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November 22nd 2016 print

Rupert Darwall

Climate Crack-Up in Marrakech

Barack Obama saw the Paris Agreement as the keystone of a lustrous legacy but, like so many of his less-than-glittering achievements, the Trump victory has confounded that ambition. Nowhere was the president-elect's shadow more chilling than at the UN's latest catastropharian confab

trump coal IIUnder the cold grey December skies of a Paris still reeling from Islamist atrocities, the countries of the world enorsed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The first climate conference since the Paris Agreement came into force took place under the cloudless skies of Marrakech. It should have been an occasion for celebration and self-congratulation. But there was little elation. The Paris Agreement had been structured to avoid the test of a two-thirds vote in the United States Senate. The strategy depended on American voters supplying a climate-friendly successor to President Obama. It didn’t turn out that way.

There is something strange about climate conferences – this one being the 22nd conference of the parties (COP) of the 1992 UN climate change convention. The world’s most prominent citizens attend, our age providing no higher form of cost-free virtue signalling than a COP. Yet what the negotiators discuss is of mind-numbing tedium – deciding, for example, whether to hold a workshop or invite submissions from parties and ask for the climate secretariat to provide a synthesis paper. It is an environment in which international bureaucrats are at their most effective in pulling the strings. Ministers have walk-on parts as servants of a process that the UN Climate Secretariat has set in motion, to smile nicely and congratulate each other on their collective efforts in saving the planet from catastrophe.

This year’s COP took place in a series of temporary trade-exhibition tents under the flight path of the local airport, as all were reminded each and every time a plane took off. On the tarmac of Marrakech airport is what must be the world’s largest private jet – larger than Air Force One – belonging to the low-carbon state of Kuwait. Unsurprisingly, climate conferences are irony-free zones. Participants go about their COP-business as if everything is normal, fearful that it is not.

Over COP 22, President-elect Donald Trump casts a chilling shadow. ‘My only worry is the money,’ a delegate from the Democratic Republic of Congo told Reuters. ‘It’s worrying when you know that Trump is a climate sceptic.’ Such candour was almost as hard to find as irony.

Week two was when the most important people arrive, so its first day was decreed to be gender and education day. Gender equality and the empowerment of women is written into the preamble of the Paris Agreement. ‘Gender justice is climate justice,’ as one feminist NGO puts it. There were Feminists for a Fossil Fuel Free Future in attendance. You can download a Gender Climate Tracker app for iPhone and Android. ‘Our existing economies are based on gender exploitative relationships,’ one speaker told a side meeting. ‘The first ecology is my body,’ another declared. Sexual and reproductive rights require climate justice. ‘Sixty percent of my body is water. What I’m drinking takes me to my city and to the health of the planet.’

Whatever the health of the planet, the climate-change process has taken a turn for the worse: Trump’s election is the worst setback to the climate change negotiations since they began a quarter of a century ago, when the first meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee produced 1992′s UN framework convention on climate change. After the climate-and-gender session, the conference got serious. French President François Hollande threw down the gauntlet to the US president-elect, declaring last year’s Paris Agreement ‘irreversible from a legal point of view.’ The US must respect the climate commitments it had made, demanded Hollande, whose popularity earlier this year dropped to a record low of four percent. Was this a mouse roaring at a lion? Something like that for someone who is likely to be the first French president to be denied the chance of running for a second term.

Michael Kile: Derailing the Marrakech Express

On Wednesday, it was the turn of US Secretary of State John Kerry, who turned in a more credible roar of defiance, making up in authenticity what his speech lacked in coherence. ‘No one should doubt that the majority of Americans are determined to keep the commitments we have made,’ Kerry declaimed to loud applause. Then why didn’t the Obama Administration seek Congressional approval for the Clean Power Plan and send the Paris Agreement to the Senate for its advice and consent? ‘The United States is right now on our way to meeting all of the international targets that we’ve set,’ explained Kerry, ‘and because of the market decisions that are being made, I do not believe that that can, or will be reversed.’ If so, it shouldn’t matter if the Trump Administration annulled the Clean Power Plan?

‘No one can stop the new climate economy because the benefits are so enormous,’ Kerry continued. Tell that to out-of-work coal miners in Appalachia or voters in Rust Belt states who handed the presidency to Donald Trump. Moments later, the same Kerry was saying that government leadership was ‘absolutely essential.’ Time was running out, apparently. Do we have the collective will to save the planet from catastrophe, Kerry asked. ‘It won’t happen without leadership,’ was his answer.

At an emotional level, those brave words of reassurance were what the participants at the Marrakech conference craved. But the contradiction between the inevitability of wind and solar sweeping all before them and the veiled accusation that president-elect Donald Trump would be guilty of a moral betrayal if he backed off the commitments made by his predecessor showed that politics trumps arguments about inevitability. Even so, the unreality of the unstoppable clean-tech revolution was prominent in Kerry’s remarks. Developing countries wanted access to affordable energy, the Secretary of State acknowledged. More often than not, that meant coal.

Most of the huge growth in electricity demand in South East Asia will be met by coal, Kerry warned, negating the benefits of the new investment in renewables. Financing new coal-fired power stations was a form of suicide, Kerry declared. What was he or any other US politician going to do about it? Asian countries are going to do what they’re going to do and there’s very little America – or anyone else – might do to stop them. Without realizing it, Kerry’s argument demonstrates the sense of putting America first when it comes to energy policy.

Kerry’s state of climate confusion was one indicator of the crisis that Donald Trump’s election has sent through the halls of the UN climate change talks. That jitteriness was evident a couple of hours after Kerry had finished talking. To dramatize Trump’s campaign pledge to drop the Paris Agreement, CFACT’s Marc Morano, a climate sceptic, arranged a ritual shredding of the Paris Agreement in front of a life size cut-out of Trump. Hardly had the first page of the agreement disappeared into the shredder than UN security police intervened to save the rest of the document. Morano and his colleague, Craig Rucker, were then escorted away and banned from attending the rest of the conference for ‘their own safety and the safety of all participants,’ the UN said. It is hard to believe the UN police would have been deployed so swiftly if it had been pages of the US Constitution being fed into the shredder in front of a cut-out of Robert Mugabe.

The person responsible for bringing the quarter-century climate change process to the brink of irretrievable collapse is not Trump but the man he will succeed as president. After the abject failure of the Copenhagen climate summit in the first year of his presidency, President Obama embarked on a new climate strategy designed to avoid putting a fresh treaty before the US Senate. It had one major flaw: it depended on what didn’t happen when Americans confounded the pundits and rejected Hillary Clinton. However, the agreement had been booby-trapped to make it as difficult as possible for the US to back out. Speaking in February, after the Supreme Court slapped a stay on the Clean Power Plan and put a huge legal question mark over America’s ability to comply with the Paris Agreement, President Obama’s climate envoy, Todd Stern, explained that a Republican president was unlikely to scrap the Paris deal as it would have negative diplomatic implications.

Stern’s view fails to take account of the domestic repercussions of President Obama’s climate policies and the war on coal which helped deliver last week’s election outcome. Four of the top five coal-producing states voted Republican, including Pennsylvania, which swung from Blue to Red, and West Virginia, which gave Donald Trump his second-highest vote share.

Of the top-ten states most reliant on coal for their electricity, seven voted Republican last week, including VP-elect Mike Pence’s Indiana and swing state Ohio.

For the incoming Trump Administration, electoral calculations will mean the question of exiting the Paris Agreement is a matter of how, not if. Article 28 stipulates that parties must give a year’s notice of withdrawal once the Agreement has been in force for three years. That means the earliest the US could withdraw would be November 4, 2020. There is a quicker way. A party can give a year’s notice to leave the entire 1992 UN framework convention on climate change at any time.

It’s more than the shredding the Paris Agreement that could be Obama’s climate legacy. American participation in the 1992 framework convention could be heading for the shredder too.

Rupert Darwall is author of The Age of Global Warming – A History (Quartet, 2013)

Comments [9]

  1. PT says:

    A case of being “to clever by half”?

  2. ianl says:

    Delightful irony.

    Thank you for the summary, Rupert.

  3. Ian MacDougall says:

    ‘No one should doubt that the majority of Americans are determined to keep the commitments we have made,’ Kerry declaimed to loud applause.

    And on that point, he was right. No matter what the numbers were in the Electoral College, Clinton got more of the popular vote than did Trump: who BTW is not blessed with a Divine authority to rewrite the laws of physics and chemistry.

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/the-fury-and-failure-of-donald-trump-w444943

    • PT says:

      She didn’t get a majority.

    • en passant says:

      Ian McD,
      You really are a piece of work. Not good work, but one of those Leftoid trolls that infect the internet. I have taken on the task of exposing what you are as you said of me in a comment on a previous Quadrant Online article “Derailing the Marrakesh Express” :
      “1. Well, obviously you have not travelled much. And from that remark alone, I would say not only that you are a 24-carat ignoramus, but pretty 2. clearly a prize racist as well.”

      1. In my working life I travelled to and spent between a week and three years in 65 countries, including Cameroon, Angola, Congo, Nigeria – and probably some I have forgotten. Once more you are right, I haven’t travelled to the same planets as you. Does this make your comment seem foolish now? It should, but let me provide your obvious answer
      “You may have been in 65 countries, but did you learn anything about them?”
      Well, yes actually, as sometimes I was the only non-indigenous person on-site… I expect an apology.
      2. I am a racist? Ah, the last resort of the Leftoid scum. I suppose I cannot deny it, though I would point out that I have been continuously married for the past 41 years to a wonderful Asian lady. I suppose it is possible to be married to people you despise, but as I have never spoken to your wife I have not yet been able to check out this theory.
      In my case, accusing someone of racism without the slightest evidence is pretty low even for you. I expect an abject apology.
      Just to show my family that racists do exist in Oz, I will pass your comment on to my wife and children so they can see the sort of Leftoid ignorance they may face from a White Australian WASP of Scottish descent. Pity Cumberland did not do a better job of clearing the Highland tribes between 1746 – 1845.

      Here again are the unanswered questions that will follow you, although you cannot or will not answer them.

      What is so hard about telling us all the destination of the Holy Climate Grail you seek:

      1. What is the ideal global average temperature we seek? As we are at 15C and we want to restrict warming to 1.5C it surely must be 16.5C? If so what is the basis for that figure an why is it better than any other figure? Oh, there isn’t any basis? Of course not, as there does not need to be any basis or rational reason as this is not how post-modern science is done. Personal view? 20C would be great, but I am sure Ian McD can tell us why this is not a good idea.

      2. What is the ideal concentration of CO2? We are at 400ppm and at 250ppm plants starve and stop growing, so you would think the post-modern cultists would determine that it must be somewhere in-between these two numbers. Well, you would think …, but this is not how post-modern science is done. Actually, the answer is 2,000ppm+ as the combination of warmth and CO2 fertiliser will green the Earth.

      These questions will continue to follow every comment you make on any subject until you provide your answer.

      • Ian MacDougall says:

        ‘en passant’ (COSDC *and bar):

        In the course of a day’s trolling, I posted a statement to you. On reflection, I concur that It was a bit over the top for me to say “well, obviously you have not travelled much” when by your own account you have. So my original comment from https://quadrant.org.au/opinion/qed/2016/11/derailing-marrakech-express/#comment-20295 containing a list of the 197 scientific organizations that endorse the position that climate change has been caused by human action ( https://www.opr.ca.gov/s_listoforganizations.php ) needs a minor amendment, supplied below in bold.
        Your original learned statement was:

        The fluff with which you distract all arguments by appeals to the authority of such as the “Cameroon Academy of Science” (snuffle, smirk)…

        To which I replied:

        I take it that in your view the support of the Cameroon Academy of Science for any statement, no matter which other organisations might also be in support of that statement, is enough cause for instant dismissal of the whole of it.
        Well, I must confess that I haven’t the foggiest about the details of the qualifications of its members, and for all I know, there might be very eminently qualified people among them, up to and including a winner or two perhaps of a prestigious award like a Nobel.
        However, you ‘en passant’ (COSDC and bar) clearly assume from the very name Cameroon Academy of Science that the qualification abilities and standards of its members must by that very fact be pretty abysmal. Well, obviously you have not travelled much or if you have, have done so with your head inside a poorly-ventilated garbage bag. And from that remark alone, I would say not only that you are a 24-carat ignoramus, but pretty clearly a prize racist as well.
        And if there was an international prize for crass ignorance, I would nominate you ‘en passant’ (COSDC and bar with snuffle and smirk) as an outstanding starter for it.

        Otherwise, IMHO, the original needs no further amendment. And I assume that, pursuant of your desired claim to be an upholder of truth and justice, you will show this in full to your wife and children.

        *COSDC = Companion of the Contrarian Order of the Sceptical Dunny Can

        • en passant says:

          Ian McD,
          Having lived and worked in Cameroon and other African countries I can assure you that the educational standard is not high. It was one of the reasons we had to bring in foreign technical expertise as they were so unfamiliar with advance technology as to be unteachable in a reasonable lifetime. Is that racist, or just an observed fact?

          Don’t worry as Oz is working hard to emulate them. Just two days ago on Neil Mitchell’s 3AW a school teacher from Albert Park Primary in Melbourne called in to extol the virtues of their appointing Year 6 children as “Sustainability Monitors” to report to teachers any breaches in their Green Gestapo Rules. So these 10-year old Green Police spy on and report to the authorities any other children (and adults) who put banana skins in the recycling bin, have the air-conditioning set lower than 24°C, have lights on unnecessarily (in their opinion), etc. And, yes, they do get to wear a hi-viz green vest (does not have the same class as a Hugo Boss designed Gestapo uniform, but it’s just a start).

          The yapping teacher thought it was a great cultural behaviour and saw nothing wrong with this introduction of societal propaganda, encouraging spying on each other and the creation of a ‘sustainability’ totalitarian elite given powers to terrorise the rest of the children. “Lord of the Flies” is apparently a policy manual in Albert Park Primary!

          My attitude would have been to deliberately break EVERY rule every day – and to turn on every tap I passed, switched on every light, turned the air-conditioning to ‘Igloo’ and filled every recycling bin with banana skins.

          Anarchical resistance to all forms of radical Green totalitarianism is the right thing to do …

          Let’s hope The Donald is the Messiah we have awaited since the days of Global Cooling a mere 40-years ago …

          I am disappointed in your failure to abjectly apologise to my wife and children for your racial slur (aimed at me without evidence) that insulted and injure them. What does Section 18C have to say about what action I should take for my actually hurt feelings if you do not apologise?

          Let me remind you:
          You said of me you are “clearly a prize racist as well”. You failed to correct the record (and in fact you repeated your disgusting & insulting slur despite my pointing out:
          “2. I am a racist? Ah, the last resort of the Leftoid scum. I suppose I cannot deny it, though I would point out that I have been continuously married for the past 41 years to a wonderful Asian lady. I suppose it is possible to be married to people you despise, but as I have never spoken to your wife I have not yet been able to check out this theory.

          In my case, accusing someone of racism without the slightest evidence is pretty low even for you. I expect an abject apology.

          Just to show my family that racists do exist in Oz, I HAVE NOW passed your comment on to my wife and children so they can see the sort of Leftoid ignorance they may face from a White Australian WASP of Scottish descent. Pity Cumberland did not do a better job of clearing the Highland tribes between 1746 – 1845.

          Here again are the unanswered questions that will follow you, although you cannot or will not answer them.

          What is so hard about telling us all the destination of the Holy Climate Grail you seek:

          1. What is the ideal global average temperature we seek? As we are at 15C and we want to restrict warming to 1.5C it surely must be 16.5C? If so what is the basis for that figure an why is it better than any other figure? Oh, there isn’t any basis? Of course not, as there does not need to be any basis or rational reason as this is not how post-modern science is done. Personal view? 20C would be great, but I am sure Ian McD can tell us why this is not a good idea.

          2. What is the ideal concentration of CO2? We are at 400ppm and at 250ppm plants starve and stop growing, so you would think the post-modern cultists would determine that it must be somewhere in-between these two numbers. Well, you would think …, but this is not how post-modern science is done. Actually, the answer is 2,000ppm+ as the combination of warmth and CO2 fertiliser will green the Earth.

          These questions will continue to follow every comment you make on any subject until you provide your answer.

          LAST CHANCE TO WITHDRAW AND APOLOGIZE FOR YOUR SLUR WITHOUT RESERVATION. IN RETURN I WILL STOP POSTING THE QUESTIONS YOU CANNOT OR WILL NOT ANSWER.

          • ianl says:

            > “These questions will continue to follow every comment you make on any subject until you provide your answer”

            I wonder if that will work. Most leftoid trolls don’t actually care all that much just so long as they disturb or preferably destroy the thread.

            It will be amusing to watch, though.

    • Bill Martin says:

      This blog at “American Thinker” throws light on the subject of the “population vote.”.

      http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2016/11/hillary_wins_the_popular_vote__not__comments.html