaders conceded that such monitoring might be possible, so long as it did not infringe their sovereignty, once a substantial amount of money was on the table.

 

Long term aims are also different between the two camps. The EU, USA and other industrialised countries want to see a deal in which all major economies sign up to targets, either for emissions reductions or lower carbon intensity. Developing countries, on the other hand, have talked about an extension of the system set up under the Kyoto protocol, where only existing developed economies have emissions targets to achieve. China has indeed promised large reductions in its own carbon intensity, but these actually just means it continues on a path already set and that its total emissions would continue to grow with its economy.

 

Unsurprisingly for a group of sleep-deprived people, there have been spats, mostly concerning the apparent dual-track of activities. Denmark , as host, has been accused of poor chairmanship and of facilitating the drafting of a political agreement by the EU, USA and others with no consultation with the G77 group of developing nations. The latest news seems to be that this has been rejected, and that China , India , Brazil and others are determined to have an equal say in the final version.

 

President Obama , in a ten-minute speech, used his clout to try to persuade delegates that an agreement was vital. He promised that ' America will continue to move towards a clean energy economy no matter what happens in Copenhagen .' But he was clear that his country would only play its part in putting together the proposed $100bn fund to help developing countries adapt as part of a broader deal. This deal had to be based on 'mitigation, transparency and financing': countries had to set targets, these had to be properly verified, and developing countries would receive funding to enable them to reach their goals.

 

Despite talk of science, emotion has ruled the day. Activists have demonstrated and used the expected emotional rhetoric, but the whole summit was introduced with a nightmare propaganda video which made the recent television ads from Defra in the UK look very tame. Understandably, the aim is to take all attention away from doubts raised about the scientific case and focus instead on getting an agreement, seemingly any agreement.

 

President Obama made a very telling statement: 'We have very little to show for nearly two decades of talking. The time for talk is over.' Deals have been made before - the Kyoto protocol in particular - and they have achieved little of substance. The likelihood is that, by 2020, three decades of talking will still have achieved very little, whatever the final outcome from Copenhagen .

 

There seem to be only two possible ways for the conference to end: either in complete failure to agree, or in a weak and non-binding political agreement which is expected to be forged into a treaty in Mexico next year, but will once again be delayed because of failures to agree. Obama also said 'Our ability to take collective action is in doubt and hangs in the balance.' There is unlikely to be a resolution anytime soon.

 

In either case, Copenhagen may well mark the beginning of the end of full-blooded climate alarmism, unless convincing evidence shows that the proposed positive feedback mechanisms on which the models, the IPCC and the whole climate change industry is built is real rather than just a hypothetical construct. The current level of intense focus on one issue simply cannot be maintained for ever and, if elected politicians have failed to take the majority of the electorate with them so far, there will have to be a rethink.

 

So, what might 2010 bring, after the exhausted delegates leave Copenhagen and lick their wounds? Almost certainly, no binding agreement reached in Mexico or elsewhere. To achieve this, the Obama administration needs first to get its own emissions reduction legislation through a wary Congress, assuming that the healthcare issue can first be put to bed. Without America 's legislative commitment to cuts which the rest of the world deems sufficient, nothing concrete can be done. Even then, as the details emerge, some governments may balk at handing China and other developing nations a blank cheque to fund their own development.

 

Expect, though, a higher profile for the issue of ocean acidification, waiting in the wings to be ramped up if people do not buy the climate change story. By pushing a second catastrophic consequence of carbon dioxide emissions, activists hope to attack on two fronts. But it is unlikely that the public would be any more sympathetic to this argument.

 

In these circumstances, politicians will not simply be able to drop the whole issue, say they did their best and move on. They will have to be seen to take some action, which hopefully will be to spend our money on a renewed push to develop alternative, economic sources of energy. Unfortunately, they have lost several years by trying to introduce a flawed, centralised emissions reduction system, but it is not too late to focus instead on something which should ultimately bring real benefits to the whole world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


  

What next for climate change policy?

To quote from the last newsletter of 2008:

' And the expectation is that the USA under President Obama will play a leading role in this [climate change mitigation], alongside the EU, which already regards itself as setting an example for the rest of the world to follow.

 

Unfortunately (or, if you think the policy direction is misguided, fortunately) economic realities are forcing a throttling back of the commitments and action by many Member States. The same will almost certainly be the case across the Atlantic . No US president will compromise his country's economy for the sake of the goal of climate control. There will doubtless be a face-saving agreement in Copenhagen , or possibly a delay to accommodate the ramping up of American policy under the new presidency. . . .But it is difficult to see a new international agreement being any more effective than the Kyoto protocol itself.'

 

Although the outcome of the Copenhagen conference - even during the final day - is not yet clear, events have followed a predictable course during 2009. The pressure on negotiators was raised, only for expectations to be reduced as the year progressed and it became clear that even a new President keen to take action could do little to change the real American position on emissions policy. Hopes of activists were raised again when President Obama agreed to attend the all-important final session of the conference, along with a host of other world leaders. Gordon Brown even went earlier than planned, in an attempt to broker an agreement (and maybe to enhance his international standing when his popularity at home remains dismally low).

 

Given the political capital invested in this conference, it is almost inconceivable that some form of agreement will not be announced. The real question is how much meaning it will have and whether that same political capital will be sufficient to command support from sceptical electorates. For those who want a global, binding agreement which will effectively reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the signs do not look good.

 

The past fortnight has been presented in the media largely as a clash between the industrialised and developing worlds. No-one will commit much until they know what other countries will do. And cards have been kept close to chests in this game of international high-stakes poker. A day or so ago, the fact that the USA would only offer to reduce its 2020 emissions by 4% below a 1990 baseline (17% from 2004) and 80% by 2050 was seen as inadequate by developing countries. It became more acceptable after Hillary Clinton committed the US to a major contribution towards a projected $100bn a year fund by 2020 to finance these same countries' adaptation (and/or mitigation: it is not entirely clear what this money is intended for).

 

Another key issue is monitoring. America was clear that no deal could be reached unless developing countries ( China in particular) would agree to inspection to assure compliance with emissions targets. After a flat refusal to consider this, China 's leaders conceded that such monitoring might be possible, so long as it did not infringe their sovereignty, once a substantial amount of money was on the table.

 

Long term aims are also different between the two camps. The EU, USA and other industrialised countries want to see a deal in which all major economies sign up to targets, either for emissions reductions or lower carbon intensity. Developing countries, on the other hand, have talked about an extension of the system set up under the Kyoto protocol, where only existing developed economies have emissions targets to achieve. China has indeed promised large reductions in its own carbon intensity, but these actually just means it continues on a path already set and that its total emissions would continue to grow with its economy.

 

Unsurprisingly for a group of sleep-deprived people, there have been spats, mostly concerning the apparent dual-track of activities. Denmark , as host, has been accused of poor chairmanship and of facilitating the drafting of a political agreement by the EU, USA and others with no consultation with the G77 group of developing nations. The latest news seems to be that this has been rejected, and that China , India , Brazil and others are determined to have an equal say in the final version.

 

President Obama , in a ten-minute speech, used his clout to try to persuade delegates that an agreement was vital. He promised that ' America will continue to move towards a clean energy economy no matter what happens in Copenhagen .' But he was clear that his country would only play its part in putting together the proposed $100bn fund to help developing countries adapt as part of a broader deal. This deal had to be based on 'mitigation, transparency and financing': countries had to set targets, these had to be properly verified, and developing countries would receive funding to enable them to reach their goals.

 

Despite talk of science, emotion has ruled the day. Activists have demonstrated and used the expected emotional rhetoric, but the whole summit was introduced with a nightmare propaganda video which made the recent television ads from Defra in the UK look very tame. Understandably, the aim is to take all attention away from doubts raised about the scientific case and focus instead on getting an agreement, seemingly any agreement.

 

President Obama made a very telling statement: 'We have very little to show for nearly two decades of talking. The time for talk is over.' Deals have been made before - the Kyoto protocol in particular - and they have achieved little of substance. The likelihood is that, by 2020, three decades of talking will still have achieved very little, whatever the final outcome from Copenhagen .

 

There seem to be only two possible ways for the conference to end: either in complete failure to agree, or in a weak and non-binding political agreement which is expected to be forged into a treaty in Mexico next year, but will once again be delayed because of failures to agree. Obama also said 'Our ability to take collective action is in doubt and hangs in the balance.' There is unlikely to be a resolution anytime soon.

 

In either case, Copenhagen may well mark the beginning of the end of full-blooded climate alarmism, unless convincing evidence shows that the proposed positive feedback mechanisms on which the models, the IPCC and the whole climate change industry is built is real rather than just a hypothetical construct. The current level of intense focus on one issue simply cannot be maintained for ever and, if elected politicians have failed to take the majority of the electorate with them so far, there will have to be a rethink.

 

So, what might 2010 bring, after the exhausted delegates leave Copenhagen and lick their wounds? Almost certainly, no binding agreement reached in Mexico or elsewhere. To achieve this, the Obama administration needs first to get its own emissions reduction legislation through a wary Congress, assuming that the healthcare issue can first be put to bed. Without America 's legislative commitment to cuts which the rest of the world deems sufficient, nothing concrete can be done. Even then, as the details emerge, some governments may balk at handing China and other developing nations a blank cheque to fund their own development.

 

Expect, though, a higher profile for the issue of ocean acidification, waiting in the wings to be ramped up if people do not buy the climate change story. By pushing a second catastrophic consequence of carbon dioxide emissions, activists hope to attack on two fronts. But it is unlikely that the public would be any more sympathetic to this argument.

 

In these circumstances, politicians will not simply be able to drop the whole issue, say they did their best and move on. They will have to be seen to take some action, which hopefully will be to spend our money on a renewed push to develop alternative, economic sources of energy. Unfortunately, they have lost several years by trying to introduce a flawed, centralised emissions reduction system, but it is not too late to focus instead on something which should ultimately bring real benefits to the whole world.

 

 

Last Updated ( Sunday, 27 December 2009 )
 
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