International climate talks are a sideshow designed to keep politicians and bureaucrats busy, and the shallow, superficial climate campaign happy and engaged.
News out of Europe yesterday is that the EU has adopted an ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction target, calling for a 40 percent reduction in GHG emissions by the year 2030. But the announcement was larded with lots of talk of “flexibility” and contains so many contradictory elements that it is clear this is not serious. My favorite condition is this one:
A 27% renewable energy target that is binding at an aggregate European level but voluntary for individual member states.
In practice what this means is: Let Germany do it. They’re dumb and rich enough to keep subsidizing this nonsense. And why not? Germany is sticking it to the rest of the Euro-zone economies with its de facto domination of the Euro currency, which is adverse to the economic interests of the poorer southern European nations. If I were a Greek, Portugese, or Spaniard, I’d want to stick more windmills up Germany’s arse too.
Above all, the scheme is contingent upon the upcoming UN climate summit in Paris next summer arriving at a legally binding international deal. But the Obama Administration has already signaled that it won’t commit further political suicide by agreeing to a legally binding treaty, and will instead seek a loose framework in which each country can decide for itself what level of effort it wishes to make. At which point this new European commitment will go “poof.” France’s Francois Hollande, host of the next UN summit, admitted as much when he said the agreement, while “conclusive and definitive,” could be “revisited.” No wonder Hollande’s public approval rating in France rivals that of our Congress.
It is all starting to remind me of the whole arms control farce of the 1970s, when agreements supposedly in service of disarmament were really just fancy covers for regulating the further buildup of arsenals. But it kept everybody happy: bread and circuses for the politicians, and jobs for the “arms control community.” Not until Reagan came along and threatened a new technology (SDI) did the fundamentals change.
And there’s a lesson there for climate change. The vast minuet of climate negotiations, with their “goals and timetables,” amount to a cover for continuing business as usual. (As we’ve noted before, Germany is building several large new coal plants, while shutting down their emission-free nuclear plants. This is not what serious people would do.) Regardless of what you believe about the issue, nothing real is ever going to happen until new sources of cheap, scalable energy are developed that make hydrocarbon energy obsolete.