(France, Le Bourget) French Foreign Minister and COP 21 President Laurent Fabius, a Socialist, released this afternoon a substantially slimmed down draft of the final outcome of the UN international climate summit. You can read it at CFACT.org.  He stated that he is “confident” the UN will achieve a final deal this week.

It is unclear, with the document emerging from behind closed door sessions, to what extent this version enjoys wide support among COP 21’s various factions. Speculation is widespread that Fabius is using his powers as President of the COP to pare down the text with an eye toward satisfying requests by President Obama’s negotiating team to provide the U.S. with a largely non-binding document it can use to try and avoid Senate ratification.

If you’ve been following CFACT’s reporting on this process, you will recall that an earlier, slimmed down version in Bonn quickly bulked back up when parties with special interests demanded that their pet provisions be put back in.

With only two days left in the official timetable to finalize the agreement, the challenge to reach a decision on the many remaining options is daunting. COPs routinely go into extra innings, don’t be surprised if there is last minute drama this time.

The present draft strips out some of the more frightening provisions seen in earlier versions, such as an “International Tribunal of Climate Justice,” and replaces them with more benign sounding provisions, in this case, implementation “mechanism.”

The draft is riddled with unique UN double-speak and politically correct provisions, such as the insistence that any climate agreement must be “gender sensitive,” “sustainable,” and “responsive.”

Some key factors:

Temperature target

Attempting to cap temperature change to two degrees C above pre-industrial levels has moved back up to option #1 in the latest draft, with the more radical 1.5 degree target that has been picking up steam still remaining in the document as a third option. A compromise calling for a target “well below” two degrees C could be where they are headed. Keep in mind that any of these targets are largely arbitrary and the emissions reductions needed to achieve them are wholly derived from climate computer models that have an abysmal track record for accuracy.

Binding treaty or nonbinding agreement

It remains to be seen just how binding this agreement will be and how strong President Obama’s case will be for avoiding Senate ratification. The current draft contains implentation “mechanisms,” but no real penalties for non-compliance. The agreement requires “transparency” and regular “stock-taking,” however, leaves it up to parties to report on their own emissions. Just this week China attempted to cover up an air pollution emergency in an attempt to avoid an embarrassing admission during the COP. This agreement leaves the door wide open for countries to over promise, under perform and falsify their data to cover up.

Differentiated responsibility

In recent years, large countries such as China and India have transitioned to market economies and experienced explosive economic growth as a result. They quickly joined the ranks of the world’s most powerful economies and largest CO2 emitters. However, they are not prepared to shoulder an equal share of the burdens the UN climate treaty imposes. China and India do not appear on the UN’s “Annex One” list of developed economies and as a result could get a pass on many of the agreement’s responsibilities. India has been particularly vocal in defending this, rationalizing that during the 20th century their emissions were far less.

Note that the U.S. monthly trade deficit with China recently hit $37.8 billion and China holds $1.2 trillion in U.S. government debt.

If President Obama and other leaders of prosperous nations give in to China and India and the rest on the issue of differentiated responsibility, they will be ensuring that the agreement has little or no impact on actually reducing global emissions. They will also be ensuring that manufacturing and other economic activities continue to shift from the developed world to nations like China, taking jobs along with them.

Zero emissions

The draft outcome continues to contain provisions calling for a reduction to “zero greenhouse gas emissions” by the middle of the century. This would be impossible to achieve and devastatingly painful to attempt absent a rescue by major technological breakthroughs, such as unlimited fusion power. Don’t look to wind and solar to provide this kind of power.

Climate finance (Climate shakedown?)

Finance remains a major sticking point. The latest draft outcome retains language calling for developed nations to contribute $100 billion per year in climate finance by 2020 to be increased from there. Language favored by the U.S. giving large developing economies the opportunity to contribute made it into the draft as well as well, although it faces substantial opposition.

reparationsToday Secretary of State John Kerry spoke at the COP and announced that the U.S. would provide an additional $800 million in adaptation funds. However, President Obama has been having a terrible time coming up with the billions he has already promised to the UN “Green Climate Fund.”
Language favored by the U.S. calling for climate finance to be raised “from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including additional sources” is in the current draft. A close eye should be kept on this as it may provide an open-ended method for Obama to raise funds Congress refuses to allocate by shaking down private businesses.

Developing nations continue to want climate finance to come from public funds and may resist this inclusion.

Loss and damage

The latest draft outcome contains the seeds of what could lead to developed nations accepting unlimited responsibility for “loss and damage” suffered by developing nations from severe weather and other events. It provides for a four year process to develop a loss and damage mechanism. The finance provisions include coverage for loss and damage. This could mean an ongoing commitment by the U.S., for instance, in just a few years, to provide perhaps $30-40 billion per year in climate finance with developing nations in a position to file claims against this fund. In effect developed nations would end up with liability for losses experienced by developing nations for which they bear no actual responsibility.

With two days left, the UN is closer to creating a successor treaty/agreement to the Kyoto protocol than ever before. They are also poised to achieve their goal of bringing the U.S. into the UN climate regime. However, even at this late hour, substantial divisions remain. Brace for drama.

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