December 12, 2015

#ParisAgreement is nothing more than high-aspiration #climatechange Jell-O

I had blogged earlier this week warning that Jell-O was likely all we would get out of the Paris climate talks.

And we know the details, per the Washington Post. Per that link, the Guardian, and what I heard on NPR this afternoon, there's no enforcement of anything that is enforcement-worthy.

Yes, governments are required to craft action plans, and update them every five years. Yes, there's an international body that's supposed to oversee these plans.

And? What powers does that body have? Erm, none?

The Post:
The agreement binds together pledges by individual nations to cut or limit emissions from fossil-fuel burning, within a framework of rules that provide for monitoring and verification as well as financial and technical assistance for developing countries.

See the word "enforcement" in there, as part of, or after, "monitoring and verification"? Nope, me neither. 

Per the Post's header, "historic" Jell-O is still Jell-O at the end.

Further down, the Post says:
The accord is the first to call on all nations—rich and poor—to take action to limit emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, with additional reviews required every five years to encourage even deeper pollution cuts.
See any "enforcement" after "call on"? The only "historic" is developing as well as developed nations are involved. A wider-spread Jell-O is still Jell-O in the end.

The Guardian:
(N)egotiators from nearly 200 countries signed on to a legal agreement on Saturday evening that set ambitious goals to limit temperature rises and to hold governments to account for reaching those targets.
“Goals,” again, doesn’t have the word “enforcement” behind it.

The Post then salutes Dear Leader:
The agreement is a major diplomatic achievement for the Obama administration, which has made climate change a signature issue in the face of determined opposition from congressional Republicans
Well, sure, it's a victory.

First, NPR says his stance is this is not a treaty, but rather comes under the umbrella of implementing the Rio 1992 treaty. (Penumbras of Justice William O. Douglas, even?)

Second, the "voluntary" is also what he wanted in general.

Per Time, before the deal was finalized, other than the issue of carbon emissions transparency, Dear Leader's team wanted as much of the accord to be voluntary as possible.

The Guardian, on that:
The US president, Barack Obama, hailed the agreement as “a tribute to strong, principled American leadership” and a vital step in ensuring the future of the planet.
I guess “strong, principled” is spelled “J-e-l-l-O.”

As for environmental groups? The neolib, plugged-in and connected ones like it; the real ones don’t.

First, a politically connected enviro group:
“This is a pivotal moment where nations stepped across political fault lines to collectively face down climate change,” said Lou Leonard, vice president of climate change for the World Wildlife Fund. “For decades, we have heard that large developing nations don’t care about climate change and aren’t acting fast enough. The climate talks in Paris showed us that this false narrative now belongs in the dustbin of history.”
And now, a realistic one:
“The United States has hindered ambition,” said Erich Pica, president of the U.S. chapter of Friends of the Earth, an environmental group. “The result is an agreement that could see low-lying islands and coastlines swallowed up by the sea, and many African lands ravaged by drought.”
True, the summit did express an ambition even higher than the goals of stopping climate change at 2C of higher temperature versus the pre-industrial age. (Don’t forget that we’ve already done a full degree of that.)

But, there were tradeoffs for that “ambition” of 1.5C:
“The idea of even discussing loss and damage now or in the future was off limits. The Americans told us it would kill the COP,” said Leisha Beardmore, the chief negotiator for the Seychelles. “They have always been telling us: ‘Don’t even say that’.”
More "strong, principled leadership."

Another group, Sierra Club spinoff Earthjustice, for whom another Texas Progressives member works, has gone political enough to try to split the difference.

From its President Trip Van Noppen:
Today marks a new era in global cooperation on climate change.
But:
Despite the agreement’s laudable goals, the combined climate action pledges submitted by 186 nations would still leave the world on a path to over 3° global average temperature rise by the end of the century.
Yet, it too uses “historic” in its header. I'll give it two-thirds of a kudo.

Guardian environment columnist George Monbiot got it right:
By comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster.
He continues:
In fairness, the failure does not belong to the Paris talks, but to the whole process. A maximum of 1.5C, now an aspirational and unlikely target, was eminently achievable when the first UN climate change conference took place in Berlin in 1995. Two decades of procrastination, caused by lobbying – overt, covert and often downright sinister – by the fossil fuel lobby, coupled with the reluctance of governments to explain to their electorates that short-term thinking has long-term costs, ensure that the window of opportunity is now three-quarters shut. The talks in Paris are the best there have ever been. And that is a terrible indictment.
James Hansen is harsher yet:
“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 [sic] to be burned.”
Can’t put it more bluntly than that, especially since he’s using my word “bullshit.”

Hansen’s harshness includes Dear Leader:
“We all foolishly had such high hopes for Obama, to articulate things, to be like Roosevelt and have fireside chats to explain to the public why we need to have a rising fee on carbon in order to move to clean energy,” he says. “But he’s not particularly good at that. He didn’t make it a priority and now it’s too late for him.”
Well, I didn’t have such hopes for him, and thus voted for Cynthia McKinney in 2008 for the same reasons I’ll vote for Jill Stein or whomever the Greens nominate in 2016. That’s definitely true if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, and 98 percent if Bernie Sanders is.

Setting aside the issue of any naivete over China, scientists agree with Hansen, Monbiot and myself. Mark Hertsgaard notes the deal doesn't even include the phrase "fossil fuels." The initial text was weaker than Copenhagen's final text, and even the final text is perceived as kicking the can down the road, and scientists warn that's simply not acceptable.

That said, at least the Paris deal did expose bullshit out of Beijing, bullshit that I called out a year ago when the U.S. and China supposedly came to what was also called a "historic" deal.

(Another note to the gullible: "Historic" ≠ "significant.")

The exposed bullshit was that China was quite resistant toward the five year plans for emissions reductions. Setting aside the hypocrisy and irony of nominal Communists opposing five-year plans, we found out the Chinese have already been cheating bastards on announced carbon emissions in the past.

Of course, India exposed its own bullshit before the deal was finalized.

Sadly, despite China’s own bullshit on climate change being brought to light just a month ago (see below), Hansen is kind of naïve about Beijing and it allegedly taking leadership on this issue, IMO.

Louis XV said, reportedly,  “Après moi le deluge,” based on his mistress, Madame Pompadour, originally saying “Après nous le deluge.”


I guess we need to start saying “Après nous l’enfer.”

Plus, even if it’s not considered a new treaty, good luck getting money for it, Dear Leader. Congressional wingnuts have already vowed to block any new spending; I presume that would include the developing world mitigation aid.

So, don't pour warm, pre-congealed Jell-O on my leg and tell me it's raining.

That includes you, neoliberal Obama fellators like Jon Chait, who has fellated Obama on this issue now, too.

Call me back when either the US, or the EU as a group, passes a carbon tax plus a carbon tariff to force the whole world to financially play along on actually taking action.

We need action both deep and broad at the same time. A carbon tax and tariff is a large part of that, but ultimately, per Jacobin, we need to reframe the entire issue, and "wrong foot" modern capitalism.

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