Monday, August 17, 2015

A Different COP in 2015

Almost 20 years ago in 1997, US Vice President Al Gore made a dramatic appearance during the second week of the COP3 conference. He asked the delegations to do their best to come up with a workable agreement involving realistic and binding targets and announced that he had instructed the US negotiators to "show their increased flexibility". At the very end of the conference, many hours after it was supposed to adjourn, more than 150 nations adopted the Kyoto Protocol. This unprecedented agreement committed the industrialized nations (including the US) to make legally binding reductions is their emissions of GHG's, generally with cuts of about 5 percent below 1990 levels. This fell far short of the originally proposed 10 percent reductions. In exchange for US support via Gore, the EU caved in to halving their proposed emissions limits.

The file linked here is the summary of the debate about emissions trading that happened in the early hours of December 11th 1997 at COP3. The emissions trading issue was about how the global energy supply would be shifted to non-carbon sources through a trading scheme rather than setting carbon emission limits with annual reductions, thus deleting a critical part of stopping climate change.

But the US had insisted that emissions trading be made part of the Kyoto Protocol. The Developing Countries – led by the Africa Group, India and China – insisted that the quid-pro-quo had to be equal per capita-based “Contraction and Convergence”. Except that the version offered as an equity protocol was the GDR version produced and lobbied by Tom Athanasiou that imported a GDP metric on top of the carbon allowances which forced a "negative emissions" formula that translated into cash flows from the developed countries to the developing world.

The US therefore did not sign the Kyoto Protocol after promising to do so. GCI has provided a rather full documentation of the COP 3 interactions.

A summary of the process since then is recounted in a white paper, Expectations for a New Climate Agreement:

In 1997, the nations followed through, producing the Kyoto Protocol which—among other provisions—included a set of legally binding national emissions targets to be achieved in a 2008-2012 accounting period. By 2005, a sufficient number of countries had ratified the Protocol to put it into force (even without the United States, which never submitted the Protocol for ratification). There has followed years of struggle within the COP to try to bring all nations under some form of emissions obligation (including the United States and other developing countries with significant emissions), and to decide if and how to extend Kyoto Protocol commitments beyond 2012. During this time, Canada withdrew from the Protocol, and Japan, Russia and New Zealand have stated they would not participate in a second commitment period.

We now know that even the RCP 2.6 scenario is far in excess of what is survivable by the planet This white paper example uses 530-580 ppm when we know that anything in excess of 350 is disastrous, and we're now over 400 ppm and the planet is overheating to failure.

What's happening now: The US is preparing for COP 21 by setting up separate TRADE deals with China and India on local pacts with the western US states and Canada that will force an emissions trading arrangement in Paris in December, just as in 1997. For example, California has made non-binding agreements with other states and countries. This is a corporate strategy that allows continued pollution via these trade pacts (TPP is part of this). This means that the planet will not recover from climate change because we never get back to 350 PPMV at 2100. The emissions don't really get stopped, per the GCI CBAT calculations. The metric needs to be based upon carbon alone, not corporate profit protection strategies.

The version of the sequence of events from the New Yorker paints a slightly different picture of Kyoto and its ramifications:

In the lead-up to Paris, each country has been asked to submit a plan outlining how and by how much it will reduce its carbon output—or, to use the Saudis’ preferred term, its emissions. The plans are known as “intended nationally determined contributions”—in U.N.-speak, I.N.D.C.s. The whole approach has been labelled “bottom up,” which, by implication, makes previous efforts to cut carbon—in particular, the Kyoto Protocol—“top down.” Even those who, like Figueres, argue that the goal is still achievable acknowledge that the I.N.D.C.s aren’t nearly enough to achieve it.

In another take on the global process,  “No Precedent in Human History”, Ruth Greenspan Bell writes on why climate change demands more than the UNFCCC agreement can achieve. This is essentially John Bryson's Wilson Center perspective, which assisted the Obama administration in crafting trade positions around emissions via agreements with China and India. James Hansen assisted in providing highly distorted carbon metrics. So they plan to dispense with the goals entirely and doom our planet using multiple trade agreements rather than a final carbon budget, and bypass UNFCCC altogether. GDP remains as a metric, even though it's an inadequate metric that will devalue rapidly in the future. Eventually the world will no longer trade in the petrodollars established by the World Bank. Hence these agreements will rapidly fail as an economic scheme based upon an antiquated measure, particularly since GDP doesn't account for damages involved with carbon emissions.

So we shall see this "bottom up" approach crafted by corporate control of the US Congress and the Administration lead our world to its final stages of the destruction of human existence, along with everything else.