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Why The UK Should Not Sign The Paris Agreement

September 26, 2016

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.





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.

  1. rwoollaston permalink
    September 26, 2016 7:02 pm

    Good summary Paul. I understand the reason the agreement reads ‘should’ rather than ‘shall’ is to allow Obama to ratify it without going to Congress, which is a route that legally binding agreements need to follow in the USA.

    Another point is related to the classification of countries as ‘developed’ or ‘developing’. As far as I know, here is no mechanism to change this classification during the life of the agreement – despite the likelihood of China becoming the largest global economy in that period.

    • September 26, 2016 7:46 pm

      The reason is that the distinction was frozen into the UNFCCC ‘treaty’ in 1993. That way, China stays a developing country forever.

  2. markl permalink
    September 26, 2016 7:09 pm

    “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.”

    Simple explanation: They are not “Western” countries. AGW is about wealth redistribution FROM the Western countries to everyone else. It is their penance for being successful. China is being paid to give the appearance they are on board with the AGW narrative when in fact they are laughing all the way to the bank and quite convinced the UN is scheming to gain control of the world.

  3. CheshireRed permalink
    September 26, 2016 7:22 pm

    16. The Guardian and BBC would be truly, madly, deeply apoplectic with rage. Worth it for that alone. 🙂

  4. TinyCO2 permalink
    September 26, 2016 7:41 pm

    Look good to me. Some other ideas to consider.

    I think it might help to indicate how much of our progress so far has been down to swapping coal for gas and was both relatively cheap and easy. You’ve mentioned exporting emissions. Low hanging fruit and all that. Here on in it gets much more difficult and expensive. If our old nuclear fleet starts failing we might even slide backwards.

    Much of our early emissions are not the result of ‘western greed’ but peaceful progress. Even energy efficiency had to be designed and built. Most of our progress on all fronts can be enjoyed wherever the leadership of that country will allow it. China, for example, didn’t limit its emissions for altruistic reasons but because it followed a disastrous political path. Is it fair to make the British public pay now for other countries’ free choices in the past?

    Mrs May’s government has recently seen the result of leaping too fast at CO2 solutions and to avoid future expensive gaffs, removing a panic inducing deadline is imperative for sensible decision making. Eg Highly inefficient distributed renewable generation might be rapidly made redundant by a concentrated supply like fusion.

    Much of China’s renewable increase has been due to a massive over investment in solar panel manufacture caused by a smaller than expected market in the West. The government offered subsidies for manufacture and then subsidy for installation so that the first investment would not go to waste. However those second wave of payments are unsustainable and have dried up leaving investors facing bankruptcy. They are learning the same lesson that dented the West’s demand for solar panels in the first place.

    There have been strong movements in the US and UK in protest against governments they feel do not put their citizens first. Any leader hoping for international acclaim must not leave their people behind when making promises their people and industry can’t or won’t fulfil.

  5. September 26, 2016 7:44 pm

    FWIW, many of your points are related and could possibly be condensed into fewer, simpler ones. Example: Developing countries don’t have the same obligations as developed countries and this includes China and South Korea. China and India explicitly will not cut emissions before 2030. And neither will Pakistan, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Phillipines. Example: NDICs are voluntary, there is no penalty for not meeting them, and (your excellent graphic) what is on offer is useless.

    To the extent Clexit is political, then for ordinary voters simple, irrefutable, memorable ‘sound bites’ are more effective than longer, more detailed, but less memorable prose. Think about the clever turn of phase that captures an essence. An example might be your point 15. ‘Stopping global warming isn’t about saving the environment. It is about destroying modern society’s economic foundations.’ Then give the UNFCC Figueres quote as the backup proof.

    My current favorite sound bite ‘ political killer’ is from Trump. Expect to hear it in tonight’s US presidential debate on topic 1, America’s direction:
    It used to be that we made cars in Flint (Michigan) and could not drink the water in Mexico. Now we make cars in Mexico and cannot drink the water in Flint. Wrong direction, America.

  6. tom0mason permalink
    September 26, 2016 8:02 pm

    If Britain is thinking of ratifying this action they must first ensure the money is fully accounted for.
    Currently neither the Green Climate Fund nor the Hundred Billion Dollar are not subject to public scrutiny.
    For more on this See Joanna Nova HERE.

    This is the standard of transparency and accountability Britain should allow for these huge funds?

  7. September 26, 2016 9:02 pm

    How about taking a position like the reasonable one of Canada under former PM Harper.

    1. UK is committed to doing its share, no more, no less, than its principle trading partners.
    2. Once ratification has been achieved by the EU and the US, UK can consider matching others’ efforts in an economically and socially responsible way.
    3. Sector by sector energy policies will be established in order that UK will not be disadvantaged in its trade competitiveness.

    • CheshireRed permalink
      September 27, 2016 8:43 am

      Sorry Ron but that’s far to sensible to get past government.

  8. September 26, 2016 9:52 pm

    It might be better to not mention climate or temperature goals at all, which removes the “climate denier” label. A good case can be made entirely in terms of attempting to change the atmospheric CO2, to stop it reaching some perceived “danger” level. The likelihood is that the Paris actions, even if fully implemented, will merely delay the arrival at the “danger” level by a few years. The trillions spent doing that would surely be better spent on improving resilience to weather extremes, worthwhile regardless of whether or not those extremes are getting worse.

    At the very least there should be continuous reviews of how atmospheric CO2 is responding to our attempts to change it, but there is currently a deafening silence about that, the mantra will always be “we must meet our emission targets”, with no interest in what those efforts are achieving.

    Advocates of decarbonisation are fond of talking about their children, but they will not thank us for leaving them with expensive and unreliable energy, in particular a shortage of proper power stations, and a despoiled countryside.

  9. Young John permalink
    September 26, 2016 11:11 pm

    Many excellent points. However, who is the target audience for this? If, as I suspect, it is principally senior policymakers, then it is too long. The points need to be crystallised down to a total of no more than a single page. If not, it simply won’t be read. By all means give references but please make the main text short.

    • September 27, 2016 3:53 am

      In my former corporate world, we used to call it an elevator speech. Ground floor to 12th ‘C suites’, no more than 30 seconds. And definitely on one side of one sheet of paper hnded over after speech as elevator doors opened.
      It takes much work and wisdom to polish up an elevator speech.

    • September 27, 2016 6:37 am

      Perhaps it could follow the modern trend, i.e. an “Executive Summary” of no more than a page, followed by the full paper with references. I agree that very few people are prepared to read more than a page, but the information needs to be there for those truly interested and those who need the full facts and the evidence backing it up.

      • jmmcthompson permalink
        September 27, 2016 8:43 am

        Why not follow the IPCC format and have “Summary for Policymakers”

  10. Johnyaya permalink
    September 27, 2016 2:26 am

    The Importance of nuclear power should be stressed as it is a much-needed adjunct to fossil fuels for the production of sufficient energy to improve the living standard of developed and impoverished nations. My suspicion is that China will be the first to develop fusion power and will put everyone else to shame simply because the leaders of the “developed nations” are too stupid to make the investment required, whereas the Chinese are likely to do so. One can only hope they will succeed or come close enough that everyone else will jump on the bandwagon for fear of being left behind. One look at our presidential candidates in the US and it becomes immediately apparent how off-track we are for solving our own problems and much less, the world’s.

  11. September 27, 2016 9:32 am

    Reblogged this on Wolsten.

  12. September 27, 2016 9:40 am

    All good points Paul, would be helpful to add sources for all of the references. I am presenting my paper on the futility of wind energy at the public enquiry into the Scout Moor Wind Farm extension in October and the Paris INDC projection is a powerful graph to display – many thanks. I also tend to agree that an exec summary followed by detailed discussion is a good approach. A standalone PDF version would be very useful for easy distribution.

  13. dennisambler permalink
    September 27, 2016 10:11 am

    Typo -“who are emit most GHGs”

    Lord Adair Turner was the previous Chairman of the UK “Independent” Committee on Climate Change that advises the Government on its climate legislation. On the 4th of February 2009, he told the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) that:

    “The core (of the UK Climate Act} is contract and converge. We cannot imagine a global deal which is both doable and fair which doesn’t end up by mid-century with roughly equal rights per capita to emit and that is clearly said in the report. This is strong support for what Aubrey Meyer has been saying.”

    On the 4th of March 2009, the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee (ECCC) then told Lord Adair Turner that: – “Your pragmatic support for Contraction and Convergence from the meeting with the EAC, is very welcome.”

    Contract and converge is based on the false concept of a carbon budget, which claims that historic emissions form part of our “all-time global citizen allowance” and we in the West must now cease CO2 emissions, whilst allowing undeveloped countries to replace them with their own. The first mention of a 2 degree limit was by economist W Nordhaus in 1977.

    The UN says that undeveloped countries should be allowed to increase their CO2 emissions, i.e. fossil energy usage, to lift them out of poverty. The corollary is that by reducing our CO2 emissions and increasing our energy costs with heavily subsidised, unreliable and inefficient “renewable” energy, we will increase poverty in the West.

    Proponents claim that “green” jobs will be created on the way to a Green World Economy. “Green” jobs are false jobs, in that they waste resources replacing existing energy supplies with more expensive ones, to produce the same goods as before, less competitively, or not at all. I suppose a wind powered blast furnace could work in the same way as a blacksmith’s bellows…..

    Aubrey Meyer is an author, climate campaigner and composer. he is also a former member of the Green Party.

    “He co-founded the Global Commons Institute (GCI) in 1990. At the request of the IPCC in 1992, Meyer conceived and presented his analysis of ‘The Unequal Use of the Global Commons’ to the Policy Working Group of the IPCC.

    This was dubbed ‘Expansion and Divergence’ and, led to a decisive international rejection, at the UN climate negotiations in 1995, of the global cost benefit analysis of climate change by some economists from the USA and UK whose methods depended on the unequal valuation of human lives lost due to climate change in industrialised countries, compared to those lost in developing countries.

    This led to the development of GCI’s framework of ‘Contraction & Convergence’ (C&C). Introduced at the UNFCCC in 1996, C&C’s approach to stabilising greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at a ‘safe’ level (by sharing the limited and finite weight of such gases that future human activity can release into the atmosphere on an equal per capita basis) raises a key issue in the climate change debate.

    Meyer says the world must collaborate with musical discipline to avert runaway climate change: i.e. play C&C’s ‘carbon reduction score’ in time, in tune and together. A cross party group of British MPs nominated Meyer for the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize.”

    Flights could be rationed, says environment tsar Lord Turner

    “The Conservatives in 2007 briefly advocated a policy of giving people an annual allowance of short-haul flights, after which they would attract progressively higher taxes. It was quietly dropped after widespread criticism.”

    Meanwhile back at the ranch:

    And in India:

    “India, France ink €7.87 billion agreement for 36 Rafales”

    India on Friday concluded an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) with France for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of €7.87 billion, the first fighter aircraft deal since the purchase of Sukhois from Russia in the late 90’s.

    The Rafale is a twin-engine, multi-role fighter aircraft. According to Dassault, it is capable of carrying out all combat missions: air defence, interception, ground support, in-depth strikes, reconnaissance, anti-ship strikes and nuclear deterrence.

    The last part is of particular interest to India and these aircraft are likely to succeed Mirage fighters for nuclear warhead delivery as part of India’s nuclear doctrine. “The IGA does not put any restrictions on its use,” a senior defence official said in what would be welcome news for India’s strategic planners.

    “Green Climate Fund to become operational soon”

    “The $100-billion Green Climate Fund will soon become operational in India and the process of accrediting organisations which can access the funds is going on, Dipak Dasgupta, Alternate Director (India), Green Climate Fund Board and Chair, Investment Committee, says. Some international agencies has already accessed funds to work towards climate change mitigation and adaptation.”

    Background to IPCC:
    “Digging up the roots of the IPCC”
    “The UN’s all-powerful climate change panel is no straightforward scientific body. It is a deeply political organisation that was born out of disenchantment with progress.”

  14. NeilC permalink
    September 27, 2016 10:33 am

    Thanks Paul for the work put into this.

    However, “Chasing decarbonisation targets risks causing untold damage to the UK.” sums it up perfectly.

    The Paris agreement is all based on a non-proven theory (in the real world) that CO2 causes catastophic temperature rise.

    Human emmissions of CO2 affecting temperature increase cannot be recognised from natural variation caused by the temperature increase recovery from the little ice age (LIA).

  15. David Lilley permalink
    September 27, 2016 12:16 pm

    It sticks in the craw that we cannot challenge the very basis of the claim that CO2 controls the climate. But would it be sailing too close to the wind to draw attention to Bjorn Lomborg’s work? He accepts the orthodox stance on the effect of CO2 but his paper (press release below) quantifies the futility of the Paris Agreement in terms of its affect on future temperatures.

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