Tuesday, December 11, 2018

GWPF Newsletter: UN Climate Summit Fails To Adopt IPCC Report

After Paris: Greens Are Turning Away From A Carbon Tax

In this newsletter:

1) UN Climate Summit Fails To Adopt IPCC Report
BBC News, 8 December 2018
2) UN Climate Talks Stall As Battle Over IPCC Report Looms
Associated Press, 9 December 2018

3) Paris Riots Over Carbon Taxes Dim Hopes For Climate Fight
Associated Press, 7 December 2018
4) After Paris: Greens Are Turning Away From A Carbon Tax
Politico, 9 December 2018
5) Canadians Clash Over Trudeau's Carbon Emissions Tax In Months Before Election
The Washington Times, 9 December 2018
6) GWPF: Renewables And Climate Policy Are On A Collision Course
GWPF Energy, 9 December 2018

Full details:

1) UN Climate Summit Fails To Adopt IPCC Report
BBC News, 8 December 2018

Matt McGrath

Attempts to incorporate a key scientific study into global climate talks in Poland have failed.

The IPCC report on the impacts of a temperature rise of 1.5C, had a significant impact when it was launched last October.

Scientists and many delegates in Poland were shocked as the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait objected to this meeting "welcoming" the report.

It was the 2015 climate conference that had commissioned the landmark study.

The report said that the world is now completely off track, heading more towards 3C this century rather than 1.5C.

Keeping to the preferred target would need "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society". If warming was to be kept to 1.5C this century, then emissions of carbon dioxide would have to be reduced by 45% by 2030.

The report, launched in Incheon in South Korea, had an immediate impact winning praise from politicians all over the world.

But negotiators here ran into serious trouble when Saudi Arabia, the US, Russia and Kuwait objected to the conference "welcoming" the document.

Instead they wanted to support a much more lukewarm phrase, that the conference would "take note" of the report.

Saudi Arabia had fought until the last minute in Korea to limit the conclusions of the document. Eventually they gave in. But it now seems that they have brought their objections to Poland.

The dispute dragged on as huddles of negotiators met in corners of the plenary session here, trying to agree a compromise wording.

None was forthcoming.

With no consensus, under UN rules the passage of text had to be dropped.

Many countries expressed frustration and disappointment at the outcome.

Full story

2) UN Climate Talks Stall As Battle Over IPCC Report Looms
Associated Press, 9 December 2018

KATOWICE, Poland (AP) — A diplomatic standoff over a single word could set the stage for a bigger showdown during the second half of this year’s U.N. climate summit.

Negotiators took time out Sunday to rest after the first week of talks ended on a sour note the previous night, when the United States sided with Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in blocking endorsement of a landmark study on global warming.

“I think it was a key moment,” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The fact that a group of four countries were trying to diminish the value and importance of a scientific report they themselves, with all other countries, requested three years ago in Paris is pretty remarkable.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report on what would happen if average global temperatures rise by 1.5 Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit), and how to ensure they don’t go higher, was widely regarded as a wake-up call for policy-makers when it was released in October .

As diplomats wrapped up a week of technical talks Saturday, almost all 200 countries present in Katowice, Poland, had wanted to “welcome” the IPCC report, making it the benchmark for future action.

But the U.S. and three other delegations objected.

“The United States was willing to note the report and express appreciation to the scientists who developed it, but not to welcome it, as that would denote endorsement of the report,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement. “As we have made clear in the IPCC and other bodies, the United States has not endorsed the findings of the report.”

Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait also called for the study to be “noted” but not “welcomed.”

While none of the four-oil exporting countries spelled it out, their objection to the report likely included its suggestion that fossil-fuel use needs to be phased out by 2050. Oil, gas and coal are major sources of carbon dioxide, which traps heat in the atmosphere.

The 2015 Paris agreement set a target of keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), ideally 1.5 C by the end of the century.

Full story

4) After Paris: Greens Are Turning Away From A Carbon Tax
Politico, 9 December 2018

Putting an economic price on greenhouse gases is proving a hard sell with the public, even as time to head off climate change shrinks.

Taxing carbon to tackle climate change is one of those big ideas that have long held a kind of bipartisan sway in Washington — endorsed by Al Gore and former members of Ronald Reagan’s Cabinet, economists from both parties and even Exxon Mobil.

But environmentalists are increasingly ready to look elsewhere.

This month's fuel-tax riots in Paris and the defeat of a carbon-fee ballot measure in Washington state show the difficulty of getting people to support a levy on the energy sources that heat their homes and power their cars. Meanwhile, even the most liberal Democratic candidates this year gave carbon taxes scant if any mention in their climate platforms, focusing instead on proposals like a phaseout of fossil fuels and massive investments in wind and solar power.

The story of the carbon tax’s fading appeal, even among groups that like it in principle, shows the difficulties of crafting a politically palatable solution to one of the world’s most urgent problems — including greenhouse gas levels that are on track to reach a record high this year.

“This aversion to taxes in the U.S. is high and should not be underestimated,” said Kalee Kreider, a former Gore adviser and longtime climate activist. “I have a lot of scars to show for that.”

“I fear that the idea of a carbon tax is turning out to be a heavier lift than people envision," said RL Miller, founder of the advocacy group Climate Hawks Vote. "As it is right now, starting from scratch, there is no constituency for it. ... And I think the climate movement needs to go through some rethinking."

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4) Paris Riots Over Carbon Taxes Dim Hopes For Climate Fight
Associated Press, 7 December 2018

The “yellow vests” in France are worrying greens around the world.

The worst riots in Paris in decades were sparked by higher fuel taxes, and French President Emmanuel Macron responded by scrapping them Wednesday. But taxes on fossil fuels are just what international climate negotiators, meeting in Poland this week, say are desperately needed to help wean the world off of fossil fuels and slow climate change.

“The events of the last few days in Paris have made me regard the challenges as even greater than I thought earlier,” said Stanford University environmental economist Lawrence Goulder, author of the book “Confronting the Climate Challenge.”

Economists, policymakers and politicians have long said the best way to fight climate change is to put a higher price on the fuels that are causing it — gasoline, diesel, coal and natural gas. Taxing fuels and electricity could help pay for the damage they cause, encourage people to use less, and make it easier for cleaner alternatives and fuel-saving technologies to compete.

These so-called carbon taxes are expected to be a major part of pushing the world to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and try to prevent runaway climate change that economists say would be far more expensive over the long term than paying more for energy in the short term.

But it’s not so easy for people to think about long-term, global problems when they are struggling to get by.

Macron said the higher tax was his way of trying to prevent the end of the world. But the yellow vest protesters turned that around with the slogan: “it’s hard to talk about the end of the world while we are talking about the end of the month.”

The resistance to the fuel tax is a personal blow to Macron, who sees himself as the guarantor of the 2015 Paris climate accord, its strongest defender on the global stage. He has positioned himself as the anti-Trump when it comes to climate issues.

The French government quietly fears a Trump-led backlash against the accord could spread to other major economies whose commitment is essential to keeping the deal together.

The fuel tax was not originally Macron’s idea; it dates back to previous administrations. But he vigorously defended it and won the presidency in part on a promise to fight climate change.

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5) Canadians Clash Over Trudeau's Carbon Emissions Tax In Months Before Election
The Washington Times, 9 December 2018

TORONTO — Wading into treacherous political waters, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s plan to dramatically increase taxes on carbon emissions to combat climate change is dividing the country, pitting six of the provinces against Ottawa and setting the stage for a bitter and partisan federal election next year.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau proposes to set a national price on carbon emissions of $7.5 a ton, rising to $37.50. (Associated Press/File)

“Scrap the jobs-killing carbon tax,” has become the rallying cry for Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford and his political allies across the country, who are revving up to defeat Mr. Trudeau’s center-left Liberal Party government in the national vote in October.

The Canadian clash is being watched carefully around the globe in the wake of violent protests that have shaken the government of French President Emmanuel Macron, protests originally sparked by a now-abandoned plan to hike fuel taxes at the pump as a way to fight climate change.

About 40 countries, including China, Japan and 10 European nations, have imposed some kind of levy on carbon emissions, although some, such as Australia, have repealed their carbon taxes in the face of political opposition. The U.S. is one of the few large industrialized countries without a carbon tax.

Mr. Trudeau’s plan to set a national price on carbon emissions of $7.5 a ton rising to $37.50 by 2022 has become a political wedge issue unlike any other in Canada in recent times.

“It penalizes farmers, it penalizes industry, it penalizes Canadians,” said Candice Bergen, head of the Conservative opposition in the House of Commons, predicting the tax would not be the boost to the environment that backers claim.

Although Mr. Trudeau’s plan allows each province to meet the emissions reduction targets in its own way, officials in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick have turned against his project. Three provinces have gone to court to stop the tax.

Full story 

6) John Constable: Renewables And Climate Policy Are On A Collision Course
GWPF Energy, 9 December 2018

Dr John Constable: GWPF Energy Editor

Those advocating climate change mitigation policy have hitherto wagered everything on the success of renewable energy technologies. The steadily accumulating data on energy and emissions over the period of intense policy commitment suggests that this gamble has not been successful. Pragmatic environmentalists will be asking whether sentimental attachment to wind and solar is standing in the way of an effective emissions reduction trajectory.

For almost as long as there has been a climate policy, emissions reduction has been seen as dependent on the replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy sources. Policies supporting this outcome are ubiquitous in the developed and developing world; markets have been coerced globally, with varying degrees of severity it is true, but with extraordinary force in the OECD states, and particularly in the European Union. The net result of several decades of such measures has been negligible. Consider, for example the global total primary energy mix since 1971, as recorded in the International Energy Agency datasets, the most recent discussion of which has just been published in the World Energy Outlook (2018):

Figure 1: Global Total Primary Energy Supply: 1971–2015. Source: Redrawn by the author from International Energy Agency, Key World Energy Statistics 2017 and 2018. IEA Notes: 1. World includes international aviation and international marine bunkers. 2. Peat and oil shale are aggregated with coal. 3. “Other” Includes geothermal, solar, wind, tide/wave/ocean, heat and other.

It is perfectly true that the proportional increase in modern renewables, the “Other” category represented by the thin red line at the top of the chart is a significant multiple of the starting base, but even this increase is disappointing given the subsidies involved, and in any case it is almost completely swamped by the increase in overall energy consumption, and that of fossil fuels in particular. Renewables in total, modern renewables plus biofuels and waste and hydro, amounted to about 13% of Total Primary Energy in 1971, and in 2016 are almost unchanged at somewhat under 14%. Thirty years of deployment, almost half of that time under increasingly strong post-Kyoto policies, has seen the proportion of renewable energy in the world’s primary energy input creep up by about one percentage point.

Furthermore, what is true at a global level is also true in every national jurisdiction of importance, with the exception that in the less economically vibrant parts of the developed world, including the EU and the UK, energy consumption is actually declining, largely due the transfer of much manufacturing to other parts of the world, principally China.

It should therefore come as no surprise to anybody that emissions not only continue to rise, but have recently started to increase at the highest rate for several years, a point that is revealed in the latest release of the Global Carbon Budget, 2018, and can be conveniently illustrated in the chart derived from this paper’s data and published in the coverage of the Financial Times:

Figure 2: Global Emissions 1960 to 2018. Source: Financial Times, 6 December 2018, drawn from Global Carbon Budget Report 2018.

These dismal facts are producing the obtuse reaction that the current renewables dependent policies are insufficiently aggressive, or, to use the accepted jargon, ambitious, and that the world must try harder. The reaction of the BBC’s Matt McGrath may be typical. He asks: “Why are governments taking so long to take action?”.

But this is a misplaced question. The plain reality is that the global market coercions, and related policy pressures favouring renewables are already intense and incessant, and have been so with growing intensity for over fifteen years. Many economies, large and small, have tried very hard indeed, but the global energy markets have barely moved. Why? Because the effort is wasted; the picked winners, the renewable technologies, remain stubbornly uneconomic, with the consequence that spontaneous, uncoerced and rapid adoption remains a dream.

This is what policy failure looks like. At what point do those sincerely concerned to see prompt and sustainable emissions reductions begin to wonder whether the renewables industry is a liability and an obstacle to the aim of climate change mitigation?

Instead of blaming lazy governments, or the irrational consumer, now rioting in the streets of Paris in protest at climate policy impositions on transport fuels, environmentalists and campaigning analysts might spend their time more fruitfully by reviewing the wisdom of the policies that they have pressed on decision-makers. In doing so they could reflect that climate change mitigation is in certain important respects no different from other insurance policies, and must therefore pass the same tests: Is the policy providing real cover and is the premium affordable and proportional to the risk?

Since the rising trend in emissions leaves no doubt that the current policies have as yet provided no real insurance, discussion of affordability becomes in a sense academic, though we can note in passing that it is also true that the emissions abatement cost of renewables is so great that it exceeds even high end estimates of Social Cost of Carbon, meaning that the policies are more harmful than the climate change they set out to mitigate.

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The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at

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