Every year we are treated to weeks or months of increasingly shrill reports in the mainstream media about the climate crisis, climate chaos (and latterly in the Guardian, even climate carnage) in the run-up to the annual jamboree known as the Conference of the Parties (COP). While COPs are ongoing, the propaganda is relentless. One of the main themes, of course, is that time is running out to “save the planet” (and with it ourselves, and life on earth generally). As Jit pointed out in The Highway to Climate Hell the General Secretary of the United Nations, António Guterres kicked proceedings off this year by telling us that the world is on the road to climate hell:
“The clock is ticking,” he tells the audience. “We are in the fight of our lives and we are losing. Greenhouse gas emissions keep growing, global temperatures keep rising, and our planet is fast approaching the tipping point that will make climate chaos irreversible. We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator.”
Now, assuming that he’s right (an heroic assumption) surely all of the climate-concerned attending, or commenting on, COP27 will speak with one voice. All will be absolutely committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, come what may, no ifs, no buts. Yeah, right.
First up, we find the BBC reporting on apologists for developing countries with their ever-increasing emissions. It begins in apocalyptic mode:
Emissions of CO2 are rising so quickly there is now a 50% chance the world will cross a crucial climate change threshold soon, a new report suggests.
And it contains a dig at developed European countries:
And European countries are also turning to dirtier fossil fuels to cope with energy shortages driven by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Germany is burning more coal this year than last, and the UK has asked energy firms to delay the closure of end-of-life coal plants.
China doesn’t get a mention, which is perhaps strange, given that it is now the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases by a country mile, is the second-largest cumulative emitter (behind the USA), is growing its emissions, continues to open new coal-fired power stations, and has emissions on a per capita basis that are now 50% higher than those in the UK. However, let’s leave that to one side. India is in the BBC’s sights instead:
India is expected to be the largest contributor to the growth in emissions in 2022 as it continues to increase its use of coal – the most polluting of fossil fuels.
So, naughty India. Or so one might think. However, it has its apologists:
But Dr Kamya Choudhary, India policy fellow at London School of Economics, thinks this is a short-term measure to cope with the ongoing energy crisis.
One of the report’s authors, Robbie Andrew, a senior researcher at CICERO, pointed out that even though developing countries like India are increasing their emissions quickly, they are still significantly lower per person than in Europe.
The second statement is no doubt true. The first is an expression of opinion which may well turn out to be wishful thinking. As a UN report established just last year:
As part of the Paris Agreement, India pledged a 33%–35% reduction in the “emissions intensity” of its economy by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.
However, as part of the Atmanirbhar Bharat campaign, the government pledged to become a self-reliant producer of coal and made a plan to invest Rs 500 billion worth of infrastructure for coal extraction.
“The plan outlines measures to expand coal production by nearly 60% from 2019 to 2024 (from 730 to 1,149 tonnes), including through the removal of barriers to land acquisition and building capacity for exploration,” says the report, which adds, “India also aims to increase total oil and gas production by over 40% in the same period through measures such as accelerate [sic] exploration licensing, faster monetization of discoveries, and gas marketing reforms.”
Some other measures India has taken to expand production is [sic] to make expenditures and provide tax breaks worth Rs 11.8 billion for the production of fossil fuels. It also estimates that in 2020, India’s “subsidies for coal production totalled INR 17.5 billion (USD 249 million) and those for oil and gas production totalled INR 29.3 billion (USD 417 million).”
The report further notes that India doesn’t have a federal level policy on scaling down production of fossil fuels, or ensuring a just transition into renewable energy.
So, do Indian politicians think that India is at risk from a climate crisis, or don’t they? It’s difficult, reading the above, to conclude that they do. And, going back to the BBC report, it might be unfair to read the comment by Robbie Andrews without knowing the full context in which he made his comment, but it’s difficult to understand why the per capita level of emissions should be relevant if the aim is to reduce emissions to avert a climate crisis. There does seem to be an attempt to blame developed countries while excusing developing ones.
Of course, it’s perfectly reasonable – one might go so far as to say that it’s their duty – for the leaders of developing countries to demand development rights. Where people are immiserated by poverty, and where development of their fossil fuel wealth might offer a route to a better life, I for one would not seek to stop them. As Idy Niang, head of climate change programme, Department of the Environment, Senegal told the BBC at COP27:
“We just discovered gas and petroleum, and we start exporting it, so we cannot abandon it as we are LDC [Least Developed Country] and need to enforce our economy for development.”
Quite. Yet why should developed countries be asked to pay compensation, for unproven climate damage allegedly caused by greenhouse gas emissions, to countries which are intent on developing their own fossil fuel resources and contributing their own greenhouse gas emissions to the mix?
Allison Pearson, writing in the Telegraph, is rather more forthright than I might be, but it’s still a rollicking good read. Her piece is behind a paywall, but it can be found at Paul Homewood’s website. Her put-down of demands for climate reparations, in the form of an imagined letter to be sent from the UK to Pakistan, is well worth reading. I can’t resist setting out a lengthy extract here:
Apparently, you (and Ed Miliband) think that the terrible floods Pakistan suffered recently are entirely the fault of industrialised Western countries like our own because of historic carbon emissions.
While there may be some truth in that, other experts have suggested that the reason Pakistan experiences such terrible flooding is because you have cut down all your trees. Pakistan has the highest rate of deforestation in the world. When your nation was created in 1947, 33% of the total land mass was covered by forests; now that area is only 5%. Because of the lack of trees, the rain runs straight off the mountains into the silted up reservoirs which then overflow.
In addition, we would like to point out that Pakistan has always had major floods, many just as catastrophic as the recent one. The 1950 flood, for example, killed twice as many people as the 2022 flood within a much lower population. Not every natural disaster can be blamed on the United Kingdom, gratifying and lucrative though that accusation may be.
Pakistan is already one of the UK’s biggest recipients of aid. In 2019/20, you received around £302 million from our heavily indebted country, spanning areas including human development, climate and the environment. Most British people would consider that quite a generous gift to a nation which has its own nuclear weapons and a space programme. Pakistan also has more than a thousand coal mines. We do wonder whether you have any concerns about their impact or was it just British coal mines which caused a problem?
Plus, the present population of Pakistan is 225 million (up from 65 million in 1970) which will inevitably add to pressure on the environment. Sorry, there’s not a whole lot we can do about that.
Meanwhile, President Museveni of Uganda has written an impassioned piece, which appears on the Newsweek website. He makes some very fair points:
Europeans switch their coal-fired plants back on while still demanding fossil-fuel generation remains beyond the pale for Africans…
…We see hundreds of millions of our own citizens without access to electricity. We see climate-compulsive Western investment in African energy funneled into wind and solar that creates intermittent electricity and not the consistent baseload generation required to power factories or produce employment. We see Europeans with jobs made possible by diverse means of electricity production, and Africans with neither…
Now with Europe reinvesting in its own fossil fuel power industry to bring mothballed power plants back online, in a truly perverse twist we are told new Western investment in African fossil fuels is possible—but only for oil and gas resources that will be piped and shipped to Europe. This is the purest hypocrisy.
We will not accept one rule for them and another rule for us. We will not allow African progress to be the victim of Europe’s failure to meet its own climate goals. It is morally bankrupt for Europeans to expect to take Africa’s fossil fuels for their own energy production but refuse to countenance African use of those same fuels for theirs…
…Europe’s failure to meet its climate goals should not be Africa’s problem. But that continent’s determination to write one set of rules for Europeans and a different set for Africans makes it so. It means Europe is complicit in forcing poverty on Africa, and that is not acceptable and will not stand.
Who could disagree with that? Not me. However, I struggle with his demands for “climate compensation” while demanding the right to develop his country’s fossil fuel resources with all the associated greenhouse gas emissions.
Whether it’s the leaders of India or China, or of Senegal and Uganda, one cannot help feeling that the great climate change scare is a means by which they hope to extract finance from the developed world without actually believing in the supposed existential threat. If the threat is existential, nobody should be seeking to develop fossil fuel resources, yet pretty much every country in the world with such resources seeks to find reasons why they should be allowed to do so. Similarly, academics and journalists, writers of reports and campaigners, seek to find reasons why developing countries should be allowed to develop such resources free from blame, while the developed world must both cease using such resources and pay “compensation” for their use to date to those countries who should apparently be free to emit away to their heart’s content.
It doesn’t add up. And it certainly doesn’t sound as though very many of these people really and truly believe in a climate crisis.