Guest post from Talkshop regular Doug Proctor
The Draft Decision coming out of the Lima, Conference of the Parties (COP20) meetings of 01-12 December 2014 is now available. The summary is only 4 pages long (the fifth is a blank Annex). It is short but an interesting read for what it doesn’t demonstrate: a commitment to create binding commitments with respect to either CO2 emissions or adaptation maneuvers for anyone on anything up to and, it would appear, including, the upcoming December 2015 meeting in Paris.
The draft was created as a series of semi-bullet points, though instead of “bullets” it uses action words to signify decisions made by the 195 Parties to the conference. But we should not be deceived that the action words mean “action” in the common sense of “doing something”. These are more intellectual action words, like “affirming”, “noting”, “confirming” etc. In effect, “We agree to keep talking about the subject, even perhaps around the subject, but we do not agree to step up and start doing anything related to the subject of CO2 emissions”. This can be construed as a cynical interpretation, but I argue (below) that a close read says it is not.
It is not terribly surprising, as many observers have noted, that few Parties are standing up and slapping their wallets and workforce on the podium about Climate Change or, more importantly, Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW). If CAGW is as large a problem as it is said to be, the social, economic and political cost of wrestling the beast to the ground is horrendous. Several generations will suffer in the battle, predominantly (one may also cynically suggest) the lower socio-economic groups who are struggling to rise out of energy and resource poverty. But every country, every economy, will falter in the grand war to “save the planet” as the eco-greens consider this to be. All participants publicly hold to the line that the rise in atmospheric CO2 will, in the next 85 years, prove disastrous to all biological, not just human, life on the planet. It would seem reasonable that everyone would agree to do something, even if reluctantly. Even if we grant that a hesitation is “normal”, as it is against the history of mankind to cut off one’s nose to improve the look of another’s face, one would expect an agreement to do something. And yet …
A suspicious person might think that the outcome of one more COP gathering, regardless of the public Party line, individual nations have considered the probable effect on their particular piece of the planet, and concluded that the future is not so bad, especially if one sees that the effect on the “others”, will be significantly worse. Or that the entire narrative is considered by the Nations leaders to be improbable at best and fictional at worst. Background positions a skeptic might say he has been holding since the 1990s. That there aren’t any warmists, really, or at least warmists concerned that the future is other than acceptable.
Regardless of the above (opinionated) thoughts, a close review with clear eyes of the Draft Decision/Proposal by the President is worthwhile for everyone regardless of eco-views.
Much of the Draft is boilerplate sentence-making. Once one zeroes in on the key phrases, the substance is remarkably thin:
Paragraph 4: “Affirming its determination to strengthen adaptation action … with legal force”.
The overriding intention is create a legally-binding agreement on “adaptation action”. This does not sound like CO2 emissions control. It sounds like a legally binding document to provide money or engineering projects to someone, perhaps even one’s own country, to build dikes, install air-conditioning or even – to put the psychologists to work – provide stress counselling for activists such as Bill McKibben and David Suzuki, both of whom have admitted to weeping while considering the coming fate of the world.
Paragraph 6: “Noting with grave concern …”
This is about the disconnect between what the 195 Parties are talking about doing and how cumulatively it will be ineffective in
“…holding the increase …. below 2*C or 1.5C above pre-industrial levels,”
So the summarizing committee is saying, “Man, this ain’t gonna do what you all are saying needs to be done.” Which is not well expressed: “… below 2*C or 1.5*C above pre-industrial levels”. Which is it? And what does that mean for the 2100 target relative to today?
It is hard to see exactly what “pre-industrial levels” means. If we agree that pre-1850 there was no A-CO2 impact, so the temperatures back then were of the “pre-industrial” level, and there has been approximately 0.9*C of warming since then, the 2100 target means less than 1.1C or 0.6C of increased global temperature rise is (at present) an impossible goal.
But it is still a large target, 0.6C pr 1.1C. Almost 100% wiggle room, perhaps enough to let natural variability solve the “problem”.
Pg. 2. (In the second part of the Draft, the paragraphs are numbered)
2: “Decides that the protocol … with legal force … shall address …. transparency of action and support”
So the Parties “want” everyone to be open about what they are going to do? Not if you go down further to paragraphs 7 through 14. So we have a disconnect, like that of a person who wants to be wealthy but doesn’t want to work overtime to make more money.
3: “… the principle of … differentiated responsibilities and …. capabilities …”
I.e., the Rich countries have to pay more and do more than the Less-Rich, who may not have to pay anything or do anything if someone, perhaps they themselves, deem them unable to pay or act. Nice touch.
4: “Urges developed … to provide …. financial support to developing countries…”
See 3, above: the Rich give, the Less-Rich, receive. But also “… recognizes complementary support by other Parties”. Hmm, now we have the Less-Rich giving something to the even Less-Rich. Three tiers; the Developed countries give money, the Less-Developed give, what?, and the Non-developed just receive.
Bottomline: the Developed countries give money, everyone else wrings their hands in sympathy with the suffering of others.
7: “… the negotiating text …will not prejudice … the legal nature and content …”
Nothing in the negotiating text reflects a commitment to the content of any further agreement. In other words, whatever has been said currently is open to change or being dropped altogether. You can’t hold us to anything, period.
8: “… are without prejudice …”
9: “Reiterates its invitation … to communicate … its intended …. contribution …”
11: “… the least developed … may communicate information ….”
12: “Invites all Parties to consider communicating their undertakings”
13: “Reiterates its invitation …. to communicate their intended … contributions well in advance …”
Points 9 -13 demonstrate that there is no commitment to nailing down or telling the others what plans they have for CO2 reduction or any other action with regard to CAGW before the meetings next December. Actually, at all.
14: “Agreed that the information … may include … quantifiable information … [including] assumptions …”
This is the key point. Whatever is proposed, including assumptions such as what their targets are, what they think might happen and when it would happen, do not have to include hard numbers that could be challenged, let alone be considered to represent the official position of any Country. This is exactly the “commitment” of China: an “intent” to “curb emissions about 2030″. All and any information provided is optional in nature, and no one is accountable for anything.
And that is it for the Draft. The rest (the bottom half Page 3 and all Page 4) is smiles-and-nudges, the ‘we-agree-and-encourage-everyone-to-keep-on-truckin” bit that means nothing other than the national knives have been put away. There isn’t even a line for President’s signature; even the Draft needs a final formatting.
To put together the important bits noted above, the Draft says this:
The world Nations intend, at some point, to create a legally binding document to reduce CO2 emissions such that future A-CO2 related temperature rises are less than 1.1C. So far what people are proposing won’t achieve that. At this point COP 20 delegates are only united on the idea that the Developed countries have to give money to the Less- and Non-Developed, excluding agreement to keep talking about the subject.
Going forward to the Paris re-grouping, nobody has to actually to provide plans about what they might do, but if they do, the plans don’t have to be definitive enough to be interpretable by others for their effects. Nothing in any proposal or plan can be considered binding. This includes the use of funds given by the Developed nations: those getting the goodies do not have to identify, certainly not before next December, and possibly, never, what they would do with those goodies.
But all the COP 20 delegates are encouraged to go at it again, with an an increased energy, in another 12 months, on the banks of the Seine with a good view of the Eiffel Tower, where they are sure to find good wine and a baguette for a reasonable price.