2018-12-12

Failed climate negotiations per design?



The UN's climate negotiation process through the COP (Conferences of the Parties) and the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) is slow and ineffective. The system was initiated in 1992 and has had annual meetings since 1995. The UNFCCC sets no binding limits for CO2 for individual countries. Instead, the term framework convention is used, which theoretically may be agreements on what should apply, but in practice it acts as a bureaucratic layer that prevents quick and concrete decisions.

The UNFCCC's goal is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that prevents dangerous human impact on the climate system. The Framework Convention is intended to govern how specific international agreements, such as the Kyoto Protocol, can be negotiated to specify further measures to approach the target. After 26 years of negotiations in giant conferences around the world, where participants have come by plane and are being served meaty foods, global carbon dioxide emissions have increased by more than 60 percent.

The process is therefore slow and ineffective. 26 years, no reductions in emissions. By 2018, emissions are expected to increase by 2.7%.

What is the inefficiency then due to?

Perhaps there is a deliberate inefficiency? Why is the fossil industry allowed to influence the negotiations? The fossil industry is present with its lobbyists during the negotiations and is sponsoring the whole circus. Among others, some of the world's largest oil and gas companies include Shell, Chevron, BP and Exxon. At the climate summit in Paris, companies with major interests in oil and coal stood for about 20 percent of the cost of the climate summit. The EU's own climate commissioner, Miguel Arias Cañete, has previously been chairman of two oil companies and his family is still the main owner of the companies. One of Poland's leading coal company, JSW, is the first official sponsor of the UN Climate Summit COP24 in Katowice and two more coal companies and a natural gas company are sponsors.

Political powers have known for at least 30 years that the climate change is caused by human greenhouse gas emissions, but have chosen not to take responsibility for solving the problem. James Hansen testified in 1988 for Congress in the United States about climate change linked to greenhouse gases. As early as 1981, chiefs like Henry Shaw and Edward E David Jr. at the oil giant Exxon, acknowledged the connection between fossil fuels and climate change, the oil companies then went to disinformation campaigns on the carbon dioxide's importance to the climate, as did tobacco companies earlier on the effects of smoking on health.

Money gives power and the concentration of wealth has increased in the world globally and in most individual countries, as Thomas Piketty, for example, has shown in his book "Capital". Especially during the neoliberal era, which has taken place since the mid-1970s, economic inequality has been allowed to increase. Smaller regulations and less taxation of large companies and high income earners have been marketed as the method that will provide higher economic growth and trickle down from the wealthiest to everyone else. Global results after 40 years is that riches become richer to an increasing extent, while low and middle income earners are generally flat in real income. The trickle down is, in fact, a trickle up from the many to the few richest. The power over politics follows the economic logic.

This shift of power since the 1970s has, of course, made its mark in terms of climate negotiations. Political leaders have to take into account the major companies that are important for employment and economic growth in their respective countries. Sweden's automotive industry makes it more difficult for Swedish politicians to demand a ban on fossil cars. Norway, which does not have its own automotive industry, has considerably more favorable policies for electric cars. By contrast, Norway has the oil industry and is therefore very paralyzed when it comes to putting an end to oil production. The global fossil industry dominates energy production, around 80 percent of energy comes from fossil fuels and oil companies belong to the richest and most profitable companies in the world. Employment and economic growth are a product that is highly demanded in the political market and national politicians have difficulty declining this product if offered at a low price today. The real cost of fossil economics is something that we really have known for a long time. But it is difficult for politicians to stand up for the truth against the power of the rich special interests. Now, however, we have reached the end of the road, it is becoming increasingly clear that politicians have put the problems ahead. Forest fires, floods, hurricanes and other climate-related disasters are increasingly causing damage. Ecosystems are in decline in many places in the world, and the richest people buy real estate in New Zealand where they build survival bunkers in luxury classes.

The UN's Climate Panel, the IPCC, has presented four different scenarios in its latest 1.5-degree report on how we could achieve this climate target. All scenarios are based on the fact that land-use emissions will begin to decrease from 2020, also fossil fuel emissions is assumed to begin to decline in the same year. Three of the scenarios, those with slower emission reductions from fossil fuels, mean that, around 2040, large scale CO2 capture via BECCS method is present or is about to rapidly build up. This capture method may be possible to get to work in a pure technical sense, but building the infrastructure for it on a large scale will be an economic loss business of huge dimensions that has to be paid through taxation, because there is no market economy demand for carbon dioxide in that scale. There will be annual amounts of carbon dioxide which are in the same order as the current annual fossil fuel consumption. If these BECCS facilities are to be built around the year 2040, then it is not the current power generations that are responsible for the bill. They intend to escape and allow future generations to pay.

Continuing dumping waste in the atmosphere that future generations suffer from is not morally acceptable. At best, they will suffer enormous financial consequences when they get the cost of building BECCS or other technical solutions to wash our waste out of the air. In the worst case, they suffer from huge damage effects in the form of collapsing ecosystems, reduced food production, increasing damage due to extreme weather, increased refugee flows and, in practice, completely destroyed opportunities for a functioning civilization.



A rebellion from future generations stands for the door this Christmas. School strikes spread across the world. Young people require system change. They do not accept that current political and economic authorities have the strategy of eliminating their responsibility for the CO2 waste for convenience reasons.

The only scenario without BECCS means stronger emission reductions where the curve's slope after 2020 points to zero by 2035. Yet there are huge error margins in these calculations and the likelihood of achieving the target would increase significantly if we could reach zero by 2025 or 2030. We must demand this from ourselves and our policy makers.

We need to get away from the powerlessness of the neoliberal deregulation that have affected our elected representatives. We need instruments that make it economically profitable for individuals and companies to invest in fossil-free technology. Let's start with the transport sector. It is a key sector that currently carries CO2 emissions to all other sectors. If we get all kinds of transport fossil-free quickly, it will make it easier when everything else is to be transformed. Manage hard deadlines for fossil fuels in different parts of the transport sector in combination with economic instruments so that it is cheaper than the current mileage cost to invest in completely fossil-free vehicles. Create investment grants or super cheap green investment loans directly through the central banks or similar government options.

Plan similarly to all sectors of society and make it profitable to do the right thing. Also find ways to reduce the economic gaps. A more equal society is more functional and sustainable, as evidenced by empirical science.

Jens Rundberg
Vännäs, Sweden
2018-12-12

Sources:
https://www.carbonneutraluniversity.org/delivering-on-2-degrees---kevin-anderson.html
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZW_oFFIbMU Base Sweden's climate layer on a carbon dioxide budget for the 2-degree commitment - Kevin Anderson 2018
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http://politiken.se/xartiklaroffs/utskrift/10767 Review: Equality - Therefore, more equal societies are almost always better societies. Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett.