Face the facts: there is no way the world as a whole is going to reduce its greenhouse gas emission
As the mammoth Paris conference ran well into overtime, it was already clear that, in the battle “to save the world from global warming”, we have at last reached a historic turning point.
The aim was to get a treaty committing 196 nations to stop global temperatures rising more than 2 degrees C or even less above their pre-industrial level, by wholesale “decarbonising” of the world’s economy. We must all stop using those “polluting” fossil fuels which still provide 86 per cent of global energy.
“There is no way the world as a whole is going to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions”
To this end, the world’s richer “developed nations” would also donate $100 billion a year to all those countries still “developing”, to enable them to rely only on “clean” energy, and to adapt to the problems created by climate change.
As explained by the conference’s chief organiser, Christiana Figueres, this would amount to a total revolution in the way we all live: nothing less than to abandon the entire “economic development model” that has been shaping the world since the Industrial Revolution.
The essence of this vision goes back to Maurice Strong’s Rio “Earth Summit” in 1992, which first laid down the principle that it was the duty of “developed” countries, those which caused global warming in the first place, not only to make drastic changes in their own way of life but also to pay for poorer nations to catch up with them.
It is this distinction between the “haves” and the “have nots” which has bedevilled every one of the 21 UN conferences gathered to discuss all this since Rio, from Kyoto in 1997 to the fiasco of Copenhagen in 2009 – and above all for one reason. The “developing nations”, led by China and India, have always insisted that there is no way they can hold back their own economic growth by cutting back on the fossil fuels which made the developed countries rich.
In the run-up to Paris, every country was asked to provide its plans for the next 15 years. China, already now responsible for half the world’s “carbon emissions”, said it plans to build so many more coal-fired power stations that by 2030 its CO2 output will double. India, now the world’s third-largest emitter, said its emissions will triple. There are currently plans across the world to build 2,500 more coal plants, because coal is easily the cheapest source of energy.
It is this which has been the scarcely noticed elephant in the room in Paris. Whatever clever words are devised to hide the reality of what emerges from this conference, there is no way the world as a whole is going to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.