Paris climate talks at a tipping point

Negotiators at the Paris climate talks have done well to produce a complete text of some 48 pages. It was around 100 at the beginning of the year. The only problem is that they have essentially decided nothing in the first week of the talks. Disputed or unresolved text is bracketed and there are 939 sets of brackets for the ministers, who have now arrived, to deal with. At least it’s clear where the problems lie. The Saudis continue to obstruct; the Indians are playing a “blocking role”.

Luke Kemp at The Conversation describes how the Saudis operate. Negotiators discuss elements of the text in smaller breakout sessions.

    A Saudi negotiator will often briskly walk into a negotiating session, bracket some text, question the procedures, engage little thereafter, and leave before the session is closed.

Australia is one of the 108 countries, including France and Germany, who want consideration of 1.5°C as a longer term target in the agreement text. India is opposing anything that might constrain it from burning as much coal as it likes, now or in the future.

India’s dilemma and role are sympathetically summarised here. It plans to double its coal usage alongside an unprecedented push into renewables.

Lenore Taylor wrote a slightly negative article on Saturday, followed by a slightly positive one with Suzanne Goldenberg on Sunday.

Giles Parkinson says the climate talks may not matter, because coal and oil will be redundant anyway. He quotes Tony Seba from Stanford University, who says:

    the plunging costs of technology will sweep away political inertia and the resistance of vested interests. So much so that by 2030, he believes coal, oil and gas generation and usage will be all but obsolete.
    Seba’s predictions are based around observations of what has occurred in other major technology breakthroughs – such as digital photos, the internet, mobile phones and then smart phones. Once costs fall below a certain point, the growth is both exponential and unstoppable.

Big Coal has been successful in lobbying governments and power utilities, but they will lose control. Major funders and investors will realise that if you put your money into gas or coal, with their 40-year investment horizon, you will lose.

Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York, co-hosted with Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo a meeting of 500 mayors in Paris. 400 have signed

    the Compact of Mayors, which requires them to set bold climate goals, adopt a common measurement system for emissions, and publicly report their progress.

Cities account for about 70 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions.

Bloomberg will also chair a Task Force on Climate Related Financial Disclosures created by the mayors.It’s purpose is to identify climate risk for investors, “to bring transparency to the opaque risks that climate change presents to markets around the world.”

The UN is shackled with its consensus model of decision making. One vote can prevent agreement. So it really depends on what India, China and the Saudis will let through. If they are obstructive, however, history will simply wash around them.

5 thoughts on “Paris climate talks at a tipping point”

  1. From Crikey:

    never before has there been such recognition from a broad range of countries that warming of 2 degrees is too risky. So we need to consider limiting warming to less than even 1.5 degrees. This goal has created solidarity among many vulnerable countries in the developing world. Developed countries such as the USA, China, Australia and those within the European Union have also been open to recognising this in the agreement.

    That at least is progress!

  2. Giles Parkinson reports from Paris.

    Julie Bishop is spruiking coal, which is supposed to be good for humanity and helps solve world hunger!

    The French have an easy way of resolving the 939 bits of disputed text. The simply write a new one, due about now, leaving only the major points to be resolved in brackets.

  3. The target of 1.5°C has been included in the text, country emissions targets to be reviewed every five years.

    The talks have been extended by a day.

  4. Thom Mitchell at New Matilda has an excellent summary of where the Paris talks are at.

    He talks about a “Coalition of Ambition” comprising some 80 nations which “has formed to drive a split or change in negotiating position in the monolithic G77 group of more than 130 developing nations, which includes China as its heavyweight member.”

    One issue is about “differentiation”, which is the basic split between ‘Annex I and Non-Annex I countries embedded in the 1992 UNFCCC protocol.

    India wants to maintain it to put the burden of mitigation and paying for adaptation on the rich countries. Others suggest the world has now change and all countries have to contribute if they are able.

  5. Lenore Taylor talks about Australia joining the Coalition of Ambition and The Guardian team calls the talks about a done deal, with the final text settled on at about 6.45am. We’ll have to wait a few hours to see whether it is accepted. The text is to be published at 11.30am local time, and officially adopted in the afternoon.

    Australia has belatedly joined a “coalition of ambition” in the Paris climate talks – a loose grouping of more than 100 developed and developing countries including the US, EU, Canada and Brazil – aimed at countering a push by China, India and Saudi Arabia to water down aspects of the climate pact as negotiations run overtime.

    The Chinese call it theatre, but Brazil joining the Coalition on Friday may have changed the negotiating dynamics.

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