COP21: a pointless virtue-signalling farce?

The COP21 United Nations Conference on Climate Change starts next Monday, 30 November and runs until 11 December, at a conference centre attached to Le Bourget Airport on the outskirts of Paris. It’s expected that about 40,000 people will attend. The website has a FAQ section that asks the question of how much all this will cost, but fails to answer it; one estimate puts the cost at over $1 Billion. The carbon footprint will of course be enormous – the official website gives no information on that question either, though an amusing article at Forbes comes up with an estimate of 10,000 tons of CO2.  But what is the point of all this? Is it anything more than a pointless virtue-signalling farce?


Bjorn Lomborg has a new paper Impact of Current Climate Proposals published in open-access format in a journal called Global Policy.  He analyses the impact of the various “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” (INDCs) that have been proposed for the upcoming Paris COP21 meeting, using a standard climate model (called “MAGICC”, which seems rather appropriate).  Now of course many of us here would question the validity of such models. Given that the IPCC only claims to know the climate sensitivity to within a factor of three, do such model predictions have any meaning at all? But the point of Lomborg’s paper is that even if one accepts the model predictions, it shows that combined effect of all the INDCs will be minimal.



Virtue-signalling and finger-wagging

The main function of the conference seems to be for the self-righteous hypocrites flying in to Le Bourget to indulge in a spot of virtue-signalling, expressing their commitment to “save the planet”.  Yes, amazingly, that tired old cliché is still being used by headline writers at the Guardian, along with “last chance”,  used by churnalists at The Conversation. Despite the failure of previous planet-saving conferences, see this hilarious “last chance to save the planet” compilation, many of those attending really do seem to have fooled themselves into thinking that the future of humanity and the entire planet depends on the vague unrealistic aspirations of the INDCs and whatever other woolly proclamations arise from this particular meeting.

A list of the INDCs submitted can be found here or here. Most of them include statements of intent to reduce carbon emissions by xx% by 20xx, atoning for their previous sins by promising to be good in the future.  The religious nature of the process is illustrated by an article Brazil: Redeemer of a Paris climate deal?

The INDCs allow politicians to bask in their own declared virtue; see for example this piece of self-praise from the White House (“Building on the strong progress made under President Obama”… “shows President Obama is committed to leading on the international stage”).

On the other hand, countries that make less virtuous proposals are criticised: apparently Japan’s INDC is “inadequate” while Australia disappoints with a weak climate pledge.  In most case the countries criticised in this way are the evil, capitalist western countries that are of course directly responsible for all the world’s problems.

One group of climate activists, “Climate Action Tracker” have appointed themselves as chief finger-waggers, rating most INDCs as either “Inadequate” or “Medium”. According to their graphic, only Bhutan is a role model – not a country one associates with significant carbon dioxide emissions.


Many of the INDCs, often those from big emitters, are so vague as to be virtually meaningless, or have catches attached to them. For example, China, responsible for more CO2 than any other country, only says that it intends its emissions to peak around 2030. India, another big emitter, says that it is going to reduce emission intensity – in other words, a reduction in the proportion of its energy use that comes from fossil fuels.  Some countries only offer a reduction per unit of GDP, while others say that any reduction is dependent on receiving billions of dollars in cash.

One academic originally from Pakistan, now at Boston, says that many INDCs are a joke or a farce:

One of the farcical aspects of the process is the question of whether any agreement that may or may not be reached at the COP21 conference will be legally binding. John Kerry declared a couple of weeks ago that it would not be a legally binding treaty. But then the next day, an EU spokesperson declared that it would.  This confusion over what would seem to be a fairly basic point is discussed by Reiner Grundmann at Klimazwiebel.  There is also a comically muddled piece at Carbon brief, including the helpful clarifying statement from one expert that “It’s always confusing because the binding treaty could have nothing binding in it.”



  1. Climate Home have just published an article on the question of the carbon footprint of the meeting, linking to an item from the “UN Climate Change Newsroom”.

    It says that the carbon footprint will be about 21,000 tons. But “The total includes the building and dismantling of the main conference centre and a separate pavilion, as well as local travel for the 40,000 people expected to attend.” Local travel. That’s pretty misleading, to ignore all the carbon emissions of the flights. Since a round trip flight from the US is about 2 tons, the real total must be much higher, at least twice the figure quoted.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been looking at the tweets people are sending on the #cop21 tag and the vast majority have nothing to do with climate and those that do mention climate are so facile as to be daft.

    Their intelligence seems to be zero, their grasp of the issues minimal to negative, their concern for the real climate doesn’t extend beyond another free jaunt to see their buddies and cry a few crocodile tears.

    But there’s clearly loads and load and loads of dosh. It’s awash with Idiotic professional films devoid of any scientific content. The people are shallow, they lack real empathy with the world, they have no concern for evidence and no idea what on earth the effect would be if their daft ideas ever came to fruition.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yup,….

    awash with Idiotic professional films devoid of any scientific content

    YouTube is suddenly brimming (overflowing actually from here…) with pushed content – the odious leading the charge it would seem – must be costing a pile of money – although Eric Schmidt might have sanctioned corporate support I suppose.


  4. Google/Youtube corp have gone all political and started pushing COP21 propaganda in people’s faces. See their blog
    The actual Campaign page ishere. At the top of the page is a video box where they ask you to sign the petition ..3.2million have signed .. but if you actually click the link to the video
    #OursToLose: Climate Change Affects the Things We Love 1,310,911 views 1 day ago
    You see a hell of a lot of negative comments 4,200 thumbs down vs 19,000 thumbs up
    #1 Conflict of Interest – Nowhere does Google Alphabet Corp mention the green subsidies that they get
    #2 It’s against Free Speech Equality : giving Climate Alarmist political view* a PLATFORM that they don’t give to other political views, *Elections & surveys show it’s popular but NOT UNIVERSAL.

    Yes many customers might be interested, but they don’t need Youtube shouting in their faces, when they can just get all from Greenpeace anyway. H/T @Tomo


  5. Scottish Sceptic
    It’s not just on Twitter that their grasp of the issues minimal to negative. Here are some extracts of an article on”Why we’re going to Paris” from the UK Youth Climate Coalition website

    Why are you going to COP21 and what are you most hopeful for in Paris?

I’m going to COP to be inspired by other incredible young people, to stand in solidarity with nations who are most affected by climate change and to put pressure on world leaders to create the agreement we need. … and mostly that I can eat lots of lemon and sugar crepes with amazing youths from across the globe.

    I am going to COP21 to meet like-minded young people from around the world and eager to join in with all the lobbying- activism and stunts to show that world that despite our differences we all care about our planet and have made the effort to come to Paris to make sure our voices are heard.

    I am going to COP21 because I want to be able to say that I was there and that I was a part of this beautiful incredible positive movement fighting and creating a better world. I don’t think we can rely on governments but I want to be part of a physical presence in Paris to remind our governments that we are creating a better world whether they are on board or not – and to push them to get on board!

    What advice would you give to anyone that wants to take action on climate change?

    Don’t worry about all the jargon and science. In the end climate change is a human issue – talk to people about it in a way we can all relate to. And do it with some sass!

    I would say that it is fine if you don’t know all the technicalities on Climate Change – the jargons, acronyms or even if you think it is a larger than life issue. I was that person 2 years ago and still somewhat am that person so just take that first step in helping out at a community level and see how that sense of being part of something big can really do wonders for your life. And there I go again with a philosophical – motivational speech, so I’m going to have to stop right there.

    I’d say do it!! ‘Every little helps as the old lady says as she wees in the sea’.


  6. Last night I put a comment at Climate Home, saying that not including flights in the calculation was misleading.

    This morning I see that my comment has not been posted by them, but they have modified their article so that it now claims that the total figure of 21,000 tonnes does include ‘jet fuel and local travel’.

    This now contradicts the UN article that they link to, which says it only includes local travel.


  7. Another thing to look out for during COP21 will be the discussion about the different positions of “rich” and “poor” countries. It’s worth pointing out at every opportunity that the division is not strictly between rich and poor but between Annexe 1 countries and the rest. Annexe 1 are the “rich” countries: in fact Europe (including the ex-Warsaw pact and the European states of the ex USSR) North America, Australia and New Zealand, Japan and Turkey. That leaves S America and the oil states of the Middle East among the “poor”.

    It’s the developing nations like China and India which are resisting any change in their status, and the green lobby are going to have to tie themselves in knots to put the blame for any failure on us and the fossil fuel lobby. Should be interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. As we head towards COP 26, it doesn’t do any harm to remind ourselves that not a lot has changed in almost 5 years, except perhaps that the stridency has notched up a level. Since John R is delving into Cliscep’s back catalogue, I thought I’d do the same, and I think this one is worth a re-read, amid all the COP 26 propaganda and hysteria.


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