Will the Paris agreement side with the angels?

IMG_4904One of the most beautiful things I saw on my facebook feed last week were some angels at Republique, the scene of the attacks last month. Those same angels appeared at the entrance to the UN zone at the climate talks out at Le Bourget the other day as we walked into the centre. Today it was the Greenpeace polar bear, Aurora, roaring at everyone.  But whatever is set up to amuse us  on the way in, there’s no getting around it:  we’re heading to the pointy end of the Paris agreement, and it’s no longer really about pictures. It’s all about words. The text.

I’ve been here a few times now: these last 48 hours at a climate talks where nobody gets any sleep, and everybody’s obsessed with the regular new rounds of the draft agreement.

We’ve been waiting all day:  governments battled over words all night last night, and the French Environment Minister Fabius’s team started drafting a new version of the draft agreement early this morning.

This afternoon, instead of getting that anticipated draft text at 1pm, we have a six minute plenary and everyone continues milling about – all afternoon. Finally, just after 9pm, the meeting begins, everyone piles into the room, the President announced the text, the UNFCCC website nearly crashes, printers spit out paper, and people start running in all directions.

After 30 minutes, the NGO’s have a standup press conference in Hall 2, press releases fly into inboxes. And  the country groups  meet for a couple of hours to discuss what they think, after which they go back into closed-door negotiations.

Each fresh draft of the text has fewer words in brackets, possibly indicating more agreement. Carbon Brief has been counting them each time. We reached peak text sometime last week at 1718 (or 1719 – there was a rogue, lone one somewhere – nobody ever found it). Tonight we’re down to 50.

The new text of the Draft Paris Agreement contains some good things, and definitely some misses. What is in, is some relatively strong language on the 1.5 degree warming limit.

Governments would agree to:

“Hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C, recognizing that this would significantly reduce risks and impacts of climate change”

This seems to be pretty close to what our Pacific Island neighbours wanted – certainly not the sympathy vote that would have been a simple “recognition” of the 1.5 warming limit that was one of the options earlier.

Marshall Islands’ Foreign Minister Tony de Brum has just put out a statement:

“There is a clear recognition that the world must work towards limiting warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius, and that it would be much safer to do so.  With this, I would be able to go home and tell my people that our chance for survival is not lost.”

The Guardian Liveblog has other early reactions here.  They’ll have another liveblog up tomorrow. Worth following.

Many of my team are going to be up all night in the negotiating rooms. I somehow doubt we’ll have anything by tomorrow – if we did it’d be a record.   I suspect we’ll be going through the night again, and into Saturday.

Me? I’m off to bed. Maybe I’ll wake to a miraculous deal… but I fear there will be trade-offs overnight.  I just hope the smallest and most vulnerable can withstand the bullying from the bigger blocs, that the angels are on their side, and they manage to hold their own. It’s not just their future at stake here.

36 thoughts on “Will the Paris agreement side with the angels?”

  1. New Zealand has a lot to lose if we allow CO2 levels rise too far and with such a weak offer you could say that we will get what we deserve. I think that most New Zealanders would have preferred a stronger offer and we could make a bold move and convert our transport to electricity which could be a really great campaign which we could all believe in a get behind.
    Jan Wright our Environmental Commissioner laid out the facts on infrastructure loss due to rising sea levels and I put together a similar presentation based on the same simple facts and the losses are going to be huge. http://www.climateoutcome.kiwi.nz/latest-posts–news/infrastructure-loss-in-new-zealand-due-to-sea-level-rise

  2. ” actual emissions reductions are required.”

    Where do you get that from?

    ” the Paris deal removes all legal obligations for governments to cap or reduce CO2 emissions,”

    ” . . also removes the mad rush into unrealistic decarbonisation policies that are both economically and politically unsustainable.””

    1. Provide the source links for your quotes, or I’ll moderate your comments, please.

      As it happens, your quotes appear to come from Nevil Gibson at the NBR, quoting sports scientist Benny Peiser from Nigel Lawson’s laughable climate denial charity in London.

      Not what you’d call mainstream opinion.

        1. No Biofarmer. Let me help you out here.
          The first quote is attributed not to Renwick but to Benny Peiser, head of the Global Warming Policy Forum by a writer for the NBR (National Business Review) in their post here:

          Benny Peiser, head of the Global Warming Policy Forum, says the agreement is as predicted and allows nations to set their own voluntary carbon dioxide targets and policies without any legally binding caps or international oversight.

          “In contrast to the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris deal removes all legal obligations for governments to cap or reduce CO2 emissions,” he says.

          Benny Peiser belongs to the climate science denial church of the of the GWPF of which you can read here:

          1. NBR balance out the Peiser quote with an excellent article by Geoff Simmons of the Morgan Foundation, contrasting our mediocre emissions target with those of other countries with a similar level of renewables as NZ:

            These countries are taking emissions reduction seriously, rather than saying we are doing fine on electricity and everything else is too hard, so we’ll rely on buying cheap foreign credits to cover for our inaction.


  3. Does it matter who said it? I think it.
    Does the comment reflect Article 6.3 ?

    Perhaps my comprehension skills are failing 🙂

    “Professor James Renwick, Climate Scientist, School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, Victoria University, says good outcomes include the call for transparency, continual ratcheting up of emissions targets and the provisions for climate finance.

    “The review of a 1.5°C warming limit may come too late as we are well on the way to 1.5°C with present greenhouse gas levels. Staying below 2°C warming is a big ask, but this document provides a framework for action. Now we just need the action.”

    The developed countries shall undertake “economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets” but the targets remain voluntary and the required actions remain daunting, he says.”

    1. Indeed, Bio, COP21 is not a solution to the huge challenges we face, but it is, at long last, a recognition of our responsibility for them.

      As Winston Churchill once said:

      Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

  4. The ETS is under review, so what is the best strategy to take with submissions? Reform it, push for a carbon fee and dividend, or both?

    NZ has agreed to keep warming well below 2 degrees, while the current contributions add up to 2.7 degrees. So we’ll be under pressure to strengthen our targets in just a year or two. And apparently we’ve agreed to actual, internal emissions reductions. Even if the government does get away with shonky international trading, we need to keep hammering away at this point. Otherwise in a few years we will be the highest per capita emitters in the developed world, will still be purchasing credits using largely taxpayer money, and will still be faced with the task of reducing emissions.

    Per capita emissions in 2005:

    Australia 26.9
    USA 23.6
    NZ 18.8
    UK 10.6

    and in 2013:

    Australia 23.1
    USA 21.1
    NZ 19.3
    UK 8.1

    Based on those trends, we will be emitting more per capita than the USA in 2018 and than Australia in 2020.

    I also wonder if the focus on long term goals, like 2030 and 2050 (remember “50 by 50”? – officially still the national target) is also a problem. It just allows endless delay. How about a plan for 2016?

    Our emissions are now at 81 MT and we’ve agreed to get them to 59 MT (11% below 1990 levels) by 2030. Apart from buying credits, what’s the best plan? Electricity emissions were 5 MT last year so that’s a nice low-hanging fruit. What’s next?

    The coal-fired units at Huntly are closing by December 2018 (still 3 years away unfortunately). In 2013, the most recent year for which I could find data, they emitted 1.6MT. So we need to find something the equivalent of “closing coal at Huntly” every year for the next 15 years (50 years to become carbon neutral – something else we have just agreed to.)


  5. Article 4 may say that developed countries shall undertake “economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets”, as James Renwick says, but Article 6 says:

    “Parties shall, where engaging on a voluntary basis in cooperative approaches that involve the use of internationally transferred mitigation outcomes towards nationally determined contributions, promote sustainable development and ensure environmental integrity and transparency, including in governance, and shall apply robust accounting to ensure, inter alia, the avoidance of double counting, consistent with guidance adopted by the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement.”

    so it seems to me that carbon trading (under the new euphemism “internationally transferred mitigation outcomes) is squarely still on the table. And with most developed countries actually reducing their emissions, there will be few buyers, creating a strong temptation for NZ to continue hoover up cheap, shonky credits as we have been doing.

  6. One of my year 9! students had an interesting idea:

    Why don’t we start a “Climate Saver” initiative, like our “Kiwi Saver”. People contribute according to their income. The state levies taxes on fossil fuels and distributes these equally to the people’s “Climate Saver” accounts. The money can then be withdrawn by the people for investments into their own carbon-free future projects such as electric transport, solar roofs, home efficiency and anything that reduces their need for the use of carbon fuels.

    I found that was a stunning thought from a year 9 student.

        1. Kiwi Saver is a scheme where I save for retirement.

          “Climate saver” is a scheme where I put money into an account and someone else determines how I will spend that money.

          Maybe you can fill in the details. Obviously your Year 9 student might not be involved, but perhaps you can explain in more detail?

          I think that obviously I am incapable of determining how to spend my money and need a third party to figure it out for me. Perhaps the State should take all my money and decide on how it should be spent?

          1. With the “climate saver” you would save with government support (share of fossil fuel taxes) for recognized investments that reduce your carbon emissions. That was the student’s idea. Examples might be to support your loan or outright purchase for a solar installation or an electric vehicle once these become more widely available.

            1. ” for recognized investments ” is the bit that bothers me. Who determines what is a “recognised investment”?

            2. Indeed, there would be much detail to work out with this idea obviously. But it would certainly be doable in principle. Already you have a list of conditions giving you access to Kiwi saver even before retirement. It would be not too difficult too figure it out I am sure.

  7. Although the COP21 agreement is not binding it does set out the terms and targets very clearly and this puts pressure on governments to achieve results. As part of the picture it should be remembered that both Abbott and Harper were deniers and both were kicked out. The pressure will be on Key and if he continues his do nothing policy he may lose power. There will be a lot going on after Christmas.

      1. “sorry about the weather.”

        Most of NZ continues to experience unseasonably cool weather with a noticeable lack of evaporation in many western areas , and decidedly damp and cool in places.
        These sorts of conditions as we approach the longest day are quite benign for agriculture in most of the North Island.

        i wouldn’t apologise 🙂
        Has anyone seen much of the Waikato maize crop to date? Is there much to see?

        1. No there appears to be much less maize planted this year than in previous years. The Waikato, as is normal for this time of the year, is green, but it hides a drying soil. The dry months are usually Jan – Mar. and rainfall this year has been tracking less than normal (although last month was 20mm above the average) so it looks likely to be a dry summer. For instance yesterday they promised thunderstorms and hail – 0.2mm fell in a short skiff of a shower. – there are sunny skies today and the forecast is for showers – which are not to be seen). The wind is the most important factor however and winds are constant and many days the winds are quite blustery and of course drying. So I expect that the drought this year will be the same if not worse than than previous.

          1. In contrast to that, the Met Service monthly review says this:-

            ” . . . most of the North Island picked up healthy totals during November.
            Gisborne and northern Hawkes Bay experienced more than one and a half times the usual November rainfall due to several wet southeasterly events.

            Temperatures were well below average for most of November, until northwesterlies delivered a run of hot days to eastern areas during the last week.
            The Ocean:
            Over the last few months, the strength of the 2015 El Nino has been comparable to the 1997/98 and the 1982/83 events. The latest sea temperatures in the central tropical Pacific (the NINO3.4 region) have maintained at 3.0C above normal. The event may well be approaching its peak.

            During the last two weeks the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) has risen sharply, crossing into neutral territory for the first time since July.
            Seas around New Zealand continue cooler than usual.”

            And so I would expect that we would be below average on growing degree-days.

            And I would be looking at trends in evaporation.
            Certainly having to cut 100 acres of surplus grass for hay this week is minimally indicative of dry conditions ; I’ll be lucky to sneak it in without rain , in the present situation.
            And regrowth from the second silage cut is not moisture impaired..

            “The December outlook:

            December starts very warm, notably so for the South Island. However, the second week turns unusually cold for the time of the year right across New Zealand.Temperatures for the second half of the month look likely to continue a touch cooler over the southern South Island, but return to near average for the rest of the country.”

            I think that the Met Service is accurate at this point.

            1. Nothing the Met Service has to say is inconsistent with NIWA’s drought monitor. The fact that you are not particularly dry does not mean other parts – large parts – of NZ aren’t.

            2. True, and Niwa’s January and February outlook shows a continuation of those same conditions.
              What I cannot rule out though is the possibility that 30 years of organic pastoral farming , following 30 years of town supply pastoral dairying, have produced some well adapted pastures , and perhaps enhanced soil water-holding capacity.
              And of course from 1975-1999, my farm was nearly always brown by Christmas, and frequently stayed that way until early May.

        2. To which I would add that this year’s rainfall at Limestone Hills stands at 398mm, some way short of the driest year in the last 20, which was 1998 at 421mm. There’s not much in the forecast either.

          The worrying thing from my perspective is that 98 was the year the last big El Niño went into decline. If 2016 follows the same pattern, then the consequences in my neck of the woods could be severe. We’re already seeing significant signs of moisture stress in mature trees, and we’re not as dry as around Cheviot, for example.

          1. From the “weather is not climate” department, after the heavy hailstorm that Christchurch experienced on Sunday, one enterprising person(s) managed to make a snow(ice) man on the side of our street.

            Not a sight you see often in NZ, summer especially.

            1. Careful, Andy, lest you admit that the weather is becoming more extreme – yet more evidence of climate change…

  8. I’ve always maintained that the ETS is an outright scam – and now there is Proof! This govt has no intention what so ever to take any action on reducing emissions and simply intends to use fraudulent Carbon trading units it has previously bought and laundered so it can continue with BAU. NZ will be seen as a Pariah in future, a scammer and not to be trusted nation.

    1. This is the problem with having a share trader for a PM. He has no feeling or understanding of the environment and think that anything can be bought and sold with impunity. He is still doing well in the polls but this can change in and instant and he could go the same way as Abbott and Harper. The people know what is going on.

  9. “This govt. has no intention whatsoever of taking any action on reducing emissions, and simply intends to use fraudulent Carbon Trading Units it has previously bought and laundered , so that it can continue with BAU. ”
    [Edited by respondent]

    That seems to be an accurate summation of the situation.

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