Paris: Route to the soft exit

One of the oft-repeated words in climate negotiation-speak is ‘ambition’. Ambition refers to how much cutting of carbon emissions (and consequently economic damage) a country is willing to commit to in negotiations (the COPs). ‘Ambition’ for Paris appears to have prematurely gone flaccid, an indicator being the irrepressible Christiana Figueres‘ plans for 2030 for a CO2-cutting treaty to avert ‘2C’.

The climate negotiation troupe is made of a trifecta of nationally-selected bureaucrat representatives, non-governmental groups, and media agencies. A cardinal point in its structure lies in each thinking the others to be responsible for ‘ambition’. But this is fundamentally irreconcilable with the parties’ individual aims and motives. Countries and blocs participate to safeguard their self-interests, NGOs and media organs contribute to noise and propagation of the pantomime. In other words, in reality, there is no ambition within the UNFCCC system. Climate activists bide their time hoping for a perfect storm of circumstance, leadership failure and true belief to precipitate a dissolution of countries’ defenses.

With the above, the real dealing, maneuvering and re-positioning take place behind-the-scenes, well in advance of the conference of parties (COPs). To get a sense, I would recommend Benny Peiser’s excellent summation of the state-of-play. Briefly, there are key indicators to suggest no ambitious outcome can be expected from Paris.

First, China has its agreement with the United States as demonstration of its ‘commitment’. The United States itself, under President Barack Obama, will no doubt valiantly present its environmental agency rules as proof. Recognizing the fiasco of its own position within the Kyoto Protocol, the EU has walked back from its traditional unilateral commitment to emissions reduction to a conditional one. The EU’s requirement for emission-reduction is conditional on a legally binding international treaty, to which China, India and the US Senate present a near-insurmountable barrier. As ever, India has re-iterated its right to development via fossil-fuel use and questioned the lack of concrete steps about their own emissions from the US and EU. The end result: a hodge-podge of national measures that individual countries can hold up en-route to a defensibly failed Paris.

Peiser’s article makes clear the constant presence of the UNFCCC has acted as an evolutionary force in international negotiations. Countries have learned to accommodate and incorporate ‘climate’ into so-called business-as-usual functioning rather than the opposite.



  1. omanuel

    Fear of nuclear energy?

    After “The Great Social Experiment of 1945-2015” explained why governments hid from the public the source of energy in the core of the Sun that

    1. Made the chemical elements,
    2. Birthed the solar system,
    3. Sustained life’s origin and
    4. Then evolution by
    4. Controlling Earth’s climate, . . .

    An intriguing and extremely well-done video response described this same seventy-year period of totalitarian rule as “The Long Peace of 1945-2015:”

    World leaders may see no other options than:

    _ a.) Worldwide nuclear war
    _ b.) Tyrannical world rule, or
    _ c.) Nuclear energy paranoia

  2. Hilary Ostrov (aka hro001)

    Shub, I agree that Peiser’s article is definitely well worth the read.

    Perhaps even more so if one has spent any time (of which I have probably spent far to much for my own good!) plumbing the drivellous depths of the word salads tossed up by the designated speakers at gatherings of the great and the good at any number of the UNEP’s ever-expanding arms, elbows and fingerlings.

    Speaking of which .. I have just finished wading through the IISD’S report on the multitude of ramblings proffered at the opening session of the (pre-Paris) Bonn Climate Change Conference which will run until June 11.

    For the record …

    The IPCC reported on the dissemination of the AR5, noting it is the most comprehensive assessment of climate change ever undertaken. The World Meteorological Organization highlighted the need for more coordination among various actors to help communities adapt to extreme climate events. UN-Oceans reported on its activities on understanding the effects of climate change on the marine environment.

    Typically, the saving grace of slogging through these reports is the IISD’s summary. In this instance they echo your take:

    As delegates gathered for the first time in the brand new World Conference Center Bonn, under construction for nearly a decade, many felt the pressure to finalize the “construction work” on the text of the Paris agreement. Some participants, however, reported apprehension that many coordination meetings preceding the Bonn Climate Change Conference had been “difficult” or “very difficult.” Others noted that working throughout the day in two parallel negotiating groups under the ADP entailed a lot of legwork for smaller delegations.

    As delegates prepared to engage in the evening’s facilitated discussions on parts of the 90-page negotiating text, one seasoned observer remarked the need to eat this elephant “bit by bit.” Many, however, wondered whether the process could pick up the speed required to accomplish this complicated task in time for the Paris Climate Change Conference.

    Much to my surprise there was no mention of “transformative” (or any variants thereof). This has been a miles ahead “favourite” for the past few years. I could be wrong, but my guess is that it will rear its familiar head as the days progress.

    Your noted “ambition” got a respectable 3 mentions while “carbon” (no dioxide) got 4 – but CO2 did get 1. None of these, however, hold a candle to “financ*” which rated no less than 9 mentions. This was exceeded by “climate change” with 12 of 20 “climate” mentions;-)