Paris climate change conference promises much, will deliver little

If there is agreement to come out of the climate change conference beginning today in Paris, it will not be legally binding.  That fact, along with the enormous chasm that separates countries like China and India and the Western industrialized powers, means that there will be a lot of hoopla but not much substance in reducing carbon emissions.

Instead of a treaty, like the failed Kyoto accord of the 1990s, there will be a series of promises by nations to reduce their emissions.  This has angered climate activists, who staged a protest in Paris yesterday, despite the government using its emergency powers granted because of the terrorist attack to curb the demonstrations.

New York Times:

The French government is using the sweeping emergency powers it gained after the Paris terrorist attacks to clamp down on any possible disruption to the two-week global climate conference that starts on Monday, limiting public demonstrations, beefing up security and placing two dozen environmental activists under house arrest.

The police, in full riot gear, used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the demonstrators, some of whom grabbed flowers and other remembrances that had been left at a tribute to the 130 people killed in the attacks and hurled them at officers. Some demonstrators chanted: “State of emergency, police state. You can’t take away our right to demonstrate!”

But the disagreements roiling the conference center mostly on how big a cut the developing economies of China and India should make.


The old goal of seeking a legally binding international treaty, certain to be dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress, has been replaced by a system of national pledges to reduce emissions.

Some are presented as best intentions, others as measures legally enforced by domestic laws and regulations.

The biggest difference may be the partnership between the United States and China. The world's two biggest carbon emitters, once on opposite sides on climate issues, agreed in 2014 to jointly kick-start a transition away from fossil fuels, each at their own speed and in their own way.

The U.S. and China "have both determined that it is our responsibility to take action," Obama said after meeting Xi. "Our leadership on this issue has been absolutely vital."

That partnership has been a balm for the main source of tension that characterised previous talks, in which the developing world argued that countries that grew rich by industrialising on fossil fuels should pay the cost of shifting all economies to a renewable energy future.

Now even China, once a leading voice of that club, has agreed to contribute to an internationally administered Green Climate Fund that hopes to dispense $100 billion a year after 2020 as a way to finance the developing world's shift towards renewables.

If a signed deal now appears likely, so too is the prospect that it will not be enough to prevent the world's average temperature from rising beyond 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

That is widely viewed as a threshold for dangerous and potentially catastrophic changes in the planet's climate system.

Instead, the summit will produce a "long-term framework" for additional reductions down the road, Obama said in a Facebook posting on Sunday, with "targets set by each nation, but transparent enough to be verified by other nations."

How and when nations should review their goals - and then set higher, more ambitious ones - must still be hammered out.

In other words, they are disguising a worthless piece of paper with several worthless pieces of paper with high-sounding goals and sincere-sounding language.  It's a delusional exercise in futility.

About that "Green Climate Fund": Congress won't appropriate a dime (unless the Democrats take back the Congress and win the presidency in 2016).  The idea that third-world potentates who already have bloated hidden bank accounts from stealing foreign aid from the West will now have access to funds ostensibly to be used to mitigate the effects of climate change is lunacy.  With $100 billion a year being thrown at these countries, how much do you think will end up actually being used to help people? 

The Paris climate conference is structured to be a mirage that accomplishes nothing except raising the political fortunes of some Western leaders.  It is a Potemkin Village of international deceit.  Even climate activists can see it, which makes the staged "drama" of the conference as bad as any bad melodrama.

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