Of (CO2 driven) climate fears and the UNEP’s “transformative changes”

In a recent series of essays, Bernie Lewin has shed considerable light on the early days of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The IPCC, of course, is The Delinquent Teenager …, sired by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP, official promulgator of increasingly scary stories since 1972) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). But I digress …

Lewin has done us all a great service by compiling and sharing this fascinating history, which he has entitled, Enter the Economists: The Price of Life and how the IPCC only just survived the other chapter controversy

Over at Bishop Hill, yesterday, Lewin had a guest post in which he summarized some of his findings – including the roles of Economist, Richard Tol and Aubrey Meyer, a “violinist and composer, [whose] activist career was launched after he experienced a remarkable life-changing epiphany upon hearing of the death of an Amazonian rubber tapper called Chico Mendes.”

Lewin’s guest post has generated an interesting discussion, in which both Tol and Meyer are actively participating.

From my perspective, the key to the mess in which (to varying degrees, depending on our country – or province/state – of residence) we now find ourselves, lies in Lewin’s (all emphases that follow in this post are mine):

Moreover, behind the very push to re-constitute Working Group III for the 2nd Assessment – so as to cover the economic and social dimensions of the problem – was an attempt to incorporate the broader sustainable development goals of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit into the IPCC assessment processes. The tensions that developed in this Working Group, and which erupted in this controversy, can only be understood by recognising that this was always more than about the climate. Just as with the Toronto climate conference of 1988, here we find another bold attempt to channel the aspirations of the sustainable development movement towards realisation in policies driven by climate fear.

If nothing else, the United Nations has proven to be very adept at engineering “mechanisms” (to use one of the UNEP’s favourite words!) which employ the concept of “lets you and him fight”.

If you think about it, has there ever in the history of the UN been a more divisive issue than the purported perils of human-generated carbon dioxide – and its “contribution” to variously-called global warming, climate change and (the latest and greatest scare) “extreme weather events”?

Towards this end, the UN’s army of unaccountable (and about as far from transparent as one can possibly get) bureaucrats invariably appear to have an uncanny knack of producing seemingly innocuous – but lengthy and sleep-inducing – documents. Thereby virtually guaranteeing that few – if any – of those who approve/accept/adopt them, will ever read in their entirety, that in which is planted the seeds of future disagreements.

No wonder their COPs are such flops! And in the meantime, we’re all distracted by a dispute that centres on the merits (demerits?!) of human-generated C02 – a trojan horse if ever there was one – while the “dark horse” of “sustainable development” gallops towards the finish line. But I digress …

The “executive summary” (of sorts) of such documents is usually contained in a UN General Assembly (UNGA) “Resolution” percolated and filtered via the maze, so that the abbreviated and oh-so-innocuous wording (unanimously adopted “by all the nations of the world” of course) does not tell the full story. Truth be told, it doesn’t even tell half an eighth of the story!

The UNEP and its “flagship” Agenda 21/Sustainable Development (not to mention its ever-increasing stable of acronymic offspring) are a case in point.

Consider the recently “Adopted” UNGA Resolution 67/213. This was Agenda Item “20 (g)”, evidently reviewed by “Committee 2” and advertised as Draft “A/67/437/Add.7” [hyperlink helpfully added by Hilary who happened to stumble across it elsewhere] . The record appears to indicate that it was adopted “without a vote”. The “Topic” is described as:

Report of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme on its twelfth special session and on the implementation of section IV.C, entitled “Environmental pillar in the context of sustainable development”, of the outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development

According to the UN’s Department of Public Information’s News and Media Division document (distributed “For information media – not an official record”), on December 21, 2012:

Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review, Implementation of Rio+20 Outcome Draw Attention

as General Assembly Takes Up Second Committee Reports

Delegations Adopt 41 Texts, Including 2 Plenary-generated Draft Resolutions

The Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review of United Nations operational activities for development, and implementation of the outcome document of the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, were among the most prominent concerns today as the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) recommended its draft resolutions for adoption by the General Assembly.


With the bulk of draft resolutions falling under the sustainable development cluster, many were linked closely to the Rio+20 outcome document, “The future we want”. In all, the Assembly adopted 17 texts on sustainable development, including a draft decision.
Another draft stressed the importance of the continued substantive consideration of disaster risk reduction, and encouraged Member States and relevant United Nations bodies to take into consideration the important role of disaster risk reduction activities for sustainable development. Two related texts stressed international cooperation to reduce the impact of the El Niño phenomenon and to protect the global climate for present and future generations.

By a text on implementation of Agenda 21, the Assembly stressed the need to develop the post-2015 development agenda. Also under the sustainable development umbrella were two annual texts stressing, respectively, the need for continued substantive consideration of the promotion of new and renewable sources of energy, and of biological diversity. Other sustainable development texts concerned the International Day of Forests and the Tree; Implementation of the International Year of Water Cooperation, 2013; Harmony with nature; Convention on Biological Diversity; and the report of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on its twelfth special session.

Taking up globalization and interdependence, the Assembly adopted two texts by recorded votes. The first, titled “Towards a New International Economic Order”, reaffirmed the need to continue working to integrate the principles of equity, sovereign equality, interdependence, common interest, cooperation and solidarity among all States into global economics.

And here are a few of the pertinent (and duly noted “unofficial”) … uh …”details”:

The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, the draft resolution titled “Implementation of Agenda 21, the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development”. By its terms, the Assembly stressed the need for synergy, coherence and mutual support among all those and other processes that were also relevant to the post-2015 development agenda. It also reaffirmed “The future we want”, the outcome document of the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, and urged its speedy implementation. [Sorry, didn’t have time to track down the actual “draft resolution” on this “text” -hro]


The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, the draft resolution titled “Report of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme on its twelfth special session and on the implementation of section IV.C, entitled ‘Environmental pillar in the context of sustainable development’, of the outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development”, which urged donors to increase voluntary funding for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), including to the Environment Fund.**

It then adopted, without a vote, the draft titled “Harmony with nature”, which called for holistic and integrated approaches to sustainable development that would guide humanity to live with nature, leading to efforts to restore the health and integrity of the earth’s ecosystems.

** As per above noted Draft

Oh, and in case you’re interested one of the two “plenary-generated draft resolutions” was billed as “Promoting New Global Human Order“. For the record, it was adopted “without a vote”. The “details” evidently can be found in “document A/67/L.49” – for which, unfortunately there was no hyperlink. So who knows where one might find ’em.

YMMV, however, I cannot say that I’m particularly thrilled about the thought of a “New International Economic Order”, a “New Global Human Order” – or of being “guide[d]” by an unseen text which (presumably) urges “Harmony with Nature”.

But the bottom line is that no one would have a clue from any of the above “resolutions” that the United Nations has just given its blessing to “strengthening and upgrading” the UNEP. There are, however, indications that the actual outcomes from Rio+20 last June have been transmogrified into far more than could possibly have met the eye at the time.

This, of course, conveniently paved the way for UNEP head honcho, Achim Steiner (and his “team”) to re-write history in a way that is more to his liking (and that of his Big Green “partners” drawn from “civil society”).

I haven’t done so yet, but it will be interesting to compare Steiner’s “Policy Statement” – delivered at the “historic” opening of “the first universal session of the Governing Council of UNEP” in Nairobi, on Feb. 18 – with the IISD’s summary of these “historic” proceedings, which I had reported on previously (here and here).

For now, though, dear readers … a few numbers to ponder:

44 sustainable/sustainability. Quelle surprise, eh?!

14 green economy. Ditto.

7 climate change – a “sub-programme” which “aims to strengthen the ability of countries, particularly developing nations, to integrate climate change responses into national development processes. Alas, it seems that “climate change” might be losing its status as the “greatest threat to the future of the planet”.

3 CO2 – Here is the context of the first mention (p. 5):

The challenge of achieving not just incremental progress but transformative changes that can deliver absolute reductions in CO2, a halt to the loss of biodiversity, or a reversal of land degradation and the loss of arable land represents an unprecedented challenge – both to environment ministries and societies in general.

Here is the context of the second honourable mention:

The En.Lighten iniative, backed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), implemented by
UNEP and supported by industry partners Philips and Osram, unveiled 150 country strategies to
phase-in more energy efficient bulbs.

The assessment indicates that a total of five per cent of global electricity consumption could be
saved every year through a transition to efficient lighting, resulting in annual worldwide savings
of over USD 110 billion.

The yearly savings in electricity of the phase-out would be equivalent to avoiding the
emissions from over 250 large coal-fired power plants, resulting in avoided investment costs of
approximately USD 210 billion. Additionally, the 490 megatonnes (Mt) of CO2 savings per year is
equivalent to the emissions of more than 122 million mid-size cars.

And last but not least, just a hint of “fear” for good measure (p. 10) :

In respect to cutting-edge science, UNEP’s third Emission Gap Report has become a key reference for governments negotiating towards a new agreement by 2015 at the Doha UN climate meeting.

It showed that if the world does not scale up and accelerate action on climate change without
delay, emissions could rise to 58 gigatonnes (Gt) by 2020 far above the level scientists say is in line with a likely chance of keeping global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius this century.

It also pointed out policies and actions that can bridge the gap between ambitions and reality. Indeed the ‘gap report’ — which convened 55 scientists from more than 50 institutions in 20
— estimates that there are potentially large emissions reductions possible in a mid-range of 17 Gt of CO2 equivalents from sectors such as buildings, power generation and transport that can more than bridge the gap by 2020.

What’s this I do not see before me?! Look ma, no “carbon credit” mentions!

But … Whoah! … Wait a minute! Is the UNEP’s “Emission Gap Report” – along with the “environmental governance” sub-programme’s “Fifth Global Environmental Assessment (GEO-5)” – stealing the thunder of the – conspicuously unmentioned – “gold standard” IPCC?!

Compared to this big fat 0 for the IPCC (a mention score matched by that for Kyoto, btw), one finds …

5 IPBES (IPPC’s younger, waiting-in-the-wings, sibling, the Intergovernmental Science–Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services)

Hmmm … talk about “transformative changes”, eh?!

2 thoughts on “Of (CO2 driven) climate fears and the UNEP’s “transformative changes”

  1. “Towards the sustainable development of the Caribbean Sea
    for present and future generations”

    Costa Rica, home of UNFCCC exec sev’y C Figueres, is a Caribbean State. ?! Surprise?!

    “A report of the Association of Caribbean States on
    progress made in implementation of this resolution is contained in the annex to the
    present report.”

  2. If you think about it, has there ever in the history of the UN been a more divisive issue than the purported perils of human-generated carbon dioxide.

    Yes. Colonialism.

    But with that pretty much dead as a practical issue, and the Communist bloc disintegrated, the luvvies needed something else to protest about.

    The more practical ones went for hunger. But there’s precious little political mileage in that, so the more political ones have fallen on CO2.

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