The reason that there will not be a legally binding agreement (or at least not a genuinely enforceable one) is the growth of something which the Left has always called for, but doesn’t quite like when it gets it – the power of the developing world.
Poor Paris. Less than three weeks ago, the scene of carnage; this week, the venue for saving the planet. Because of security after the Isil atrocities, the City of Light was spared a planned climate change march, but London had one on Sunday, attended by what the ever-Green BBC optimistically described as “tens of thousands”. One of the march’s leaders, the fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood, said: “Global warming is at a tipping point. If we go past it we can’t stop it. We are there right now.”
In this view, Dame Vivienne accords with the Prince of Wales, who predicted in Rio de Janeiro in March 2009, that there were “less than 100 months to act” to prevent “catastrophic climate change”. In other words, it’s all over by July 2017.
So there is a very real hope that the 21st UN Climate Change Conference (COP 21), which starts on Monday, will be the last. Either Prince Charles and Dame Vivienne will prevail, and COP 21 will rescue Mother Earth from destruction by agreeing worldwide legally binding carbon emission restraints; or they won’t, and then, by their own logic, it will be too late for any international conference to do anything ever again, so they might as well shut up. For those of a more sceptical cast of mind, there is a third possibility, which is that the Prince and the dressmaker will fail, no legally binding targets will be agreed, and the world will go on very much as before. I would bet His Royal Highness an enormous amount of money on this last outcome, secure in the knowledge that, if I am wrong, I will not be around to pay out, but if he is wrong, he will be.
The reason that there will not be a legally binding agreement (or at least not a genuinely enforceable one) is the growth of something which the Left has always called for, but doesn’t quite like when it gets it – the power of the developing world. India, for example, sees it as “carbon imperialism” for the West to deny it the fossil-fuelled industrialisation which gave us a more than 100 years’ start on the rest of the world. A great many formerly backward countries are at last getting rich and they will not sacrifice their new prosperity on the altar of eco-virtue. Nearly seven years ago, at COP 15 in Copenhagen, Barack Obama, bearing his Nobel Prize and at the height of his moral prestige, pleaded with them, to no avail. What will make them listen to him now, in the twilight of his presidency?