Climate Institutions COP (Conference of Parties) Weekly Climate Change Briefing

Weekly Climate Change Briefing, 16 December 2019

Climate change news, people, gossips and tech.

United Nations Climate Change COP 25 in Madrid ends without any agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

No surprise. Ask any climate pro.

Two weeks in Madrid. The tapas were delicious and the Rioja flowed into the early mornings. Two weeks of fine amuse bouche but no deal on reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the 25th Conference of Parties (COP) of the United Nations Climate Convention. (Climate kids, click on the links to learn the basics of what the COP is and what the UN Climate Convention consist of).

European Union’s closing statement: “It is disappointing that after years of hard work […] we could not agree on […] incentives to reduce emissions… Yet there are some bridges that we just cannot cross if we are to maintain a credible position with our partners and with our citizens at home.”

A great photo by Daniel Jensen on Unsplash
No agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions yet…

Nobody budged on their positions. Nobody has in years. In plain, English, I’m summarizing the respective positions of the big players at the Conference:

Australia: We like coal. We can use creative carbon accounting to show we have reduced emissions in the past.

India, China: We’re poor and it’s the (white) rich man’s fault. He has been polluting far longer than we have, now it’s our turn.

Saudi Arabia: Oil prices are going down, we should be compensated, we are a developing country. Want some shares in Aramco? (note: Saudi GDP per capita is higher than that of most developed countries)

The US: We don’t all think like Californians do. Anyway, any deal has to go through Congress. Climate liability? Talk to our lawyer.

Humankind to Mother Earth: Hold tight, we’re kicking the can down the (now flooded) road another year.

The COP and the United Nations Climate Convention look more and more irrelevant and disconnected from reality. The European Union has agreed on its own voluntary plans for climate neutrality (See below). Worldwide, provincial and territorial governments, along with private sector firms are pledging greenhouse gas reductions. So should we care if Australia, Saudi Arabia and other coal and oil producers are on board on not? There’s always something you can do for our planet right now, just be the change yourself.

“Europe’s (minus Poland) Man on the Moon Moment”: The European Union aims to become climate neutral by 2050

The European Union’s commitment to climate neutrality by 2050 is big and bold. It means that Europe as a whole will have zero emission by 2050 and will thus no longer happily contribute to pumping tons of greenhouse gases into the planet’s atmosphere. The European Commission’s President, Ursula von der Leyen, calls it a moonshot. It won’t be easy to achieve. But if anyone has a successful track record at decoupling economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions, it is Europe.

Earlier in June, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic had opposed the move without firm commitments to subsidize their economies. This time, the remaining holdout is Poland.

Poland derives 80% of its electricity from coal. It has the dubious distinction of being the home of the World’s largest lignite power station. Lignite is a particularly dirty form of coal with low energy content. It is abundant in Poland.