It’s Saturday night, Laurent Fabius has brought his green hammer down on proceedings at the climate summit and the Paris Agreement is a done deal – now what will it all mean?
Earlier this afternoon, while we were all still waiting for the announcement, the BBC’s Nicholas Owen interviewed Professor Mike Rosenberg of the IESE Business School in Barcelona and asked him what he thought. I’ve put together a transcript of the interview here.
Mike Rosenberg is a Professor of Sustainability, so it is perhaps a given that he would think it a good thing (“It’s a great deal because it’s a deal.”) Beyond that, though, what he says is interesting because he highlights a number of issues that climate sceptics (and green groups) have already noted. I’ll list these:
1) The voluntary arrangements won’t go far enough, on their own terms. Even if you firmly believe that the INDCs (or NDMCs) will collectively serve to make precise turns on some sort of dial linked to the planet’s thermostat, they will fall short and need to be continually revised upwards, throughout a series of 5-year plans. Whether that will happen as anticipated is not certain.
2) Although $100 billion a year is meant to be winging its way from the rich nations to the poor nations by the end of the decade, “[w]here that money is going to come from is not specified” and it will still require taxpayers in individual countries to exercise their vote. They might vote not to send the money, or – perhaps more to the point – they might vote in politicians who won’t send the money.
3) India is determined to develop its economy, either cheaply, via its “tremendous coal assets” or via wealth transfer from the west. No wealth transfer and they will go for the cheapest option.
4) China is the largest CO2 emitter but will not be cutting its CO2 emissions, agreeing only to “plateau” them around 2030. That’s fifteen years from now. That’s a lot of emissions.
5) Whatever the United States signs up to at COP21, it will still need to be ratified at the Republican-dominated Senate. It may also make a lot of difference who wins the Presidency next.
For me, however, this quote from Professor Rosenberg stood out:
What the agreement does is it sets up a system of monitoring and making things transparent, it sets up an enormous bureaucracy to manage this whole thing, with scientific committees and a secretariat and a finance committee and a tribunal, a court, et cetera – it kind of establishes the mechanism to try and get the world to where it needs to go, but the hard decisions will all come later.
Amongst all the uncertainties, all the ifs, mights, shoulds, coulds and so forth, what seems an absolute certainty is the massive expansion – from Paris to Marrakech and beyond – of the bureaucracy and the eager legions of pen-pushers, staffers, secretaries, clerks, lawyers, activists, spokespeople, fund-raisers, representatives, lobbyists, experts, consultants and who knows who else, manning and servicing this vast, voracious, self-perpetuating machine.