Who would have thought that on the first day I’d be waking up thinking, “Where’s Leighton Smith when you need him”.
I thought of him as I heard the news that there was a breakthrough in the COP 24 talks on climate change in Poland. Leighton would have railed at the so-called breakthrough and continued his rearguard action to remove man-made climate change from the world’s consciousness and it would have been very entertaining indeed.
But I come at this in another way. The so-called breakthrough in Poland is actually proof that the whole process is essentially powerless and is more about posturing than anything else.
The language around the meeting was all about providing a rulebook for the control of emissions with the hope that controlling emissions may reduce the temperature on Earth over the next few decades. Yet by my reading, there are no rules here. All there is is a ruler.
Rules are not rules unless they have consequences. Rules are not rules unless if they’re broken there are penalties. And the weakness of this agreement is that there is no consequences or penalties for those countries that choose not to achieve their goals.
What they’ve agreed on is a common method to measure the promises that various Nations many have made in the process. We will now know what Nations have promised and whether they’ve done anything about it.
But as the Sydney Morning Herald reports, like the landmark 2015 agreement in Paris, it does not legally bind countries to hit their targets. So countries can say what they like and yet do what they like.
Alex Braae at the Spinoff wrote about it succinctly this morning. He said, “So if a country (for example Brazil, where the new President has threatened to log and exploit the Amazon rainforest) were to completely miss the targets they set at the Paris talks, they'd be subject to a lot of stern finger-wagging, and maybe some impolite remarks over dinner. But that's about where the sanctions would end”.
The scientists are understandable hacked off about that but I think it shows the reality of emissions control. There is little political will anywhere in the world to change a thing.
The COP 24 does urge nations to lift their ambition on emissions control and James Shaw has brought that language back with him, telling the TV yesterday that New Zealand should be a high ambition country.
But let’s have a reality check on that. This government has been in power for a year. New Zealand is still the fifth highest emitter per head of capita on the planet. Meanwhile, the government is still pondering whether to bring agriculture into the emissions trading scheme. So far it doesn’t seem like a high priority for this supposedly lefty greenie government.
My take is that the 196 countries that signed up to Paris nearly four-years ago are all talk and no action, including us. So If you’re anti-man-made climate change you could take comfort in the fact that so far you may not be winning the battles but you are winning the war.