To understand the impetus for last week’s ‘unique development in the U.S.-China relationship’ – and its implications for Australia – suspend disbelief, hold your nose, enter that rarefied repository of atmospheric alarmism, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and take a closer look at its most ambitious creation, the Green Climate Fund (GCF). In climate politics (and science), the devil is indeed in the detail – and dollars.
“The Green Climate Fund is to become the main instrument for multilateral climate finance in the future. It will channel a significant share of international climate finance needed to keep global temperature increases to below 2° Celsius.” — GCF statement, Bonn, September 9, 2014
Paragraph 19 of the G20 Brisbane Summit Communiqué reads:
“We support strong and effective action to address climate change. Consistent with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its agreed outcomes, our actions will support sustainable development, economic growth, and certainty for business and investment. We will work together to adopt successfully a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the UNFCCC that is applicable to all parties at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris in 2015. We encourage parties that are ready to communicate their intended nationally determined contributions well in advance of COP21 (by the first quarter of 2015 for those parties ready to do so). We reaffirm our support for mobilising finance for adaptation and mitigation, such as the Green Climate Fund.”
Despite the media excitement, there was little new. UNFCCC’s search for ‘another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force’ for ‘mobilising’ developed world finance has been going on – with increasing urgency – since the 2009 Copenhagen debacle. How did we get to this point? The latest saga in the UN climate-protection racket began four years ago in Mexico, where we must revisit the Moon Palace Golf and Spa Resort, Cancun, and the 15,000+ delegates dancing to the COP-16 theme song, “Let’s put the CAN in Cancun!”
It was here that UNFCCC’s new Costa Rican executive secretary, Christian Figueres, first warned that “the environmental stakes are high, because we are quickly running out of time to safeguard our future.”
The political and reputational stakes were high too. Ms Figueres wanted the ‘multilateral UN climate change process’ to remain ‘the trusted channel for rising to the challenge’. To protect its ‘effectiveness and credibility’, GCF was conjured as the mechanism for transferring eagerly anticipated billions of dollars from the developed to the developing world.
For the ‘world’s poorest and most vulnerable’ apparently were already facing nasty (human-induced) climate impacts. They urgently needed assistance (payment of ‘climate debt’) to tackle ‘a problem that they did not cause’. (Translation: Every extreme, random, unusual or destructive weather/climate event in the developing world was, is and would be – by dodgy definition – conveniently attributed to carbon dioxide emissionsby the developed world, which therefore must pay climate reparations).
Ms Figueres also urged attendees to embrace the wisdom of Ixchel – a Mayan goddess with a writhing serpent headdress and crossed bones embroidered on her skirt. It must have worked, for delegates continue to promote the notion that an unelected bureaucracy – should, could and can – control the planet’s elusive thermostat; while siphoning billions of dollars of climate-gelt from the developed world by demonizing (and monetizing) an invisible atmospheric trace gas crucial to global plant photosynthesis, aka life on Earth.
On March 15, 2011, UNFCCC released The Cancun Agreement” (FCCC/CP/2010/7/Add.1, Decision 1/CP.16). Under Clause 103, GCF is governed by a 24-member Board comprising equal numbers from developing and developed countries; representatives of relevant UN regional groups, small island developing States and least-developed countries.
Clause 98 spells out the key GCF commitment, namely that
“developed country Parties [shall] commit, in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation, to a goal of mobilizing jointly USD100 billion per year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries.”
So expect more angst in the developed world before COP-21 in Paris next year, assuming the political classes dare to share with their electorates precisely how – and for how long – they intend to fund multi-billion dollar ‘climate-resilient development pathways’ in the developing world – and help it ‘adapt’ to all the ‘adverse impacts of climate change’. It is happening already in UK. Recent speculation suggested the government’s intention to ‘donate hundreds of millions of pounds’ to SMART contributed to a Conservative defeat in the Rochester and Strood by-election. The seat was won by UKIP’s Mark Reckless.
How the West came to agree to this goal — to pay the developing world annual ‘climate reparations’ of a ‘meaningful’ USD100 billion from 2020, just six years hence, remains a mystery. Was it the Tequila Effect or the Ixchelian spell of Moon Palace Golf and Spa Resort madness? (Memo to our Foreign Minister: Beware of Lima Lunacy at COP-20. Know what’s in your Pisco Sour. Avoid alpaca brochettes and llama peruana steaks.) Will it acquire ‘legal force’ at COP-21 in Paris next year?
“There’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other. And that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.” — President Obama, September, 2014
What, then, of President Obama’s USD3 billion pledge at the University of Queensland last week, which had local climate-crusaders urging Australia ‘to lead on the front foot’? While arguably better than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick, an article in the Times of India described it (correctly) as ‘just peanuts’. Likewise the developed world’s total early pledges of about USD7.5 billion – USA ($3 billion), Japan ($1.5 billion), Germany ($1 billion), France ($1 billion), Sweden ($500 million), Netherlands ($125 million) South Korea ($100 million) and Mexico ($10 million).
Yet the UN decarbonisation-express steams ahead, driven by the hope it will have – eventually — a very big bag of money (‘climate finance’). As is Mark Burrows, managing director and vice-chairman of global investment banking at Credit Suisse, now working as an advisor to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), and exploring ways of funding the fabled ‘green economy’.
“It is clear from statistics that we need to re-channel trillions from the existing assets entrenching today’s unsustainable economy into greener growth. However it is less clear where the necessary finance to deliver the change will come from and how to mobilize it to enable this transition.” — UNEP
Critical of the ‘innate conservatism’ of Australian business in The Australian Financial Review (November 15-16, 2014, “Why G20 will go Green”), Mr Burrows confided that once there are people in the financial community who stand up and say: ‘we want to be on the right side of history’, I think change will accelerate far quicker than you have ever seen.’
In early September this year, GCF held its second Initial Resource Mobilization (IRM) meeting in Bonn, just weeks after Germany pledged up to USD1 billion. At the informal consultation, Ms Figueres told representatives
“the Green Climate Fund is up, but it is not yet running. In order for that to happen, governments need to move from words to deeds. Between now and the next Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC in Lima, Peru, the capitalization of the Fund must begin. Initial funding of US$ 10 billion would be a good start and a good signal of intent as the world looks forward to a new climate agreement in 2015 that is both universal and meaningful.”
Once GCF is ‘appropriately capitalized’, it will make grants and loans ‘for projects and programmes that enable developing countries to boost sustainable development, whilst curbing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change’.
What alchemical formula was used to determine GCF’s’s annual dollar pledges and targets? Assuming there is one, the writer has yet to sight it. But there are clues in how the UN’s climate-protection architecture has evolved over the past two decades – and, crucially, in the contraction-and-convergence ideology that informed its development and is now imbedded with another core concept in the agency’s unified field theory for global peace and happiness – ‘sustainability’.
The Cancun Agreement preamble also affirmed that:
“climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time and that all Parties share a vision for long-term cooperative action in order to achieve the objective of the Convention under its Article 2, including through the achievement of a global goal, on the basis of equity and in accordance with common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities; this vision is to guide the policies and actions of all Parties, while taking into full consideration the different circumstances of Parties in accordance with the principles and provisions of the Convention.”
All signatories – presumably including Australia – continue to commit to a ‘global goal’ based on equity – and accept the notion of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’.
For those who came in late, the first principle of the 1992 UNFCCC Agreement (Article 3) states:
“The Parties should protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations of humankind, on the basis of equity and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. Accordingly, the developed country Parties should take the lead in combating climate change and the adverse effects thereof.”
When Presidents Obama and Xi made their joint announcement, it was not about a formal agreement. They merely referred to future targets that may (or may not) be achievable with current policies. Nevertheless, they threw a much-needed bone to a UN climate bureaucracy anxious about another crisis of credibility – and a grenade into the procrastinator-camp.
The world’s two largest emitters – China with 26 per cent and the US 17 per cent – did something else too. They publicly endorsed the contraction (of US emissions)-and-convergence (with China’s emissions) concept and – for the first time – provided specific targets, even if they were provisional and lacked ‘legal force’.
This was consistent with the Cancun Agreement, where signatories again reaffirmed their intention to
“cooperate in achieving the peaking of global and national greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, recognizing that the time frame for peaking will be longer in developing countries, and bearing in mind that social and economic development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of developing countries and that a low-carbon development strategy is indispensable to sustainable development; in this context, further agrees to work towards identifying a time frame for global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions based on the best available scientific knowledge and equitable access to sustainable development.”
The key date in the Obama/Xi announcement is 2030. This is the year when China’s national greenhouse gas emissions (and population) are projected to peak and reach ‘parity’ with the US.
If one accepts the UN’s alarmism – ignoring for the sake of argument its many flaws – how would carbon dioxide emissions be shared between countries – equitably and sustainably – in a world where the human population continues to grow and could exceed nine billion people by 2050?
For contraction-and-convergence fans, the best way would be by convergence on an agreed per capita amount of emissions by an agreed date, according to an agreed global contraction budget and schedule. Developed world wealth transfers, they argue, are required to settle past ‘climate debt’ and to fund urgent ‘adaptation’ projects forced on vulnerable societies by the West’s profligacy.
“Both the UN Charter and the US Declaration of Independence declare everyone is born equal. This proposal takes equity as the starting point for the whole world to resolve the twin problems of global warming and global inequity. Contraction and Convergence, along with the practice of Allocation and Trade, can be used to provide a structure for human societies to reach sustainability with the earth and its ecosystems. Without a plan of this sort, there will be an increasingly visionless future and many people will perish.” — Aubrey Meyer, Pacific Ecologist, Summer 2006/07
If Utopia last century was populated by Soviet Man, he has been superseded this century by Green Person, but with eerily similar yearnings – this time for a ‘sustainable’ world free of ‘inequity’.
Paradoxically, the contraction-and-convergence concept’s surprise creator, Aubrey Meyer, is neither eco-Marxist nor career UN climate bureaucrat. He is a musician (viola player) by training and former member of the UK Green Party. Now a climate campaigner and composer, he co-founded the Global Commons Institute in 1990.
According to Mr Meyer’s site, his first public “Contraction & Convergence” statement was published in The Guardian on June 18, 1991, with 250 signatories, including 50 UK Parliamentarians. The following year, he presented what appears to have been an influential paper on it — ‘The Unequal Use of the Global Commons’ — to a Policy Working Group at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Surely the developing world did not put the $$$-cart before the dangerous climate-horse? Yet Mr Meyer’s concept appeared years before any UNFCCC appeals to “settled” (climate) science; and before two-decades of confirmation bias led us to where we are today. But that is another story.
Michael Kile, November 18, 2014