Like its precursor, the Paris Agreement’s objective of ‘combating climate change’ is doomed to failure.
In a recent note for The Conservative Woman, I described the UK’s all-but unilateral zero emissions target as ‘futile gesture politics’. In this piece I discuss the main international (UN) initiatives to ‘control’ climate change by curbing CO2 emissions, concluding that despite the rhetoric neither the Kyoto Protocol nor the Paris Agreement have succeeded, or will succeed, in reducing global emissions. In a future note, I shall consider the UK’s specific initiatives to decarbonise in a world that clearly shares little of our zeal.
A very brief historical background
According to the UN’s own website, ‘climate change is the defining issue of our time and we are at a defining moment’, and the UN has strongly promoted policies to ‘mitigate’ climate change by controlling greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions over the past 30 years. The most important of these GHG emissions, by far, is carbon dioxide (CO2).
The first major UN initiative was, arguably, the establishment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which was later endorsed by the UN General Assembly. The IPCC’s remit was to provide ‘objective’ information on climate change, though its objectivity has been, to put it mildly, questioned. Since then three UN legal instruments relating to climate change have been agreed:
1 The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), produced by the UN’s Rio ‘Earth Summit’ in 1992. This was a ‘first step in addressing the climate change problem’ and its ultimate objective was to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations ‘at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human induced) interference with the climate system’.
2 The Kyoto Protocol, which ‘binds developed country Parties to emission reduction targets’, was adopted at the third Conference to the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP 3) in 1997. The Protocol’s first commitment period was from 2008 to 2012, whilst the second commitment period began in 2013 and will end in 2020.
3 The Paris Agreement, agreed at the 21st Conference to the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP 21) in 2015, ‘to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future’.
Now it is not the purpose of this note to challenge the assumption of the causal link between global GHG emissions and global warming: I am not a climate scientist. The purpose is to see if the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement have succeeded, or will succeed, in reducing, or even stabilising, emissions. As already indicated, it is clear that they have not, and indeed will not.