Sunday, December 13, 2015

The devil is in the fine print

As the blog predicted, a deal to curtail climate change was made in Paris and all the participants are hailing it a resounding success. Politicians are slapping each other on their backs, boasting that they have saved the planet. We, at SOYMB, never expected anything less. The agreement reached on Saturday depends on political will, with countries setting their own climate action plans. What the corporate titans decide and impose is not the will of we, the people. Trade agreements affect how we choose our energy; how much power our states have to make laws to protect the environment; how much input oil and mining companies have in determining our regulations. Trade agreements are being used an instrument by big oil and mining corporations to stop our efforts to combat climate change. A recent report indicates how TTIP, TPP and CETA will pave the way for polluters. In fact, if trade negotiators get in the way, we will choose our energy source based not on its effects on the environment but on the lowest price. According to leaked documents, in the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) being negotiated by the WTO, countries would not be allowed to discriminate between energy from fossil fuels and from alternative sources. This could deny regulators the right to distinguish solar from nuclear, wind from coal, or geothermal from fracking by establishing the principle of technological neutrality. ISDS, the investor state dispute settlement allows companies to sue states over their decisions and is a favourite tool of energy and mining companies. When governments step in to protect the environment such actions are being challenged in secret courts.

The world now places its trust in capitalism to fulfill its promises and as the International Investors Group on Climate Change, a network managing €13tn of assets, said.
“Investors across Europe will now have the confidence to do much more to address the risks arising from high carbon assets and to seek opportunities linked to the low carbon transition already transforming the world’s energy system and infrastructure.” The shrewder investors will shift their money out of the coal industry and into scuba gear, on the theory that, though many folks may quit using coal to heat their bathwater and cook their food, the results of the non-binding agreements in the climate conference will result in much more of the earth being under water within a few years, and folks will have to learn to learn to live underwater.

In Paris the delegates agreed to cut demand, but at home they seek to maximise supply. The UK government has even imposed a legal obligation upon itself, under the Infrastructure Act 2015, to “maximise economic recovery” of the UK’s oil and gas. The Paris agreement is full of promises that can slip or unravel. The Paris accord sets a target of limiting warming of the planet to "well below" 2.0 degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial levels, while merely aiming for the goal of 1.5C or in the words of the agreement “to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.” The agreement’s 5-year review periods really means five years of business-as-usual. Advocating reporting progress toward achieving goals, and this kind of transparency—in theory—can make countries take those goals more seriously, but at this point, any action is purely voluntary, and there are not sanctions for failing to act.

The claims that it is legally binding treaty is somewhat disingenuous since the US negotiators demanded the exclusion of language that could allow the agreement to be used to claim legal liability for climate change. For vulnerable countries “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. Rich countries promised that by 2025 they would set a new goal for climate finance “from a floor of $100bn per year”, the figure first pledged at the Copenhagen climate talks six years ago. However, the commitment was offered as a non-binding decision. What’s binding are the pledges submitted as part of each participating country’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, or INDC.  So far, 180 countries have submitted pledges. However, there is no mechanism that makes achieving these pledges binding.

James Hansen considered one of the foremost environmentalist on climate change explained 
“It’s a fraud really, a fake. 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 to be burned.” He sought a carbon tax to be imposed and was disappointed than no such thing was forthcoming. But again that objective was a pipedream too.

The blog can agree with the words of the American Green Parrty presidential candidate, Jill Stein “We must insist that the polluting engines of planetary destruction be replaced by the clean, sustainable, just economy that we truly deserve. We must take our future into our own hands, and give our children a livable world. It’s in our hands!”
Upon what her definition of a “clean sustainable just economy” is, sadly we differ.

"This deal puts the fossil fuel industry on the wrong side of history." Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo said. Indeed but the socialists have for decades have arguing that capitalism itself, not just one part, has out-lived its usefulness and is now on the wrong side of history.

Friends of the Earth Scotland, noted the fact that "there is no legally binding way forward to address the problem of lack of ambition of current national contributions towards post-2020 action—a very weak "facilitative dialogue" in 2018 with no obligation to actually improve these plans." And as far as the 1.5 degree limit is concerned, the language used—"to pursue efforts"—is weak.

Nick Dearden, director of campaign group Global Justice Now, said: "It's outrageous that the deal that's on the table is being spun as a success when it undermines the rights of the world's most vulnerable communities and has almost nothing binding to ensure a safe and liveable climate for future generations."

This historic (a typo for hysteric?) climate deal has more holes than a colander! We are a long way from putting concern about a catastrophic possibility behind us. But let us not be all doom and gloom. Probably the best thing to come out of the Paris meetings was the fact that the majority of the world can come together and reached agreements and recognized a shared responsibility to act. Whatever problems people care about, climate pollution is sure to make them worse and capitalism is the cause.  Connect the issues.  

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