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COP-21 & Developing Countries

August 22, 2016

By Paul Homewood  


The recent series of energy articles by Ambrose Evans Pritchard hinges on the extremely naive belief that China, India and the rest of the developing world have signed up to an agreement to decarbonise, and thus ultimately cripple, their economies.


It is good timing then that Robin Guenier, a barrister, has just written this legal analysis of just what was agreed at Paris:




COP-21 & Developing Countries


In discussions about the UK’s energy policy in general and about the proposed nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in particular, an important consideration is I suggest being overlooked. It’s this: under the terms of the text agreed last December at the UN’s COP-21 conference in Paris, so called “developing” countries are exempted from any obligation, moral or legal, to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As such countries are responsible for over 65% of global emissions (1) and the quantity of GHGs they emit is most likely to increase (as, for example, they continue to build coal-fired power plants (2), it makes little sense for the UK – responsible for only about 1% of global emissions – to regard GHG reduction as an important factor in planning its future energy needs.


This is exacerbated by the probability that two major “developed” countries – Russia and Japan, responsible for about 9% of global GHG emissions – will continue to burn (even increase) their current levels of fossil fuels.(3) The USA and Europe are responsible for most of the remaining emissions; but, as that’s less than 25% of the global total, there’s little they can do, short of closing down their economies altogether, that could make a significant contribution to the reduction of overall global emissions.



The developing countries’ exemption arises from the following:


1. Two key documents: last year’s Paris text (4) and its “parent treaty”, the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (“the Convention”) (5). (Note: there’s nothing in the Paris text that changes or overrides the essential status and content of the Convention.)


2. The Convention’s distinction between “developed” and “developing” countries – a distinction unchanged since 1992. Developing countries comprised the vast bulk of countries represented in Paris, representing about 82% of humanity including essentially all the world’s poorest people, most of whom have either no or inadequate access to the power sources taken for granted in the West. But they also included major economies such as China, India, South Korea, Brazil, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and Iran, all of which (except arguably the latter two) are far more powerful than they were when the Convention was enacted.


3. Articles 4.7 of the Convention and 4.4 of the Paris text: the former allows developing countries to give overriding priority to “economic and social development and poverty eradication”, whereas the latter merely encourages them “to move over time towards economy-wide emission reduction or limitation targets in the light of different national circumstances”.



The West had intended that Paris should have a radically different outcome. Hence this DECC objective:


“… a legally binding, global climate change agreement with emission reduction commitments from all countries”.(6)


But developing country negotiators, led by China and India, ignored the West’s (albeit feeble) demands. And Western negotiators, determined to avoid another debacle such as the outcome of COP-15 (Copenhagen, 2009), didn’t press the issue. Hence the Paris agreement’s failure to achieve the West’s most basic aim: that powerful emerging economies should be obliged to share in emission reduction.





1 Individual country’s emissions (to 2014):

2 For example see, Benjamin Sporton’s comments here: and this:

3 See: and

4 The agreed Paris text:


6 Extracted from a UK Department of Energy and Climate Change pre-Paris review: 



Robin Guenier, August 2016 Guenier is a writer, speaker and business consultant – now retired. He has an MA from Oxford and is a barrister. After twenty years as CEO of various hightech companies, he founded (1995) an independent business consultancy, Guenier Ltd, specialising most recently in project risk; an early assignment was as CEO of the Central Computing and Telecommunications Agency reporting at ministerial level to the Cabinet Office. He was founder chair of the medical online research company, Medix UK. He has been a regular contributor to TV and radio and has had speaking engagements throughout the world. He has various charitable interests and is a Freeman of the City of London. These notes were written in his private capacity.

  1. August 22, 2016 5:23 pm

    Thank you for this post. Robin Guenier has confirmed what any of us suspected. The purpose of COP21 is not what we thought.

    • John F. Hultquist permalink
      August 23, 2016 12:20 am

      COP21 is exactly what I thought. Who is “we?”

  2. Don B permalink
    August 22, 2016 6:15 pm

    “China and Japan have plans to build massive amounts of coal-fired power plants, while the United States is not only not building new coal-fired power plants, but it is also shuttering many of its existing coal-fired power plants because of Obama Administration policies. China is building one coal-fired power plant every 7 to 10 days, while Japan plans to build 43 coal-fired power projects to replace its shuttered nuclear units. The United States, on the other hand, cannot build new non-CCS coal-fired power plants and is shuttering existing coal fired power plants. These existing coal-fired power plants retiring in the United States are among the cheapest source of electricity generation in this country. To replace these plants with new generating capacity will cost the nation and thus taxpayers and consumers billions of dollars.

    • Tom O permalink
      August 22, 2016 8:27 pm

      True, to take cheap off line and replace it with expensive always costs more, and it costs “the average person” far worse than it does the stockholders of the companies that will build the new. Then again, not much sense in building new coal fired generators if the only coal you can get is imported – speaking of the US.

      In a cooling world, nations that are dominated more by heating than by cooling are playing “Russian roulette” with the lives of their citizens, but they don’t care since the purpose of not preparing for a cooling world is to force population reduction by hypothermia. There really is no real alternative explanation for the path we are on with the AGW hoax. Yes, a world government is intended, but population reduction is the first and foremost purpose for degrading your ability to run an economy and heat the homes of the citizens.

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      August 24, 2016 1:03 am

      Don B:
      There is the ‘little’ matter of India who are keen to generate more electricity cheaply, and guess which is the cheapest method open to them? Also Indonesia is planning multiple coal fired plants, and Vietnam and South Africa and 2 other African nations are negotiating with the Chinese to build coal fired plants. What Europe does is irrelevant.

  3. Dave Ward permalink
    August 22, 2016 6:16 pm

    South Korea is a “developing country”? I fail to see how that can possibly be the case. Major manufacturing – including some of the largest ships and their own car industry. Not forgetting their own design (APR-1400) nuclear reactors now coming on stream, and (from what I’ve read) 100mb fibre broadband to most city houses years ago.

    “Yer avin’ a giraffe!”

  4. August 22, 2016 6:27 pm

    Robin debunks the first of a series of suppositions making up the current effort to force companies to make climate change risk assessments. For example, Exxon shareholders voted in May on a proposal based on the following:

    Supposition 1: A 2C global warming target is internationally agreed.
    Supposition 2: Carbon Restrictions are enacted by governments to comply with the target.
    Supposition 3: Demand for oil and gas products is reduced due to restrictions
    Supposition 4: Oil and gas assets become uneconomic for lack of demand.
    Supposition 5: Company net worth declines by depressed assets and investors lose value.

  5. August 23, 2016 12:02 am

    They are trying to get around Article 4.7 with bribery and trickery

  6. NeilC permalink
    August 23, 2016 5:46 am

    Thank you Paul and Robin for bringing this to our attention.

    However, it doesn’t matter what COP21 agreed or not. In the UK we are severely encumbered by the Climate Change Act of 2008 and the disasterous effect this is having on our UK energy infrastucture.

    The sooner our weak politicians open their eyes to the real world facts about the UNsettled NONscience of CAGW the sooner we may get back to keeping the lights on over the next few winters.

  7. August 23, 2016 7:33 am

    Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

  8. Bloke down the pub permalink
    August 23, 2016 7:57 am

    Meanwhile, the UK energy supply is at even greater risk of blackouts this winter.

  9. August 23, 2016 7:58 am

    Every year the UK gets nearer to the cliff edge of power blackouts. This can’t go on without going over that edge unless policies change, and there’s no sign of that.

  10. Ex-expat Colin permalink
    August 23, 2016 9:13 am

    BBC HardTalk last night..Alberta and shale oil. You musn’t do that..oh no!

    Think thats the business of Canada…although thats likely classed as a mess.

  11. Robert Jones permalink
    August 23, 2016 10:13 am

    A copy of Robin Guenier’s short paper needs to be nailed to the desks of the Climate Change Committee at best speed.

  12. Robin Guenier permalink
    August 23, 2016 11:41 am

    Last week Professor Judith Curry posted a slightly different (less UK oriented) version of my notes:

  13. rwoollaston permalink
    August 23, 2016 5:20 pm

    This is entirely consistent with a legal analysis of the Paris Agreement carried out by Professor David Campbell for the Global Warming Policy Foundation. At the presentation he gave recently, he confirmed that all the developing countries need do is reduce the carbon intensity of new build capacity compared to that of the existing capacity by an as yet unspecified amount. The application of simple arithmetic using projected growth rates therefore shows that Paris ensures that global CO2 emissions will rise substantially. See the full paper here:

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