How many more United Nations climate conferences will it take to acknowledge the fact that the U.N.’s global climate policy has reached a dead end and needs to be totally redrafted?
Calls by politicians, activists, and journalists to double down have become increasingly hollow in the face of overwhelming evidence that 2024 will be the first year in which average global surface temperature is likely to be more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above that of the preindustrial period before 1900.
The long-term average increase since that period will likely pass 1.5 degrees in 2030. Even staying significantly below 2 degrees Celsius – the target that the climate policy community used before lowering it in order to galvanize lawmakers – now looks unlikely.
Missing the 1.5-degree target does not mean that we’re all going to boil, bake, and die. Global emissions growth has slowed down enough that the extreme warming scenarios brandished so carelessly in the public debate have become all but impossible.
Deaths due to natural disasters, such as floods, droughts, storms, and wildfires, have also declined radically as countries have become richer and more resilient.
And economic losses due to climate shocks have decreased five-fold.
Sticking to an unrealistic temperature target has severe economic and geopolitical effects. Panic over not reaching the target has led to a radical push for an immediate phasing out of fossil fuels, ignoring the fact that they still make up 80% of the world’s primary energy supply.
That call is being led by rich countries that have become wealthy using fossil fuels and continue to gobble up oil and gas – and which now want to restrict less-developed countries from using these fuels to lift themselves out of energy poverty, a primary reason for their destitution.
Development advocates are rightly calling out these unfair policies, enforced through left-wing institutions such as the World Bank and United Nations, as ‘eco-colonialism’.
Unrealistic temperature targets combined with continued high consumption of fossil fuels has meant that there is little to no carbon budget available for the poorest countries to grow their energy use.
Room for one country to develop, which may require increased use of fossil fuels for the foreseeable future, means that another must shrink its economy in order to keep to the proclaimed carbon budget.
The distribution conflict over emissions rights will be epic and bitter, not just between rich and poor countries but also among poor countries themselves. This will make any new agreements to reduce emissions even more difficult and perhaps even impossible.
Enter Russia and China, who have made it clear that they will not play by Western rules, including those on climate policy.
Since launching the war in Ukraine, the Kremlin has sought to strengthen its ties to OPEC and secure its role in oil and gas markets.
China is investing everywhere in resource extraction, including fossil fuels in Africa and the Middle East. The three main Chinese energy companies – CNPC, CNOOC, and Sinopec – have emerged as major investors in Africa’s oil and gas sectors.
Despite these concerns, Western governments refuse to support investments in poor countries’ energy sectors in hopes that starving the developing world of energy will help meet the 1.5-degree target. This has created a huge opening for Russia and China, which they will likely leverage to strengthen autocracy across these regions.
Paradoxically, acknowledging the demise of the 1.5-degree target in 2024 could reduce tensions between rich and poor countries – provided that governments seize the opportunity to reset climate goals.
This could be the year when unrealistic temperature goals and endless theoretical fights over a phasing down versus a phasing out of fossil fuels are replaced by a focus on the three positive ideas that came out of the most recent U.N. climate conference.
In the conference’s outcome statement, nearly 200 signatory countries agreed on the need for transition fuels in poor countries. In other words, their use of fossil fuels will grow faster than their ability to transition away from them.
Second, the signatories agreed that countries have different resource endowments and will therefore follow very different trajectories to decarbonize.
Third, there was a strong commitment that nuclear energy can be an important source of reliable and CO2 emissions-free power, that was also proving to be relatively cheap.
For the first time, COP28 officially recognized that transition fuels – a euphemism for fossil fuels tolerated to prevent economic collapse and allow development if abundant green energy is not yet available, “……can play a role in facilitating the energy transition while ensuring energy security.”
COP signatories finally acknowledged, albeit implicitly, that poor countries consume only a tiny fraction of the energy gobbled up by rich countries and desperately need more electricity to power homes, schools, hospitals, and factories in order to develop.
Commonsense should prevail – but will it given how many of our world leaders have publicly supported the ridiculous notion that global warming (aka climate change) is an existential threat to humankind, when it clearly isn’t?
Then we have ‘useful idiots’ like our Prime Minister Albanese and Energy Czar Chris ‘Blackouts’ Bowen forging ahead with their insane Net Zero crusade even though we only produce just over 1% of human-induced global CO2 emissions.
It beggars belief.
Thanks to Jun Arima, a professor at Tokyo University and a former Japanese negotiator at U.N. climate conferences, and Vijaya Ramachandran, the director for energy and development at the Breakthrough Institute, and Net Zero Watch for publishing the original article ( email@example.com ).