UNFCCC emerges from five-year coma to days of hype and hoopla

My previous post, elicited a response from Robin Guenier which sent me off on a trip down memory lane. This turned out to be a much longer trip than I had anticipated; so I’ve made it into a post, which follows …

Well, I suppose the “good news” is that after 5 years, the movers and shakers (with the notable exceptions of “twinkletoes” Figueres and Ban Ki-moon!) are at least finally admitting that – notwithstanding all the pre-conference hype and hoopla – Copenhagen 2009 was a “failure”, in the aftermath of which, as former United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) head honcho, Yvo de Boer recently observed, “the climate process fell into a coma” from which (IMHO) it has yet to recover.

As for Gro Harlem Brundtland and Mary Robinson, and their respective roles within the ever-expanding alphabet soup that the UN has become… When my mind travels back to the UN’s state during their respective heydays of prominence on the international scene, I can only shake my head in astonishment at my trusting naïveté of the time!

Brundtland, as Guenier had noted, reached her pinnacle with the pre-Agenda 21, lead authorship of “Our Common Future”. For the record, the former (i.e. Agenda 21) surfaced in 1992 (at the first Rio shindig) and was “non-binding”. It was preceded and well-seeded – in what has become typical United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) fashion – by the contents of Brundtland’s 1987 latter.

But Brundtland also had a very heavy hand in the somewhat more recent (i.e. 2011) UN articulation of “sustainable development”. This document, as I had noted, contains such “democratic” gems as:

The peoples of the world will simply not tolerate continued environmental devastation or the persistent inequality which offends deeply held universal principles of social justice. Citizens will no longer accept governments and corporations breaching their compact with them as custodians of a sustainable future for all. More generally, international, national and local governance across the world must fully embrace the requirements of a sustainable development future, as must civil society and the private sector.

As for Robinson … well, I’m not sure exactly when she might have begun her affiliation with the UN. But I do know that in 2001, as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, she presided as Secretary-General over the infamous so-called “World Conference Against Racism” held in Durban. In no small measure, it was thanks to Mrs. Robinson’s efforts (or lack thereof) that this conference succeeded in resuscitating an utterly unfounded and disgraceful UN resolution (which first reared its ugly head in 1975 – and stayed on the books until it was rescinded in Dec. 2000) to the effect that ‘Zionism is racism’. (A more complete history of this disgrace is available here).

Nonetheless, back in those days when relatively few had their eye on the UN and its highly questionable antics, the “climate-CO2” connection was not a consideration; except perhaps – if not probably – in the minds of the behind the scenes ditch-it and/or dodge-em drafters! See, for example, the “Statement” of the pre-Kyoto “climateers” – the content of whose 1997 cookbook did not come to light until Climategate.

According to the UN’s bio Brundtland became PM (in the land of Quisling) in ’81. A position she held – albeit intermittently – for a total of over 10 years [Feb-Oct 1981, 1986-1989, and 1990-1996].

But, back in ’81, I remember how pleased I was that yet another woman had broken through the “glass ceiling” of national leadership (however briefly Brundtland’s first term turned out to be). To my mind, at the time, she was following in the noble footsteps of three who had set the Prime Ministerial precedent in the mid to late 1960’s: Ceylon’s Sirimavo Bandaranaike (1960-1965 [and again 1970-1977]), India’s Indira Gandhi (1966-77 [and again 1980-1984]), and (my totally unbiased ;-) all-time fave) Israel’s Golda Meir (1969-1974). [Source]

Consequently, I was no less pleased in the spring of 1989 to accept an invitation to participate in a founding conference in Ottawa [see screen cap]. As I had noted when I wrote about this over four years ago:

Back in the halcyon days of 1989, when “political correctness” was making its initial forays into our consciousness – and long before the purported perils of dreaded CO2 emissions had permeated and polluted political discourse – I became acquainted with the concept of “sustainability”.

It seemed like a very good idea at the time: I learned about it as an invited participant at the “founding assembly” of the Jewish Association for Development (JAD Canada). We were all fired up with the concept and with the idea of “thinking globally, acting locally” – which in those days translated into, “OK, we want to help developing nations, and we will focus on local initiatives (i.e. raise funds) to support projects which will help those in developing nations help themselves in a sustainable manner”. At least that was my interpretation, as I recall.

We all returned to our respective communities (including me, to my – then – recently adopted home of Vancouver), eager to carry out our mission. But within a rather short period of time, for a variety of reasons, the Vancouver branch petered out. Best laid plans of mice and men, and all that! Not sure what happened in other communities – or with the national organization – but they, too, may have met their demise, as I can find no indication of their virtual presence on the current Canadian scene.

The concept of “sustainability”, however, appears to have been, well, more sustainable! One might say that it has grown in parallel popularity with political correctness.

But, back in the spring of 1989, I was blissfully unaware of the then recent (i.e. 1988) “birth” of the IPCC. As Christopher Booker noted about a year ago:

Climate change ‘scientists’ are just another pressure group
The IPCC and its reports have been shaped by a close-knit group of scientists, all dedicated to the cause

The IPCC was set up in 1988 by a small group of scientists who were already wholly convinced that rising CO2 levels were the prime factor in causing global temperatures to rise. They were led by Prof Bert Bolin, appointed as the IPCC’s first chairman, and Dr John Houghton, then head of the UK Met Office, who, for 14 years, remained head of its key Working Group 1, responsible for reporting on climate science.

Since then the IPCC and its five major reports have essentially been shaped by a surprisingly small, close-knit group of scientists, all similarly dedicated to the cause. They have been determined not just to assemble all the evidence they could find to support their theory, however dubious it might be (as in the case of that notorious “hockey stick” graph); but, as we saw from the Climategate emails, to deride or ignore any that contradicted it. [emphasis added -hro]

There was a (long and IMHO) very telling Jan. 2010 Science magazine interview with (now on his last legs as) IPCC Chair, Rajendra Pachauri on the heels of Climategate. For the most part Pachauri was at his pompous, pontificating, meandering and, well, inventive/creative (take your pick!) best. But he did display a rare moment of honesty:

[Interviewer Pallava Bagla]: Has all that has happened this winter dented the credibility of IPCC?

R.K.P.: I don’t think the credibility of the IPCC can be dented. If the IPCC wasn’t there, why would anyone be worried about climate change? [my bold -hro]

So, there you have it folks! Right from the horse’s mouth: The IPCC’s “job” was to get us all “worried about climate change” … and, of course, the rapidly decreasingly credible “primary cause” thereof: our dreaded CO2 emissions.

But let’s fast-forward five years to a recent “assessment” by two of the IISD’s raconteurs. Here are some excerpts from their take on this Sept. 2014 “Climate Summit” (my bold -hro):

Policy Update #16
UN Climate Summit Resets Course for High-Level Climate Debate
posted on: Wednesday, 8 October 2014

When UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon took to the streets of New York with, by some estimates, 400,000 demonstrators on the eve of the 2014 Climate Summit, he was endeavoring to signal a decisive new phase in the world’s movement towards an ambitious post-2015 agreement on climate action under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The Summit did not attract new country commitments to reduce emissions and close the ambition gap between what has been tabled in the UNFCCC negotiating rooms and the level of action that is required to limit warming to 2˚C below pre-industrial levels – such “concessions” this far ahead of the December 2015 deadline would not have been realistic outside the formal negotiating process. However, although fresh numerical commitments in terms of emissions reductions were in short supply, the other side of the Paris equation was addressed up front.
High-level statements expressed strong support for the GCF, with reaffirmation of support for the US$100 billion capitalization by 2020, and an initial funding of US$10 billion. In all, US$2.3 billion has now been pledged to the GCF, with six other countries committing to declare their contributions by the end of 2014. Other significant financial pledges were tabled by the EU, the US and Japan.

While these financing pledges were certainly welcomed and encouraged, they were not the sole objective of the Summit. The one-day event also aimed to catalyze actions by a unique mix of partners, from government to cities, business, finance and civil society – a global coalition that moves beyond the politics of the UNFCCC with a mix of unilateral action, and partnerships that span governments, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations and the private sector. A coalition that must now convert a myriad of Summit headlines into a tipping point for the shift away from fossil fuels to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy.

Notwithstanding a rather dense fog of optimism in the above, I think you’ll get the picture.

Furthermore, on the dreaded “climate-CO2” connection front, I believe that today’s Op Ed in the Wall Street Journal by Dr. Judith Curry presents a far more realistic picture. Curry notes:

At the recent United Nations Climate Summit, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that “Without significant cuts in emissions by all countries, and in key sectors, the window of opportunity to stay within less than 2 degrees [of warming] will soon close forever.” Actually, this window of opportunity may remain open for quite some time. A growing body of evidence suggests that the climate is less sensitive to increases in carbon-dioxide emissions than policy makers generally assume—and that the need for reductions in such emissions is less urgent.

[and she concludes:]

Continuing to rely on climate-model warming projections based on high, model-derived values of climate sensitivity skews the cost-benefit analyses and estimates of the social cost of carbon. This can bias policy decisions. The implications of the lower values of climate sensitivity in our paper, as well as similar other recent studies, is that human-caused warming near the end of the 21st century should be less than the 2-degrees-Celsius “danger” level for all but the IPCC’s most extreme emission scenario.

This slower rate of warming—relative to climate model projections—means there is less urgency to phase out greenhouse gas emissions now, and more time to find ways to decarbonize the economy affordably. It also allows us the flexibility to revise our policies as further information becomes available.

Brace yourselves, folks! I have a hunch that there will be an interesting fifteen months ahead of us on the road to Paris. Perhaps the activist-scientists – and particularly the high-profile advocates (such as Figueres, Robinson, Bruntdland and de Boer) who keep them afloat with their unquestioning hype and adulation – would do well to consider lapsing back into their post-Copenhagen “coma”;-)


7 thoughts on “UNFCCC emerges from five-year coma to days of hype and hoopla

  1. Thanks for that post Hilary. It is certainly a good take on the state of play and how we got here. The UN would love a global problem with massive funding to help cement its increasing grasp of global affairs. An income stream of $100 bn a year would be a welcome source of patronage for the UN insiders.

    Prof Curry’s paper was excellent and her op ed piece yesterday will no doubt rattle some cages in the consensus but she is only one of a growing number of respectable scientists who are pushing back on the alarmism using data and science.

    This is a good time to be alive.

  2. This latest piece actually scares me more then the bs they have been trying to pull over everyone’s eyes when it comes to the science of AGW . I see this as a move that not many will resist from signing on to but one that will probably keep the beast alive with much $$ and bind all that sign it .

    “The United States is considering a proposal to combat climate change that would require countries to offer plans for curtailing greenhouse gas emissions on a certain schedule but would leave it to individual nations to determine how deep their cuts would be, said Todd Stern, the nation’s chief climate negotiator.

    Speaking at Yale University on Tuesday, Stern gave the clearest indication so far of what the US position will be regarding a road map toward an international agreement on greenhouse gas reductions.

    His comments suggested that the US would back the plan, first put forth by New Zealand, when international negotiators meet in Lima, Peru, in December to try to establish parameters for an eventual agreement. Negotiators are aiming to sign that deal next year in Paris.

    “If we were to conclude a new climate agreement in Paris along the lines of what I just outlined, would we have accomplished much? I think the answer is unequivocally yes,” Stern said. “We would have for the first time established a stable, durable, rules-based agreement with legal force that is more ambitious than ever before, even if not yet ambitious enough – an agreement that is applicable to all in a genuine and not just a formalistic manner.” http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/us-considers-climate-change-plan-that-would-mandate-emission-cuts-20141016-116q3c.html

    Looks like it could turn out to be a very bad marriage .Especially for us kids .

    • Terry, if you (or anyone!) has the time … here’s the video of Stern’s Oct. 10 speech. What I had not realized (or perhaps had forgotten in the flurry of ever-changing nonsense soundbites we’re being fed on a daily basis!) is that Stern is probably “feeding” Mr. Superficial and Incompetent, aka Secretary of State Kerry who, according to Stern, is his “boss”.

      It’s worth noting, IMHO, that – as you noted above – Stern at least acknowledges (at approx. 24:30) that it is the split between the UNFCCC’s Annex 1 (i.e. developed) and Annex II (i.e. not so developed) countries is “the singular fault line”. This may be why Stern is now trying to steer things towards the concept of each country making up its own mind. Certainly no less costly to anyone, nor is there any consideration of the damage that has been done (and continues to be done, on so many fronts) by the UN and its many tentacles of self-aggrandizement and discord-sowing.

      Haven’t watched the whole thing yet, but it probably is worth a watch:

    • I suggest that it may help to compare a statement by the BASIC Group (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) dated 9 October with a report of a speech by Todd Stern on 14 October – links below.

      The BASIC Group said: ‘… the new global compact must not redefine or renegotiate the convention and must recognise the differentiation between developed and developing countries as reflected in the principle of common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities.’ In other words, there must be no renegotiation of the terms of the 1992 UNFCCC with particular reference to the divide between the Annex I economies and the Non-Annex I economies (Note to Hilary: Annex II is a subset of Annex I). The phrase ‘common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities’ is a well-established reference to this basic divide.

      Now the report of Stern’s speech: ‘Things have changed since then, Stern said, for example with China’s economy and emissions soaring. And they will continue to change over the lifetime of any agreement. “When we have made sure the material interests of developing countries are fully protected… then there is no justification for using fixed 1992 categories.” If the developing world insists on the two-tier system, Stern said that will be a “deal-breaker” for the US.’

      So, despite the US having apparently given up on an overall emission reduction deal, even that seems unlikely to get anywhere if the BASIC Group (and their many followers – I almost said ‘groupies’) insist – as seems very likely – on maintaining the 1992 UNFCCC differentiation.


    • Robin, here’s an excerpt from another interesting take on all this from “Hermann Ott, Senior Advisor, Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, and Former Member of Parliament, Germany” via “Guest Article” on IISD:

      Why We Need Climate Clubs – A Second Track Climate Strategy
      Tuesday, 21 October 2014

      The UN Climate Conference (or COP 15) in Copenhagen, in 2009, finally exposed the basic flaw of the system. It provided ample evidence that it is simply not possible to move in unison on a contentious issue like climate change – where large fortunes are at stake, where powerful industries are threatened and where political careers can be gained or lost by the position toward this issue. That it is simply not possible to move forward by consensus in the framework of a treaty that comprises over 190 States with very different interests. This worked for a while thanks to public pressure and a very creative and effective civil society – but it does not work anymore.

      It does not work because the need for consensus is deeply enshrined in the workings of the climate regime.This is not a coincidence: the opponents of effective climate policy had learned from the Montreal Protocol (on Substances that deplete the Ozone Layer) that majority voting is dangerous, because that regime moved extremely fast in contrast to the glacial speed of most international environmental treaties. So they ensured that there was no majority voting in the Kyoto Protocol – the ominous ‘Rule 42′ of the Rules of Procedure on voting is barred every year from being applied by the COPs. With the result that EVERYTHING has to be decided by consensus. And since every country recognized under international law can join Convention and its Protocol, a handful of countries opposed to effective action on climate change effectively use every opportunity to block any meaningful action. [my bold -hro]

      I’m not so sure that his “Climate Clubs” [see rest of article] are likely to be any more effective, though!

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