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.
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.