I decided that I would write nothing about the Paris Conference of the Parties (CoP) meeting until there was an outcome, on the ground that I am not a theatre critic, and that I was not in Paris. That outcome occurred over the weekend. My own expectations have been first, that nothing of consequence would occur and second, that whatever the outcome it would be hailed as an outstanding success. Indeed, no one voted against the Draft Proposal, which was adopted, so that was in line with my expectations. I’ve now read the Draft Proposal and the Annex. The Draft could be submitted to the Guinness Book of Records as the longest sentence in English, as it runs for 140 paragraphs before there is a full stop. Each paragraph begins with the verb, and there are 47 ‘decides’, 44 ‘requests’, 12 ‘invites, 6 ‘recognises’, 6 ‘notes’, and then through ‘urges’, ‘encourages’ and ‘resolves’, down through seven other verbs to only 1 ‘acknowledges’. It is heavy going.
What do the Draft Proposal and the Agreement contain? Lots and lots of words that suggest that all countries are going to do the right thing, and then tell the rest what they are doing. The better off are going to help the worse off. There is no legally binding obligation on anyone to do anything, and any country can withdraw by giving a year’s notice. You could say that a lot of it isn’t really about ‘climate change’ at all, but a variety of other goals and objectives. You can infer this from the thick language. Here is most of section 5 of Article 7 of the Agreement, an Article which is actually about ‘adaptation’: adaptation action should follow a country-driven, gender-responsive, participatory and fully transparent approach, taking into consideration vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems, and should be based on and guided by the best available science and, as appropriate, traditional knowledge, knowledge of indigenous peoples and local knowledge systems, with a view to integrating adaptation into relevant socioeconomic and environmental policies and actions, where appropriate.
Got that? I don’t know how a public servant would begin to advise a Minister, with this section as the guiding principle. It would allow almost anything. Maybe that’s the point, but I rather think that what has happened is that every ‘interest’ at the Paris meeting was determined to have its little oar in the final documents, and the rest gave in in order to hear that lovely word ‘consensus’.
Some months ago I picked up a sad but sober expectation about the Paris CoP outcome from CarbonTracker, a website that is gung-ho about the need to do whatever is needed. But Copenhagen had bruised the author: we were expecting far too much of international law from Copenhagen. We wanted a possible global treaty on climate change to achieve something it is not designed or equipped to do. So if this is the case, what is a global agreement good for especially if it is not going to be, in the classical international law sense, a legally binding one? What would ‘success’ mean? he went on to ask, and came up with a set of attributes. He thought it didn’t have to be legally binding, but needed to be ‘detailed and robust enough’ to evolve into a legally binding instrument in time. There would have to be wider involvement than just governments, and the bottom-up approach would need to work, clean technology would need to be available, and so on. It’s an interesting piece, and you can read it here. I don’t know what CarbonTracker thinks about the outcome, but it is at least along his lines.
What happens now? Our Foreign Minister, Ms Bishop, used her words carefully in her final address, and I heard no hostages to fortune. The ABC, which had been carolling that ‘hopes were high’ in several news broadcasts throughout the Conference, made no analysis of the Agreement that I heard. It didn’t report that James Hansen, the father of contemporary warmism, has spoken rather impolitely about the outcome. According to the Guardian, “It’s a fraud really, a fake,” he says, rubbing his head. “It’s just bullshit for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.”
Nor did the ABC report, at least to my knowledge, that US Secretary of State John Kerry had pointed out the elephant in the room during the Conference — that it wouldn’t matter if all the industrial nations shut up shop tomorrow, because 65 per cent of ‘carbon pollution’ comes from the developing world. You can hear him say his little piece on YouTube here. He didn’t go on to say, but he could have, that doing so would not reduce global temperature by anything that anyone could notice, unless you are able to notice a decline of a twentieth of one degree Celsius.
So, what happens now? Well, ‘climate change’ will go back to being a kind of faint background hum in the news. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull won’t have lost any support among the Climate Botherers (my new term at this Christian time of the year). Australia was there in Paris, even agreeing to help island nations, though with money that they were going to get anyway for other purposes. Heaven knows whether or not we do detailed inspections of what happens to our aid funding. But, again, the language of the Agreement is so all-inclusive and vague that tackling ‘climate change’ could mean almost anything. Except a carbon tax. That’s not there, though if someone wants to do it, well that’s up to them.
Two other bits of the Agreement caught my attention. All those verbs mean a lot of work for someone, and therefore a lot of money. The last three clauses in the Draft Proposal are somewhat plaintive, and here they are.
138. Takes note of the estimated budgetary implications of the activities to be undertaken by the secretariat referred to in this decision and requests that the actions of the secretariat called for in this decision be undertaken subject to the availability of financial resources;
139. Emphasizes the urgency of making additional resources available for the implementation of the relevant actions, including actions referred to in this decision, and the implementation of the work programme referred to in paragraph 9 above;
140. Urges Parties to make voluntary contributions for the timely implementation of this decision.
I hope Australia does not rush in to make a voluntary contribution, at least on my behalf. Actually, I imagine that voluntary contributions will be slow in coming forward.
And guess what! There’s going to be another such meeting in November 2018. I can hardly wait. CNN reported that there were 40,000 delegates in Paris. Did the meeting really need so many? Had the delegates considered the virtue of their going against the carbon footprint they would leave behind? And so on. There is such piffle in all this, and yet no one in public life seems able to say that the Climate Emperor is short a garment or two.