Study day about the work of Prof Clive L. Spash re the Paris Climate Change Agreement, 20th January 2017

The Coordinating Group of Grandparents for a Safe Earth held an in-house study day in January which focussed upon the work of Professor Clive Spash of Vienna University, particularly his article ‘This Changes Nothing: The Paris Agreement to Ignore Reality’  

We especially considered the following points in it. We invite visitors to our website to read them and perhaps to be as concerned as we were. 

1.  ‘the 2 degree C target has been controversial’ (because it has always been based upon having only a 50:50 chance of being achieved), ‘does not avoid the threat of significant harm and as such is not in accord with the requirements of the UNFCCC.’

2. ‘atmospheric concentrations of GHGs have already exceeded the level expected to produce climate change of 2 degrees C.’ (See note 1 in the article and this link to the UNFCCC evidence which he cites

3. The promise ‘to pursue efforts’ to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C has no plans to achieve this’.

4. The ‘intended nationally determined contributions are more in line with a total warming of 3 degrees C’ (The Economist 12/12.15).

5. ‘Liability and compensation’ (for the damage caused by climate change) ‘are explicitly excluded.’

6. ‘In contradiction of the UNFCCC’s own remit, it confirms the conversion of the international position from prevention to risk management.’

7. The Agreement emphasises the aims of sustainable development and the eradication of poverty. However, ‘The Agreement cannot be read outside the context of effective corporate business lobbying and the new agenda for growth under the guise of ‘sustainable development’. The Agreement emphasizes the importance of the UN Resolution ‘Transforming our world: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’, which itself promotes economic growth, technology, industrialisation and energy use. The environmental devastation this would entail is meant to be addressed by the ‘endeavour to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation’ ‘.

8. ‘The Agreement is a fantasy which lacks any actual plan of how to achieve the targets for emissions reductions. There are no mentions of GHG sources, not a single comment on fossil fuel use, nothing about how to stop the expansion of fracking, shale oil, or explorations for oil in the Arctic or Antarctic.’

9. ‘There are no means for enforcement.’ And countries can withdraw ‘without any sanctions’.

10. ‘The aspirational targets bear no relationship at all to the reality of what governments and their business partners are actually doing today.’

11. ‘Economic growth is the priority to be protected and promoted above all else.’

12. ‘The contradiction at the heart of the Paris Agreement is actually unsurprising because the powerful lobbying for growth as the solution to climate change has for some time been orchestrated by corporate business and financiers using the rhetoric of a green economy.’

13. ‘Climate change policy must be crafted to serve the capital accumulating growth economy, and so the latter becomes the solution to (not the cause of) the former.’

14. ‘Apparently, the cause of climate change is not fossil fuel combustion or energy sources but inadequate technology, and the solution is sustainable development (i.e. economic growth and industrialisation) and poverty alleviation. As far as the current production and consumption systems are concerned, little needs to change.’

15. It is written as though ‘There are no elites consuming the vast majority of the world’s resources, no multinationals or fossil fuel industry needing to be controlled, no capital accumulating competitive systems promoting trade and fighting over resources…’

16. ‘In the final analysis, a simple test of the effectiveness of the Paris Agreement would have been a dramatic drop in the share price of the fossil fuel industry, which is loaded with toxic assets…..Nothing happened to the stock market because the Agreement is perceived by the fossil fuel industry and financial markets as no threat to business as usual, and possibly it is even a great opportunity for new financial instruments and ongoing economic exploitation of the planet…’

17. ‘Unfortunately, many environmental non-government organisations have bought into this illogical reasoning and justify their support as being pragmatic.’

We were disturbed by much that we learned, and left the meeting with a determination to face these realities about the Paris Agreement in many of the contexts in which we move.