Cop21 - A background report from Paris

1st December 2015
Press Release

An Taisce has a few members attending CoP at various times over the next two weeks. We hope to bring you a frequent series of background reports on what is (or is not) happening on the ground.

Our second is from Paul Price, a member of An Taisce's Climate Change Committee. Paul is a conservation carpenter with a MSc in Sustainable Development.

Day 2 (Not) At #CoP21Paris

We may be in Paris but not having access to them in person, we did what anyone would do and watched many of this afternoon’s national leaders’ CoP21 three minute speeches online – okay more like 5 to 8 minutes each with much repetition by all. The contributions were as notable for their insularity as much as their fine words on saving the planet.

None more so than our own Enda Kenny defending Irish agriculture, looking to export its ‘efficiency’ (never mind its rising total emissions), and waffling convolutedly through past climate finance monies, to distract from for coming up with nothing above the paltry amount already announced. To anyone with even a little understanding it was as good as saying, ‘save the world if you like but we are here to look after our biz-as-usual interests, and we’ll not be helping anyone else out either’.

Coming after the urgency from Tuvalu’s Minister - Pacific islands rapidly losing all possibility of any future at all to rising sea level, and the reports of the failing of once-predictable rains in African nations like Malawi, Kenny’s was a pathetic and embarrassing contribution. Surely we can do better than this?

The strong divide between richer nations and poorer ones was evident throughout the afternoon. The richer ones acknowledging the need to keep to 2ºC and listing technofixes (innovation, green growth) to make it happen; the poorer stressing the need to keep to 1.5C and for equity transfers – to cover ‘loss and damage’ caused by climate change and technical support to avoid the high carbon energy path to increased prosperity that richer nations were able to take.

The reality, that for any likelihood of staying under any particular warming target there is now a science-defined limit to total future human-caused greenhouse gas emissions – that can EVER be emitted – still has not seemed to filter through to these our planets leaders.

Could it be they’d rather we did not know the scale of the “challenge” they kept talking about.

The one aim of this conference should be to get on a fast track to fairly dividing that total ‘available’ carbon budget (for 1.5ºC or 2ºC) among all the nations and future generations of the world. Judging by its omission, the one thing that all the speakers seemed to agree on was that this is one thing they really, really don’t want to talk about.

The sad scientific reality though is that limiting the future carbon budget for 1.5ºC would likely require a global peak in emissions right now and an all but impossible average cut in emissions by over 6% per year, every year from now on. Even 2ºC requires a massive commitment by all nations to peak global emissions very, very soon and decarbonise quickly – richer nations such as our own already by in the region of 10% per year. That is the reality of the 2ºC limit. Yet avoiding talking about reality can only make the reality ever more difficult and more dangerous. Every year we are going down a path of irreversible climate change that can only be stopped by a global societal commitment to urgent change to zero net emissions. If our ‘leaders’ cannot spell this out for us, they are surely culpable in good part for where they are now taking us.

The UK’s David Cameron took the prize for double-speak: “what will our grand children say when we said it was too difficult” he said, claiming the UK’s leadership on climate budgeting, legislation and action (achieved before his Government), and entirely failing to mention the recent scaling back under his own leadership of renewables supports and CCS research in favour of yet more investment and subsidies for high carbon gas from the North Sea and fracking. For jaw dropping hypocrisy it was hard to know if he didn’t take the prize. At least Ireland has been consistent in doing nothing to cut total emissions except by crashing the economy. (Hint: that’s not the way to do it.)

Today (Tuesday), I’ll be at the CoP at Le Bourget properly for the first time. A big programme of forestry and agriculture events is on in the debate area of the public zone. In the conference area, not open to the public, there are many ‘side events’, tomorrow ranging from a ‘high level event on carbon pricing’ (which I presume excludes the likes of me) to "Achieving a paradigm shift with the Green Climate Fund: The critical role of civil society.” There is much to be diverted by. And I suspect we’ll have eat up this intellectually distracting feast rather than hearing from and pushing our delegation on upping our policy ambition.

Judging from today’s Irish Times report, Ireland’s main aim at CoP21 seems to be to schmooze as many fellow EU nations as possible while here in order to minimise our required ambition for the 2030 targets, especially for agriculture of course. Enda Kenny’s boast of transitioning to a low carbon economy through ‘efficient’ agriculture and penny pinching is strikingly similar to parading an ever-higher carbon economy down a Paris runway, clad in a laughably transparent gown of PR spun gossamer.

If only it was just a laughing matter.

For further information, please call:
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org