Why The UK Should Not Sign The Paris Agreement
By Paul Homewood
As you may be aware, a new group known as Clexit has recently been formed. Its aim is to campaign for countries either to refuse to ratify the Paris Agreement, or withdraw from it.
Clexit is already formed in 25 countries. One of the aims is to produce a well written case against ratification in each, and therefore I have drafted one for the UK.
Any comments would be welcome, and will be considered for final inclusion.
Please note that I have purposely laid this out as a largely political argument. I have therefore excluded any references to climate science for two reasons:
a) I do not want it to be summarily dismissed as the work of a “denier”.
b) The scientific case deserves to be presented in its own right, and preferably written by someone better qualified than me!
Last December, the world’s leaders, in the words of the UNFCCC, reached a landmark agreement to combat climate change. However, the Paris Agreement only comes into force once it has been ratified by at least 55 parties, with at least 55% of global GHG emissions.
The UK is not a party to the Agreement in its own right, nor has it made its own separate Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC). Instead, it is the EU which has represented all its member countries.
Thus far, the EU has made no move to ratify, or indicated when it will do so.
The UK, uniquely, has a legal commitment to cut GHG emissions by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050, courtesy of the Climate Change Act.
REASONS WHY THE UK SHOULD NOT SIGN
There are a number of reasons why the UK should not ratify the Paris Agreement:
1) First of all, as even the Agreement itself recognises, Paris will do nothing to cut GHG emissions. Instead, emissions will rise from 49 Gt in 2010 to 55 Gt by 2030 (see Paragraph 17).
The graph below, published by the UNFCCC, shows the massive gulf between the proposed INDCs and what is, supposedly, needed to keep to the 1.5C scenario.
Clearly the Agreement has failed on its own terms. Quite apart from any other reasons, there is no logical justification for the UK to ratify an agreement, which will not achieve its own stated aims.
2) Worse still, there is nothing of substance in the Agreement which is actually binding. Effectively, the only parts of it which are binding cover issues such as submitting of INDCs and GHG stocktaking every five years.
Pledges already made to reduce emissions remain voluntary and not binding. The Agreement simply states that developed countries should continue taking the lead by undertaking economy-wide emission reduction targets. (For it to be binding, it needed to be termed shall, rather than should)
If the UK does ratify, there is no guarantee that other countries will deliver their pledged emissions reductions.
3) The Agreement is even less demanding of developing countries. They are merely encouraged to reduce emissions, in the light of different national circumstances.
4) There is another glaring hole in the Paris Agreement, which goes to the heart of how politically one sided it is.
The Agreement expressly distinguishes between developed and developing countries. It is understandable, and perfectly reasonable, that such a distinction is made. If we are going to “save the planet”, it seems only fair that the richer nations, who are likely to emit most GHGs, should bear most of the burden.
However, for some inexplicable reason, countries such as China, India and South Korea are classified as developing, and not developed. This is despite the fact that China’s emissions of CO2 per capita are actually higher than the UK’s. (see here)
If that is not incredible enough, consider that major oil producing countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE, are also classified as “developing”, regardless of the fact that their per capita GDP is light years above many supposedly “developed” countries.
5) The INDC submitted by the EU states that:
The EU and its Member States are committed to a binding target of an at least 40% domestic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 1990, to be fulfilled jointly.
However, this reduction will not be shared evenly across the EU. The EU Commission has proposed that the UK must cut emissions by 37% from 2005 levels, by 2030. This compares to the EU average of 30%.
This is not acceptable.
There is, of course, the further complication of Brexit. Until the details of this are sorted out, we should not accept any targets imposed on us by the EU.
6) Renewables don’t work.
There is a naive belief that renewable energy is capable of powering the economy. It cannot, and will not be able to for the foreseeable future.
According to DECC, wind and solar energy only supplied 2.1% of the UK’s primary energy consumption in 2015, despite the billions spent.
Chasing decarbonisation targets risks causing untold damage to the UK.
7) One particularly pernicious effect of our attempts to meet decarbonisation and renewable targets has been the ruinous development of biofuels.
It is well accepted that burning forests to produce electricity does not reduce CO2 emissions, and often has serious and harmful environmental side effects.
As for biofuels in cars, the use of productive agricultural land, which could and should be producing food, is shameful.
8) Attempting to meet our emissions targets under the Paris Agreement will cost far more than the country can afford.
Using data provided by the Committee on Climate Change, expert analysis has shown that the cost of meeting decarbonisation targets for the electricity system alone will be £157 billion in the next fifteen years.
Decarbonising heating, transport and industry will inevitably cost many billions more.
9) Action already taken to meet EU and Climate Change Act decarbonisation targets has damaged our industrial competitiveness. This is only the thin end of the wedge, and we can expect our industrial base to shrink much further in years to come.
Ironically, UK policies have simply succeeded in switching industrial production to Asia and other parts of the world, where emissions tend to be much greater.
10) It is one of the stated aims of the Climate Change Act that the UK should demonstrate strong international leadership, which is key to helping achieve multilateral agreements.
It must now be clear that our “leadership” has failed to meet its objectives.
As already stated, the Paris Agreement will actually lead to GHG emissions continuing to grow in the years leading up to 2030.
11) As noted, the Paris Agreement does absolutely nothing to reduce global GHG emissions in the period up to 2030, with which it concerns itself.
Not only that, though, it does nothing to reduce emissions thereafter.
Although it expresses the aim of holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, there are no actions, timetable or targets for how this should be achieved.
Quite simply, all Paris has managed to do is to kick the can down the road for another ten or twenty years.
It is ridiculous for the UK to ratify an agreement, which will do untold damage to the UK, and yet which is totally incapable of meeting its stated aims.
12) It is extremely naive to believe that future leaders of China, India and other developing countries will allow themselves to be bound by promises made the current ones.
Instead, they will continue to look after their countries’ interests. Can we, for instance, imagine India’s Prime Minister in twenty years time telling his people that they can forget about access to cheap electricity, just because Mr Modi made a vague promise in 2015? If he did, he would not get elected.
Or can we imagine China’s future leaders denying their populace’s desire for better standards of living, because Xi Jinping agreed something with Barack Obama? That is not how China’s Communist Party works.
Yet it is on this naive belief that the UK and other western countries are prepared to sacrifice their economies.
13) Even if the political will was there, it seems extremely unlikely that China, India and the others will make any sudden transition away from fossil fuels in the 2030s. They have made huge investments in oil, gas and coal assets, and are planning to make many more during the next decade and more.
These investments include building hundreds of new coal power stations, developing oil and gas fields, and, in China’s case, financing new pipelines to import oil and gas from Russia.
As an example, according to the US Energy Information Administration, China invested $73 billion in overseas oil and gas assets between 2011 and 2013.
Investments like these are designed to have an economic life of several decades. It is fanciful to assume that China, or the rest, will simply write off such assets after just a few, short years of use.
14) Because of their size, we often focus on China and India. However, it is important to appreciate that many other countries in Asia are following similar paths.
For instance, there are huge expansions of coal fired capacity taking place in Pakistan, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines. None of these countries have agreed to reduce emissions.
15) While western leaders delude themselves that they are doing something to save the planet, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, admitted that the goal of environmental activists is not to save the world from ecological calamity but to destroy capitalism.
"This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution," she said.
Referring to a new international treaty environmentalists hope will be adopted at the Paris climate change conference later this year, she added: "This is probably the most difficult task we have ever given ourselves, which is to intentionally transform the economic development model for the first time in human history."
Meanwhile, for developing countries it is all about money, hence their demand for $100 billion every year in climate aid.
In short, we are being asked to sign an agreement which will do nothing to reduce emissions of GHG, will impose huge costs on the UK, and cause untold damage to the economy.
All of the above may seem a bit self centred or UK-centric. There is, however, one other, maybe overwhelming, reason why the Paris Agreement is bad, and should not be ratified.
Above all, developing countries need access to abundant, reliable and cheap energy, if they are to improve the lot of their people. To a large extent, this can only be supplied by fossil fuels.
The last thing they need or want is to have western ideals imposed on them.