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Editorial: Lima’s Magic Climate Beanstalk

Editorial, The Wall Street Journal

The Lima confab has opened a one-sided bargain to all comers, bringing the world no closer to an anti-carbon policy except on paper by the global-warming lobby’s own definition.

Members of representative commissions of the countries participating in the climate change conferences, attend the seventh plenary meeting of the COP20 on December 13, 2014 in Lima. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Diplomacy is easy as long as the appearance of progress matters more than results and a bad deal is better than no deal. Such a worldview appears to be the price of victory at the roaming international climate talks, which last weekend berthed in Lima.

The 196 nations in the Peruvian capital followed the familiar pattern of previous United Nations installments in Durban, Cancun and Copenhagen: The event nearly collapsed amid the irreconcilable demands of rich and poor countries, only for the negotiators to agree in overtime to negotiate more at a later date. Paris is the next destination in 2015, with the greens no less optimistic about planetary carbon salvation.

Don’t bet on it. Supposedly the Lima deal is a breakthrough because the developing nations that were exempted in the 19 previous rounds will promise to reduce emissions for the first time. Less developed countries (outside the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) are responsible for 57.5% of global emissions over the last five years. Without their participation, atmospheric CO2 will continue to accumulate whatever the West does.

The problem for the climate lobby is that the non-OECD carbon share continues to grow because fossil fuels are helping to lift a generation out of poverty. The middle class is growing in China, while some 400 million people in India and 550 million in Africa still lack electricity. Such basic necessities have been a higher priority than a threat that controversial climate models predict will arrive decades from now.

So the irony is that the climateers in Lima allowed the developing world to volunteer meaningless carbon promises. Under the four-page Lima agreement and its 39-page annex, all countries will receive a United Nations “invitation” to define a carbon-reduction target of their own choosing, whenever they’re ready, with no specific goals or consequences if they don’t comply.

Chinese and Indian delegates demanded that every use of the word “shall” be changed to “may,” or else they would walk. They even succeeded in stripping language that countries should commit to providing “verifiable, transparent, consistent and complete, accurate and comparable information.”

In other words, the countries that want to harm their economies in the name of climate change now have the U.N.’s permission to do so. The predictable result will be anti-fossil fuel masochism in the U.S. and Europe in return for vague, unenforceable promises and the status quo in most of the world.

This time was supposed to be different because the U.S. and China agreed earlier this year to limit emissions. But Lima has exposed the reality of that deal: President Obama said he will impose such limits on Americans without a vote in Congress, while the dictatorship that supplies 27% of annual global carbon output made a no-detail pledge that its emissions would maybe stop growing after 2030. (The U.S. contributes 17%.)

The Lima confab has opened that one-sided bargain to all comers, bringing the world no closer to an anti-carbon policy except on paper by the global-warming lobby’s own definition. So ordinary Americans and Europeans will be forced to accept lower economic growth today, and these sacrifices will make no difference to the problem they are meant to solve.

The Wall Street Journal, 19 December 2014