21.12.2015

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"They Are Burning the Planet": A Critical Review of the Paris Climate Deal

The Paris climate deal is going to "burn the planet", according to the former Bolivian chief negotiator Pablo Solón. The unbinding pledges to reduce carbon emissions would at best lead to an average global warming of three to four centigrade in this century - with catastrophic impacts on large parts of the world's population. The production of rice and corn, for example, could fall by 30 to 40 per cent, according to Alice Bows-Larkin from the British Tyndall Centre. In order to stay below two degrees plus, also the EU has to do much more and reduce its emissions by 80 per cent until 2030, instead of only 40 per cent as pledged in Paris, says the the renowned climate scientist Kevin Anderson. Concering finance, the Paris deal has not delivered fair and just solutions: The countries most affected by climate change - but least responsible for its causes - are not granted legal rights for compensation for loss and damages. The intended 100 billion dollars per year of financial aid for adaptation - which are not binding and include private investments - cover only a fraction of the real costs, according to Miriama Williams of the South Centre. They are also tiny in comparison to what governments have spent for saving banks.

Gäste: 
Pablo Solón, Former Chief Climate Negotiator, Bolivia
Nicola Bullard, Writer and Activist
Alice Bows-Larkin, Climate Scientist "Tyndall Centre"
Miriama Williams, "The South Centre"
Tim Gore, Head Policy Research, "Oxfam International"
Kevin Anderson, Climate Scientist, Deputy Director "Tyndall Centre"
Tadzio Müller, Climate Activist, "Rosa Luxemburg Foundation"
Janet Redman, "Institute for Policy Studies"
 
 
 
Transkript: 

David Goessmann: The Paris summit was about an agreement for limiting global warming and avoid dangerous climate change. Has Paris delivered if not why? What was on the negotiation table and what not? Which influence did the coal- and gas-industry have on the UN process? We spoke – among others – with Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows-Larkin from the Tyndall Center and Pablo Solon, the former chief negotiator from Bolivia.

Pablo Solón: Well I think that the climate deal here in Paris will be very bad – worse than what I thought. It’s going to be a deal that will burn the planet because after this agreement the temperature will increase by more than 3°C and maybe reach even 4°C during the century. What does this mean? It means that we’ll have to choose whose children are going to live – not all will be able to live in a world with an increase in the temperature of 3°C. That is the magnitude of the catastrophe that this bad agreement is going to create.

Nicola Bullard: Now what we see is 1.5 is incorporated into the text but that was already there in the Kyoto protocol – no progress at all. We see the complete neo-liberalization of the whole climate regime, financialization of every aspect of the climate. Well that everything’s being turned into carbon markets. You’re going to have bilateral, multilateral, plurilateral – whatever but everything is being turned into carbon markets. There isn’t enough money for the adaptation and financing of mitigation that’s needed by the South. The countries that have gotten the majority of the historical responsibility have completely copped out, they haven’t taken up their historical responsibility to pay for losses and damages, to pay for adaptation. So I think anyone who is calling this COP success is really living in a fantasy land or has such a low baseline of expectations that in fact anything – the fact that people actually walk out of the room without collapsing in heat – is seen as a success. So I think the benchmark for success is very low and they have managed not even to surpass that very low benchmark in my opinion.

Alice Bows-Larkin: When we look at other studies that indicate what happens at a 3-4° temperature rise one of the things that we have to remember is that these are just global average temperatures so the temperature rise over the sea actually happens more slowly because of the thermal inertia of the oceans. Which means that the land temperatures are actually higher than that and in the end we as human beings we don’t experience global averages, we experience weather, we experience extreme weather as well and so we have to look at what that might mean for us and so in terms of for example the sort of hottest day that you might experience – like a day in heat wave – in some parts of the world under a 4° C type scenario you might be looking at 6, 8 maybe 10° warmer on top of that on the hottest day. So if you imagine yourself in the middle of the city center and the sun is beating down and then it’s 6, 8 or 10° hotter than you’ve ever experienced – that’s the kind of thing we are talking about under a 4° word. And then in terms of food security and other impacts of course agriculture is going to be greatly affected by these sorts of temperature rises and there are predictions at a 4° average temperature rise there will be major impacts on the yields of things like maize and rice – up to 30 or 40% reductions in those yields which will be absolutely devastating for global food security.

Miriama Williams: Then the other thing for the Caribbean is of course hurricanes. We know Dominica which in the last October had not even a hurricane but excessive rain and flooding which the World Bank last week announced has destroyed over 90% of the GDP. So one extreme weather event –  not even a big hurricane, in fact the hurricane passed – it’s the after rain from the hurricanes that washed away bridges and so forth. So for us that’s why the issue of loss and damage has become a big area of tension. That’s the other area of tension in the agreement, because the agreement has an option now that is put by the US, that is asking the developing countries, the small islands, in order for the US to support loss and damage in the agreement – just reference to it or any expansion of it – they must agree to not raise the issue of liability and compensation.

Kevin Anderson: My position really comes out very simply out of using the IPCC science, the carbon budgets they propose in the IPCC, and applying some basic math with some very weak principles of equity as well. And if you put all that together, the EU must have at least an 80% reduction. But that is very typical of the wealthy parts of the world. That would be the same for the United States, probably even slightly higher for the US, or for Australia or for Japan, so the wealthier parts of the world. And it simply comes out of: We have this set carbon budget and when we think about the carbon budget, the one that‘s given by the IPCC for the year 2011 to 2100. The cop will finish at the end of 2015 and since 2011 to now we‘ve used about… we put in the atmosphere about 150 billion tons of carbon dioxide which is about 15% of a good chance of 2°C. So we are using the budget up very rapidly. Once you take those things into account, once you take account of the fact that there will be ongoing deforestation, that the use of cement to help us move towards a low carbon future or for the industrialization of the poorer parts of the world, once you take all of that into place, the carbon budget that is left is much smaller than the headline budget we get in the IPCC. If you then say we need to divide that amongst the parts of the world with some small concept of equity in there, then the reduction rates for the wealthy parts of the world needs to be at least 80% by 2030. And really we need to be pretty much decarbonized in the wealthy parts of the world by about 2035 or thereabouts and in the poorer parts of the world by about 2050. That‘s not just us saying this. At the side event that we had here yesterday with the Tyndall center and the Global Carbon Project, the Global Carbon Project’s data points to very much a similar set of conclusions. So the EU figure of about 40% is about half – less than half really – of what the EU would need to deliver if it was to make its fair contribution to a reasonable chance of a 2° C future.

Pablo Solón: I think we have to identify on one side the big corporations, fossil fuel corporations, oil carbon, coal and gas corporations that of course want to preserve their profits. And are doing everything to prevent an agreement that establishes a limit to fossil fuel extraction because what we have is an agreement that speaks about in mission reduction but doesn’t limit fossil fuel extraction. How are you going to limit emissions if you don’t limit extraction of fossil fuels? But that’s the kind of agreement we are having and that is because of the great pressure and power of these corporations that not only have captured the process here in the UN but also have captured governments as such. I would say the responsibility of this bad deal is not only on the side of corporations, it’s also on the side of politicians, of governments that are captured by another logic that is not the logic of capital, it’s the logic of power, which means as a politician I don’t want to have troubles, I want to have popularity, I’m not going to take measures that maybe are not the most acceptable. Because of course nobody likes to discuss limiting the consumption of cars. We have two limit the consumption of energy because as it is now it cannot continue. So now in this new mechanism to support sustainable development they want to create new carbon markets. This time for soil, not only for forests but also for soil. So there is the real danger that in the coming years we will have a rebranding of the clean development mechanism as a sustainable development mechanism. That is a much nicer name but the reality is promoting even more and more carbon markets. One last thing about this is, if you have too many carbon markets what is going to happen with carbon credits? They are going to have a lower price so that whoever wants to buy them in order to say that he’s fulfilling his commitments can buy them at a cheaper price. So this is a very speculative mechanism that has failed in the past and that should not be promoted. But even though, they’re thinking to make a business out of this.

Tadzio Mueller: Our position at the Rosa Luxemburg foundation concerning the deal (that is probably going to be finalized here in Paris) is that the deal is schizophrenic, ineffective and inhuman. It is schizophrenic because on the one hand the language of the movement has been taken up by the summit with Laurent Fabius talking about climate justice, Angela Merkel calling for a transformation of our economies and President Obama gravely warning us that “we are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change, and the last generation that can do something about it.” But at the same time the actions at the summit are dominated by traditional political realism and economic policy. This is why we call it schizophrenic. It is ineffective because it perpetuates the assumption that climate politics can be treated as a distinct and separate field of politics, creating measures to solve problems that originated in other political fields like industrial, transport, economic, energy or trade policy. The deal is also inhuman because even in a best case scenario, where countries would fulfill the voluntary emission reduction obligations set out by them, which is highly improbable, it would lead the world on a path of 3 degrees centigrade global warming. This in turn would cost an incredible number of lives and would lead to a massive extension of wars and conflicts about resources. That is not an equitable deal. And when it comes to financing, which is arguably necessary for fairness in climate policy, they propose a charitable contribution of 100 billion dollars per year. And although nobody actually believes this will happen, even if it did happen it would still not involve any legal obligation. A charitable contribution is simply no replacement for true equity and justice.

Miriama Williams: So the finance question boils down to what is to be financed, who is to get the financing, and who is to provide the financing? That’s really simple, in a way. Now, the convention is very precise as to what is to be financed. Under article 4 – 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, 4.5 – it says that adaptation costs, which is adjusting to the impact of extreme weather events, should be financed at full cost because if I’m Jamaica and I was going to build a water plant, that’s my development. That’s part of my development goals. But I now have the additional burden of making sure that the water plant is climate-proof and resilient and I have to make sure that I’m not using fossil fuel… So those are additional costs for development. So mitigation would be an incremental cost, which is the incremental cost of climate proofing and so forth, but adaptation, which is a response to a global bad, which is climate change, is supposed to be full cost because we did not create the problem, but we have to respond to it. And then the convention under article 4.5 says developing countries will need environmental and sustainable technologies. So that needs to be technology transfer and development of technology. And then it goes on to say this should be provided by  Annex II parties, the developed countries.

Janet Redman: Well, what’s needed unfortunately is about 1.5 trillion dollars if we’re going to transition our global economy away from a fossil fuel intensive to one that’s climate resilient and clean energy. That’s not remotely on the table here. We are talking about a magnitude way lower than that. 100 billion dollars is from a meeting that happened in Copenhagen and the 100 billion dollars is an aspirational goal, we are supposed to get there by 2020. There’s some tricky language in there of course. It talks about mobilizing money which is different from providing money. It talks about 100 billion being reached at 2020. That says nothing about what happens in 2019, 2018 or 2017, so we need to talk about a roadmap that actually gets us to 100 billion.

Miriama Williams: At least for adaptation you could use up the hundred billion dollars in no time. I just saw studies that Africa alone would need 15-20 billion and again it depends on what you’re counting and how you’re looking at the different things. The IPCC identified seven sectors: energy, water, agriculture, forests, transportation, and so forth for adaptation. So depending on what you’re counting and how you’re counting it you could to get 400 and multiples of that. And mitigation is a whole other realm. Many studies say we need globally at least 2-3 trillion dollars for that to deal with this issue. But it’s not a lot of money if you think of how much we spent saving the banks. If you actually look at how much we spent, what the UK spent on the Olympics would more than cover the adaptation costs of 100 billion. They spent over of 200 billion.