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Doha Climate Talks: End Of An Expensive Sideshow

Politics / Climate Change Dec 09, 2012 - 12:48 PM GMT

By: Andrew_McKillop


Playing the impatient master of ceremonies tired with the behaviour of delegates late in the night of 7 December, the Doha climate conference's director, Qatar's vice-PM and member of the al-Attiya "family firm" which runs the mini-emirate with maxi-gas resources, Abdullah al-Attiya, thumped his fists on the table. He then ran a video clip to the music track of the World War II Italian left-wing and communist resistance song "Bella Ciao". Some musicologists say this song is in fact only the Yiddish swing music number "Koilen", first written and played in 1919 by Mishka Ziganoff.

The song says goodbye to all beautiful hopes, of life itself, for the heroic but failing partisans. Al-Attiya went on to say the world is watching and waiting for an agreement "to save the planet", which was a clear exaggeration, made even clearer by the way Al-Attiya ran the conference in its week-long tractations. His family-owned emirate, as it says itself, is the world's highest emitter of CO2 per capita, but along with neighboring Saudi Arabia and the UAE also claims that it can and perhaps will use "zero oil and gas" by or before 2045. By then, Qatar will have no need for any kind or type of fossil energy.

Climate problem? No problem.

Al-Attiya's diffident and playful stance, which irrittated European and US delegates, climate activists and NGO observers from many countries, is that climate is "no problem" because soon we will have no need at all for fossil energy. Qatar can export dates or coral from the Gulf and Saudi Arabia can export camel dung patties. The heroic but failing partisans of global warming Apocalypse can find something else to moan about!

Politically correct media description of the Doha climate conference farce is that it marked a historic shift. The UN climate talks in Qatar supposedly made the "prospect" of rich nations compensating poor ones for damage due to climate change less unreal than it is, at the end of this failed conference. The conference essentially agreed to think about this subject again, by or before 2020, and especially at the 2015 Paris "climate summit".

For the US, Canada, Japan, Asia's newly industrialized countries such as South Korea, the European Union with massive nuances and variations of individual country positions, but with less for the World Bank and IMF, the main problem with this climate damage concept is simple and stark. The cost could be unlimited and probably would be unlimited. How do we tot up claimed and supposed climate damage over the last 200 years, apportion blame, and then compensate victims?

More concretely, the presently defined and identified "victim states", a relatively short list of small island states and low income countries, mostly African, are still waiting for previously and verbally committed but not disbursed "emergency aid for climate adjustment" of $30 billion in 2010-2012, which supposedly will be followed by an annual $100 billion from 2020. At Qatar, the "victim states" demanded $60 billion by 2015.

Despite his previous well-rehearsed positive stance on an international binding agreement to apply carbon taxes or tariffs, especially on Chinese export goods, the USA's chief delegate Todd Stern struck a theatrical note. As of 7 December (but not 8 December), Stern was on record as threatening a US veto on any kind of agreement that would mean paying out to "victim states". A US veto would of course have been ruinous for Barack Obama's renewed personal conviction in the dangers of CO2 and global warming, following a hot summer, his re-election and Hurrican Sandy.

Called the principle of Loss and Damage and its financial mechanisms, possibly applying (at least in theory) to all nonOECD countries or about 85% of the world's population, the present target amount of $100 billion-a-year by 2020, only for the presently identified "climate victim states", is a mere drop in the ocean, as Todd Stern and other "climate aggressor" national delegates recognize. This form of international development aid has heroic goals. These are a complete and total makeover of national energy systems, their total transition to "clean energy", across five-sixths of the planet. Cost of this can be calculated, as I have esimated for Australia's financial services institute (FINSIA). Amounts needed would be at least $1.25 trillion-a-year, over and above ongoing and present economic investment in all sectors, and sustained for several decades.

Pernicious effects of this "waiting for the jackpot" are already strong, in many low income countries.  Action in the energy sector, in many poor nations, is now on hold or progressing even more slowly than previous. This is because of the new belief that the US, Europe, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Australia (and the Gulf petro-states), in fact any and all high income countries, are dragging their feet over promises they have already made, or seemed to have made. These promises started with the failed Copenhagen climate summit of 2009, and now start with the promise of $100bn per year by 2020.

One very simple reason for the massive and rising estimates of "how much is needed" is that nonOECD countries observe ongoing events such as Mr Obama's request to Congress for Sandy damages of $60bn, the costs of Germany's Energiewende variously estimated as up to 600bn euros by 2020, the UK's bid to raise $320bn for clean energy by 2020, and the airy assertion by Qatari and Saudi princes that their countries will have "totally clean energy" by or before 2045. On these bases, a transfer from high income countries to low income countries of $1250bn per year would be "modest and reasonable".

Relative to these demands and expectation, the actual formal results of the Doha conference were a lot less than "modest". All that was agreed was a face-saving "Kyoto-2" agreement, starting January 1st 2013, which will now only concern the EU27, Australia and New Zealand. Formally out of this prolongation of the Kyoto Treaty, and heavily implying they reject the Loss and Damages concept, Japan, Russia and Canada are no longer obliged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Kyoto-2 therefore only concerns countries emitting 15% of human-source CO2 and other GHG.

While the billionaire al-Attiya family amused delegates with a Yiddish swing song of the 1920s and talk about Qatar "soon" needing no fossil energy at all, but probably not reducing export prices on its soon-useless LNG until forced to by rising shale gas supplies, the UK hereditary peer Lord Monkton also did what he could. Until escorted out of the conference hall by UN guards, he took the chair of Myanmar and denounced all UN climate change protocols. He was of course catcalled and booed, but was able to say: "In the 16 years we have been coming to these events there has been no global warming at all."  He added: "Even if we were to take action to prevent global warming the cost would be many times greater than the cost of making adaptive measures later. Our recommendation is that we should initiate very quickly a review of the science to make sure that we are all on the right track."

UN sources said that Lord Monckton was escorted out for “violating UN codes of conduct" and "impersonating a party” by taking the offered badge of a Myanmar delegate. The UN action ‘de-badged’ the peer, and Qatari action followed by immediately canceling his visa to stay in Qatar, giving him 24 hours to leave the country.

Even 18 months ago it was possible for Monkton, who says that global warming does not really exist, and his exact opposites such as Britain's James 'Jim' Lovelock or the USA's Al Gore and James Hansen, who proclaim the Apocalypse, to command large speaking fees at packed meetings and conferences. Since 2011, despite Sandy and Bophar and hundreds of deaths, and tens of billions of dollars of weather damage, public interest in the subject has shrunk and faded. Two of the 'fathers' of Germany's Energiewende, Fritz Vahrenholt and Sebastian Lüning, have symbolized this shift and write about it in their best-seller 'Die Kalte Sonne'.

Neither of them call global warming a hoax, and much more ironically, Lord Monkton has a similar position to Vahrenholt and Luning - that global warming does in fact exist but is a minor problem. For Vahrenholt and Luning, man-caused climate change is real and is a crisis, but global warming in only a tiny part of the climate problem. The situation in Germany for global warming activists and alarmists is getting ever more hopeless, shown by sales of the book first published by Vahrenholt and Lüning in February 2012 continuing at a high level, and by the massive industrial and technological success of Germany's energy transition plan. To be sure, their book has been castigated and excoriated by Climate Crazies with paint on their faces, and no time (or maybe no ability) to read even a page of the book, but fewer members of the public believe than climate change = global warming, and that easy ways out of the problem really exist.

The 1997 signing of the Treaty in the Japanese city Kyoto was a long time ago. The Kyoto dream - now rejected by its home country Japan - has itself morphed throught the years, towards a failed international development pact for energy transition and the sustainable economy. Relative to climate change, more than 15 years of studies, research, debate and calls for action have only shown human capabilities of "restoring climate stability" are a pipedream. One reason is there is no answer to the basic question: Restoring what?

Answers to that are of course provided by the IPCC and other revenue-earners from CO2 and global warming. We might assume their main goal would be reducing global average temperatures by around 1 degree C from present averages, and avoiding the claimed "inevitable" rise of global temperatures by anywhere up to 6 degrees C by 2050.
Living with climate change has however progressively replaced the shrill calls for "urgent action", which in the field of energy transition now faces the problem of immense resources of unconventional oil, gas and coal that are now known to exist, if they are needed.

As the former global warming apocalypst or predicator, 'Jim' Lovelock has said, in 2012, there is possibly no relation at all between rising CO2 levels, and rising, falling or stagnant temperature levels in different regions and countries of the planet. This in no way removes any and all alarm about climate change, but does move the goalposts. For Vahrenholt and Luning urgent action is needed, but concerns "unsexy" difficult action such as reforesting huge areas of the planet, both in the tropics and higher latitudes. Doing this would take much longer than what they consider is the much less urgent goal of moving away from fossil fuels - but at present we still have the cart before the horse and do not like its drive performance.

By Andrew McKillop


Former chief policy analyst, Division A Policy, DG XVII Energy, European Commission. Andrew McKillop Biographic Highlights

Co-author 'The Doomsday Machine', Palgrave Macmillan USA, 2012

Andrew McKillop has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has had specially long experience of energy policy, project administration and the development and financing of alternate energy. This included his role of in-house Expert on Policy and Programming at the DG XVII-Energy of the European Commission, Director of Information of the OAPEC technology transfer subsidiary, AREC and researcher for UN agencies including the ILO.

© 2012 Copyright Andrew McKillop - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisor.

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