The press release from the Warsaw climate change conference under UN auspices was exceptionally thin. Only 37 states out of the 195 potentially involved now have “legally binding emission limitations and reductions” for CO2 under Kyoto. Warsaw was remarkable for how little most countries do want to do, and for how good many countries are now at getting out of any future binding commitments. Green is very much the last decade’s colour.
The press release said they had done preparatory work to take to Peru, and then finally to Paris in 2015 where they hoped countries would have something to offer for post 2020. However, the ambition is now for countries to offer “contributions” not commitments, and to police them themselves. Emerging economies have declined to join in as they see the need to expand their economies using fossil fuels without hindrance. They also think the advanced countries should send them money as compensation for the CO2 the rich countries have produced in the past, and they favour rapid transfer of technology on favourable terms to assist them.
Meanwhile the USA remains unenthusiastic about binding targets, Australia has opted out, and Japan no longer has the enthusiasm it had in the first Kyoto agreement. It looks as if the EU is largely on its own now when it comes to setting binding targets and to pushing through dearer renewable energy to replace cheaper fossil fuels. The USA is cutting its CO2 output by its new dash for gas, but this is the result of a policy based on exploiting a new carbon based fuel which offers cheaper energy, not based on binding commitments to cut CO2.
The climate change issue has become very bound up with the arguments over wealth and income transfers from the richer to the poorer countries. The UN hopes the advanced countries will offer substantial sums through a new international mechanism for “loss and damage”. They are also looking for routes to accelerate and enlarge financing to assist greener development.
It looks as if only the EU is going to press on with dearer energy and tough targets to cut CO2. As a result the world will not be saved from an excess of carbon dioxide, but industry and activity will continue to relocate from the EU to elsewhere in the world.
This morning’s announcement that they are not going ahead with the large offshore windfarm in the Bristol Channel is good news for energy users, as the power from it would have been dear and intermittent. The question remains, however, what new capacity is going to be built instead.