Before COP21 assembled in Paris last month, there was a sense of optimism that a new climate treaty to replace the long-expired 1997 Kyoto Protocol for reducing “greenhouse gas” emissions would be hammered out.
But now that COP 21 is approaching its scheduled end, we are finding out from the media that representatives are a long way from any effective CO2 reduction agreement. No one believes the COP21 summit is going to end tomorrow – rather expect it to drag out possibly into early next week, or even beyond. After all, when it’s about “saving the planet”, there’s no going home early.
The online German center-left DIE ZEIT here today describes a climate of growing chaos and diminishing order: “Almost every country has expressed reservations against the draft treaty at the climate summit.”
Among other countries DIE ZEIT blames Saudi Arabia, which threatens “to pull their support for the core goals of the treaty“, and India and Malaysia which are holding out for “greater commitments from rich countries“. According to DIE ZEIT there is neither agreement on financing for the poorest countries nor agreement on a limit in how much more the world should be permitted to warm. DIE ZEIT writes:
The Saudi Arabian representatives have indicated that they do not want to accept any long-term target of limiting the warming to a maximum of 1.5°C.”
Another sticking point brought up by DIE ZEIT is the issue of whether to stop the burning of coal completely, or to just reduce it. On this point agreement seems unlikely given the number of coal-fired power plants now under construction and the hundreds more in planning. Developing countries may express their intention to some day stop coal in a new treaty, but they will certainly push the task off to future generations. It’s hard to imagine a number of struggling countries agreeing to forego the use of cheap and plentiful coal.
According to DIE ZEIT, environmental groups observing the negotiations and examining the latest draft are saying that the text in the treaty would lead “only to a weak reduction in greenhouse gases”.
So what is shaping up? Overall expect to see a treaty that will be very painful for rich industrial countries ($100bn per annum), but one that will be completely toothless against rising global CO2 emissions.