COP21 – US outmanoeuvres EU

Brussels, Mon 14/12/2015 03:08

To:  EURACOAL members

History was made in Paris on Saturday at 19h27 when Laurent Fabius, the French Foreign Minister, used his gavel to bring COP21 proceedings to an end: 195 countries had adopted the “Paris Agreement”. If emotional energy could power the planet, then COP21 has provided us with enough to keep the lights on for the next hundred years. In a well-planned, theatrical show, watched live by thousands of sycophantic NGOs, governments of the world agreed to a text that allows the show to go on – in Marrakesh next year.

The Paris Agreement is not a treaty; it is not a protocol; it is not even a legally binding agreement – the onus on developed nations to reduce their absolute emissions was removed at the very last moment. “Shall” was changed at 19h25 to “should” in Article 4.4 – a “technical” correction to an error that had resulted from delegates and staffers being understandably sleep-deprived, according to the UNFCCC Deputy Executive Secretary, Richard Kinley (a Canadian national). The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, had done his job (see email 9 December 2015).

COP21 has boosted egos and made many people feel that they are engaged in something momentous. The European Commission will hail the agreement as a victory. EU citizens might be less enthusiastic. The EU and the EU alone, as a “regional economic integration organization”, “shall” meet the emission reduction targets set out in 28 “nationally determined contributions” (Article 4.18). So, whereas all other developed nations “should” continue to reduce GHG emissions and developing nations “should” continue to enhance their mitigation efforts, the EU has agreed that it “shall” adopt emission reduction targets. In English, we would call this a momentous “stitch-up”!

Next steps

The EU must now backtrack on its ambitious “intended nationally determined contribution” submitted to the UN in March 2015. It must do this before ratifying the agreement, so before 22 April 2016. Given that there is no legally binding, international agreement and no agreement with targets (except for the EU), only voluntary action to reduce emissions, the EU must now face reality and submit a new “nationally determined contribution” with a lower ambition level. A 30% target for 2030 now looks appropriate, as proposed by EURACOAL in our now infamous “suicide note” (

Key points from the “Paris Agreement”

Nations agree:

  • to peak GHG emissions as soon as possible and achieve a balance between sources and sinks in the second half of this century (i.e. GHG emission neutrality);
  • to keep global temperature increase “well below” 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C;
  • to submit nationally determined contributions with progressively higher ambitions and to review progress every five years;
  • to conduct a global stocktake in 2023, and every five years thereafter, to assess collective progress towards long-term climate goals and hence to inform nations on the scale of any future actions, in a “nationally determined manner”;
  • there are no punitive measures for non-compliance;
  • $100 billion a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020, with a commitment by developed nations to further finance in the future – other countries can contribute on a voluntary basis;
  • flexibility mechanisms will continue, with new rules and procedures yet to be agreed, as will technology transfer mechanisms;
  • carbon pricing is mentioned only once in passing, as an example of an incentive to reduce emissions;
  • the UNFCCC itself calls for more money to carry out its expanded responsibilities, as well as to cover the cost of two high-level climate “champions”; and
  • nations may ratify the agreement after 22 April 2016 – Mother Earth Day. It shall enter into force once at least 55 parties accounting for at least 55% of global GHG emissions have signed.

Crucially, the principle holds of “equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances”. So China and India got what they wanted – developing countries can continue to develop, unhindered by emission limits.

188 nations have already submitted their “intended nationally determined contributions” which, taken together, would limit global temperature rise to 2.7°C (ref. Climate Action Tracker / Potsdam Institute). The 1.5°C ambition is impossible – we know that from the IEA’s work on the 2°C target. Nevertheless, the IPCC has been asked to publish a special report in 2018 on low-emission pathways to achieve it. “Keep it in the ground” campaigns will morph into campaigns to “Put it back in the ground”, watched with growing incredulity.

The importance of the Paris Agreement lies not in its wording, which is weak to the point of irrelevance, but in the direction of travel. For the first time, all nations will report transparently to the UN every two years their GHG emissions (except the least developed countries and small island developing states) and submit plans to curb future emissions. Thus, the Paris Agreement is a step towards global government – a notable achievement and reflected also by the UNFCCC’s engagement with cities, regions, companies and investors, thus bypassing nation states.

You might be relieved that the agreement is weak. Don’t be. The words and legal basis no longer matter. Fossil fuels are portrayed by the UN as public enemy number one. We are witnessing a power bid by people who see the democratic process as part of the problem and have worked out ways to bypass it. Governments use the influence of NGOs – many of whom are funded by governments – to create the illusion of progress. The UN wants to destroy the fuels that have enabled great progress over the last 250 years: the cycle of uncertainty that the UNFCCC now proposes will increase the cost of project financing in the fossil fuel sector.

The UN lie

The Paris Agreement is founded on the belief that we can switch away from fossil fuels and thus make deep cuts in GHG emissions: renewables are the answer and the UN wants Africa to become the poster child of sustainable development using renewable energy sources (and African nations are happy to have us pay). The IPCC forecasts a total investment in renewables of $5.1 trillion to 2020 and $7.2 trillion for the decade 2021 to 2030; it calls for effective enabling policies to encourage this investment.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) expects renewable energy sources to account for 18% of total global energy supply by 2040 in its relatively optimistic new policies scenario. In contrast, the IPCC selected one scenario from the 164 it analysed to project a 77% share for renewables in 2050 (IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN), Cambridge University Press, 2012). The selected scenario was prepared by Sven Teske of Greenpeace! Moreover, while the IEA forecasts energy demand growth in the future of 1.0% p.a., the Greenpeace scenario selected by the UN has no growth, in fact slightly lower global energy consumption in 2050 than in 2007, and an inexplicably large contribution from wind and solar.

The world is being sold a lie, yet most people seem to accept the lie, even if they do not believe it. The UN has successfully brainwashed most of the world’s population such that scientific evidence, rational analysis, enlightened thinking and common sense no longer matter. Finding a common enemy that brings humanity together around a negotiating table is certainly better than fighting wars, but building that common enemy on a lie will end in tears.

Total primary energy supply, shares by energy source as forecast by IEA and UN

IEA New Policies Scenario, 2040 (WEO 2015) UNEP/WMO IPCC SRREN report, 2050 (ER-2010)
coal 25% 2%
oil 26% 11%
gas 24% 7%
nuclear 7% 0%
hydro 3% 4%
bioenergy* 10% 19%
other renewables** 5% 57%

* mainly non-commercial firewood and dung in poor countries

** mainly solar and wind

What was COP21 really about?

In a word: “equity”. Poor countries see the UNFCCC as a source of development funding or “climate justice”, while rich countries see it as an opportunity for a “just transition” to a more harmonious world. To explain this further, the UK’s former Archbishop of Canterbury articulated in Paris the thinking of many NGOs:

“We’re not faced with a choice between a couple of good causes, either we interest ourselves in environment or we interest ourselves in peace-making or perhaps we interest ourselves in development. These are all locked tightly together and, to my mind, it is essential that we understand that interconnectedness; but, to understand that is to also understand that we need a basic shift in our attitude to growth and prosperity. The myth that we are capable, as a human race, of endless economic expansion is exactly that: it’s a myth and it’s a deeply dangerous one and it’s going to be a murderous one. We need to think again about what security and prosperity means, without that aspiration to infinite and unstoppable economic growth.” (

UK Green Party MP (and former MEP), Caroline Lucas, says that she hopes the Paris Agreement will speed up the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy:

“Renewables are already massively coming down in price and within a very few years solar energy, for example, will be totally competitive with fossil fuels, indeed will probably be cheaper than fossil fuels, so this will accelerate the transition which is already happening and which is already going to ultimately save us money.”

We can all agree with her: wherever economic alternatives exist to fossil fuels, let’s use them. So, no need for UN agreements or for trillions of dollars of public money.

Other COP21 news

The New York based campaign organisation, Avaaz, has exposed the seven biggest “climate criminals” at COP21. Activists handed out wanted posters in Paris and pasted them outside hotels. Avaaz is well-organised and well-funded (c.$20 million annual budget). No one knows where this money comes from – Avaaz says it is from individual donations, each of less than $5,000. Few believe this story and Avaaz is certainly no grassroots organisation: it comprises a group of PR professionals who make a living by feeding off US power brokers. It focuses on headline issues, using online petitions, media campaigns and direct actions, emailings, government lobbying and organised protests and events. It has been active in Syria, calling for the overthrow of President Assad. Somewhat disturbingly, Avaaz employed children to campaign in Paris. Thankfully, not something that the coal industry any longer does.



The seven “climate criminals” are:

  • Benjamin Sporton, Chief Executive at the World Coal Association
  • Fiona Wild, VP for Environment and Climate Change at BHP Billiton (to ensure her safety, BHP told her to leave Paris last Thursday)
  • Marc Morano, who runs the climate-sceptic website and aims to subject climate scientists to public scrutiny (he relishes the publicity)
  • Myron Ebell, Director of right-wing US think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute (with past links to ExxonMobil)
  • Chris Horner, funded by the US coal industry to harass climate scientists (i.e. the now bankrupt Alpha Natural Resources, Drummond, Arch Coal and United Coal)
  • Bjorn Lomborg, author of “The Skeptical Environmentalist” in which he ridicules government climate policy using sound economic analysis (he does not accept money from industry – I know this to be true, because I’ve tried to have him speak at a EURACOAL event)
  • James Taylor, Senior Fellow at the Heartland Institute which questions the science behind IPPC reports (I met him last Monday and he doesn’t come across as a dangerous criminal, but one never knows)
Kids bid adieu to fossil fuels, Avaaz

Greenpeace painted roads around the Arc de Triomphe yellow (here’s how they did it: Police moved in before their rays of sunshine were complete. Very artistic, but against the law. And that highlights the problem that we, the coal industry, now face. The rule of law is being replaced by mob rule which is very dangerous for the future well-being of society. Governments, including the European Commission, are in cahoots with protest movements, because the ballot box is seen as an inadequate tool by those who know better than the “man in the street” about complicated problems such as climate change. The climate bandwagon is rolling and gathering speed such that the fossil fuel industry will spend the coming years and decades in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. We will be hated and vilified, in the same way that slave traders were once hated and vilified. This is not a sustainable position and the industry should no longer acquiesce.


Brian RICKETTS, Secretary-General