UN Climate Conference Makes Little Progress

Published February 14, 2019

The 24th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ended after two weeks of negotiations with very little to show for the efforts of the thousands of participants.

Unprecedented Rejection

COP24 got off to a rough beginning, with delegates failing to adopt the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) October 2018 special report describing the purported pending dangers from human-caused climate change.

The 2015 Paris climate agreement was predicated on the IPCC’s previous report’s claims global greenhouse gas emissions would have to be reduced 50 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, and 80 percent by 2050, to keep global temperatures from approaching 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, in order to prevent a variety of disastrous consequences.

IPCC’s most recent report, however, claimed those cuts would be too little, too late, instead arguing the world must reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2030 and emissions of greenhouse gases must be net-zero by 2050 in order to hit the temperature targets.

Historically, each new IPCC report has been “welcomed” at the COP meeting following its release, indicating the countries participating in the climate negotiations accepted the report as establishing the scientific background for negotiations. At COP24, however, Kuwait, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United States objected to the word “welcoming,” offering instead to  “take note” of the report. Other countries objected to this proposal because it would not specifically endorse IPCC’s findings.

Because COP meetings operate on consensus, the lack of agreement meant all references to the report in the UNFCCC’s rules and negotiations document had to be dropped, a first for a COP meeting.

Big Failures

After marathon negotiations, representatives from nearly 200 countries who had gathered in Katowice, Poland from December 2 through December 14 failed to provide any additional commitments of funding for developing countries to adapt to climate change and could not tighten the required greenhouse gas emission reductions beyond what was agreed to in Paris in 2015, despite IPCC’s special report saying greater cuts are necessary to avoid environmental disasters.

Putting another damper on the proceedings, reports released shortly before the meetings showed greenhouse gas emissions had grown substantially over the past three years, proving governments were failing to reach the emission reduction commitments they made in the 2015 agreement.

In addition, Brazil’s newly elected President, Jair Bolsonaro, withdrew his country’s invitation to host COP25 and said he would follow U.S. President Donald Trump’s lead and withdraw Brazil from the 2015 Paris climate treaty.

The only concrete accomplishment delegates to COP24 could claim was adoption of a 156-page “rule book” outlining agreed-upon methods for tracking and counting carbon dioxide emissions. Like the emission reduction commitments in the 2015 agreement, the rule book’s accounting mechanisms are nonbinding.

COP25 is scheduled to take place in Chile in late 2019.

‘Entirely About Redistributing Wealth’

The UN’s climate agenda is about controlling the economy and directing resources to favored people, not about saving the Earth from runaway warming, says Jay Lehr, Ph.D., science director at The Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News.

“The world is beginning to wake up to the fact these COP meetings have almost nothing to do with protecting the environment or preventing climate change,” said Lehr. “The meetings are entirely about redistributing wealth from developed countries to elites in less-developed nations and ensuring socialism is the order of the day.

“If the UN successfully eliminates fossil fuels, the predictable consequence will be the poor around the world will remain poor, because they will be denied access to affordable and reliable energy,” Lehr said.

‘Resistance Is Visceral’

Weeks of fuel riots in France and the removal of various political leaders over their climate stances show a widening gap between governing elites and ordinary citizens, says Craig Rucker, president of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), who attended the UN conference in Poland.

“From France’s ‘yellow vests’ to Poland’s coal miners, to leaders being replaced in Australia, Ontario, and Brazil, a growing number of people are no longer willing to meekly accept what is handed down to them from on high,” Rucker said.

“The resistance is visceral, and it’s not going away,” Rucker said.

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research and a senior policy analyst with CFACT.