Saturday, November 20, 2021

We'll Always Have Paris


by Rod Williams, Nov. 15, 2021- The Glasgow version of the Conference of Parties (COP) came to an end on Sunday, and it is hard to call it anything other than a failure. As the Wall Street Journal said, "Glasgow produced little of consequence. How could it have done otherwise? The conferees who warn that the Apocalypse is nigh absent draconian energy policies are disconnected from political and economic reality."

If you don't want to take my word or the Wall Street Journal's word for it, Children's Crusade leader Greta Thunberg said it. “It is not a secret that COP26 is a failure. It should be obvious that we cannot solve the crisis with the same methods that got us into it in the first place,” Thunberg said. “The COP has turned into a PR event, where leaders are giving beautiful speeches and announcing fancy commitments and targets, while behind the curtains governments of the Global North countries are still refusing to take any drastic climate action.” (link)

Not that I expect this child to have any insight as to how to fix it, but she is right in calling it a failure. Not that Glasgow was a total absolute failure. Progress was made on a carbon-trading agreement which may lead someday to a standardized trading carbon credit system. The way carbon credits work is that if a government can’t meet the emissions plans it submitted to the U.N. it could buy credits to make up the difference. This could produce good results.  If you recall when acid rain was an issue, it was successfully reduced by a system that relied on "cap and trade," which created a market for acid rain emission reduction credits.

The problem with carbon credits is that there is no standardization and little regulation of the market. Often, carbon credits are nothing but a scam and greenwashing. Any effort that moves toward a legitimate carbon credit market is a positive development. However, there is a long way to go before anything like a real trustworthy market for carbon credits is created. A global carbon market won’t happen overnight. There is a long way to go and time is running out. Unfortunately, this minor move toward someday having a standardized global carbon credit trading system is about the only positive thing to come out of Glasgow. 

The development that got the most attention was that instead of waiting five years for countries to submit their next round of carbon reduction pledges, the Glasgow Climate Pact calls for countries to gather again next year with revised pledges.

The goal of the Paris Accords is to keep the rise in earth's temperature from exceeding 1.5°C rise above preindustrial levels.  We are not on target to make that happen. So delegates agreed to go back and redo their homework and come up with better pledges for reductions. To avoid the 1.5°C rises, the world needs to eliminate a lot of carbon emissions and reach net carbon neutrality by 2030. That is not that far away and we are moving further from the target, not closer.

I am not hopeful. There is nothing to indicate next year will be any better than this year. In fact, with an expected cold European winter, European countries are looking at increasing the use of coal. With inflation rising in the US and many other nations, now is not an opportune time to adopt policies that will increase utility prices. There is no reason to be optimistic that Paris will achieve anything. The Paris Accords is not a treaty.  One, country can not require another country to act. It doesn’t require nations to do anything but merely urges or requests them to do so. Also, it creates no system of incentives or disincentives for achieving a target. To say the least, it is difficult to get 197 countries to agree on anything and then follow up. Some of the 197 countries may not even exist next year. Many that do will have different dictators.

Paris is a romantic idealistic dream of the world getting together holding hands singing kumbaya, and solving a common problem. The world doesn't work that way. The Paris Accords are a joke. We need to ditch the Paris Accords.

The seven wealthy democracies of the world need to focus on a solution. The solution needs to recognize that there needs to be a price for carbon and embrace carbon border adjustments. The G-7 has enough economic clout that the rest of the world will fall in line.

For more on Glasgow COP-26, see the below links:

COP26 Climate Deal Shows Fragility of New Emissions-Cutting Pledge - WSJ

Glasgow’s Climate of Unreality - WSJ

Was COP26 in Glasgow a success? | The Economist

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