Harrabin's notes: Kyoto rumbles on

Qatar Qatar was built without a sea level rise in mind

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The clanking Kyoto climate Protocol lurched into its terminal phase in Doha, dragged down by complexity and self-interest to the last. Soon it will be replaced by a new model.

Since the protocol was constructed 15 years ago, greenhouse gases have risen relentlessly.

Authorities warn that on current trends the Earth is, at best estimate, likely to exceed the 2C temperature rise agreed as a limit by all governments.

Some think the climate will heat by as much as 6C.

Shale gas optimists hope that a global gas boom will provide a quick transition to a cleaner economy, but their strategy looks unlikely to lead to emissions cuts on the scale science says is needed.

'Sacrifice Brooklyn'

Others conclude that the UN climate process is useless and should be scrapped.

The oil giant Exxon, which previously denied climate change, is now saying that politics can't fix it: better adapt instead.

But scientists warn there is no credible scenario for adapting to temperatures at the upper limit.

Already, with a global temperature rise of 0.8C, even the US faces challenges. President Obama has asked for $60bn in the aftermath of "Superstorm" Sandy and New York may need to sacrifice Brooklyn to save Manhattan if a hurricane strikes again.

Imagine how Niger will cope. Or Bangladesh, where the delta cannot be protected by sea walls without unimaginable expense. Or Nauru in the South Pacific.

The Doha conference did take a small but surprising step towards acknowledging that rich nations may have an obligation to compensate poor nations which suffer irreparable damage from climatic change.

But all the nations in Doha agree that cuts need to be deeper and faster, preferably carried out by someone else. They don't doubt the mainstream science on climate change - indeed their governments helped to write it.

Streamline Kyoto

It's the will to succeed in this unprecedented co-operative endeavour that's leading to the Son of Kyoto - O'Kyoto, Al Kyoto, bin Kyoto, McKyoto - whatever it will be called.

The remains of a neighbourhood n Queen's after Hurricane Sandy hit in December 2012. "Superstorm" Sandy devastated some New York neighbourhoods

By December 2015 all the world's nations are due to have agreed a comprehensive deal to co-operate on an equal footing to tackle climate change. No more will China be able to criticise the US when its own current emissions have overtaken America's. (Although this is not true for cumulative emissions.)

No, the new deal will have to be fair to all. It will streamline the chaotic Kyoto system which bolted on branches as nations discovered one new unfairness after another: you chopped more trees; my industry collapsed so I lost money but saved carbon emissions; your cows belch more; you buy the stuff I make then blame me for the CO2 emissions.

The KP, as it's known, ended with four separate financial tracks that befuddled most climate diplomats. The EU delegation head told me even the EU's negotiating capacity was stretched to breaking.

How would Mali fare? Or Somalia, whose chair I borrowed for the final Doha plenary because many African delegates could not afford to postpone their flights. Others were slumbering at their desks after trying to negotiate single-handed round the clock.


This baffling thicket of rules will be swept away in the new treaty. But let's survey the task ahead. The world's nations will have to be ranked on a sliding scale with the richest polluters expected to cut most and contribute most cash towards helping the poor get clean energy and adapt to climate change. In future they may also be expected to compensate people if their land goes under the waves.

Imagine the job of negotiating that all-in-together treaty, which has been demanded by the US since it pulled out of Kyoto complaining that it would not accept targets unless rival China did too.

Meanwhile China is already consolidating its position for O'Kyoto. With millions of people in poverty, it expects to be treated as a developing nation. It expects not to be blamed by other nations for emissions it makes on their behalf.

Diplomats have just spent a fractious exhausting fortnight doing the housekeeping on the KP without any substantial new commitment to cutting emissions. Yet within three years a new deal is scheduled. Really?

'Inadequate' pace

The association of parliamentarians focusing on the environment, Globe, does not underestimate the scale of the task, but counsels against despair.

It will soon report that 32 out of 33 major economies have, or will have, significant legislation on climate or energy. The laws achieve low-carbon growth, greater energy security and a reduction in greenhouse gases and local air pollution.

In Doha the Dominican Republic took a lead for developing countries by pledging to cut its emissions. But even Globe admit that the overall pace of change is totally inadequate.

Some blame politicians but they underestimate the scale of this political task. In the UK the Chancellor has already secured a review of climate laws because they impose short-term costs on people already struggling to pay energy bills. And the big incumbent fossil fuel firms insist that they are allowed to extract all their reserves even though the International Energy Agency warns that the fuels can't be burned without wrecking the planet.

So who is winning the climate battle? Well, this year's talks were hosted by Qatar, which has the highest per capita emissions in the world. Did it pledge to cut emissions? No. Offer financial help to the poor? No.

Next year's talks are being hosted by Poland, which has weakened EU ambition on emissions cuts and wreaked concessions to be allowed to burn more coal.

Little wonder that some people are gambling that the Earth proves more resilient to CO2 than the vast majority of scientists believe.

Follow Roger on Twitter @rharrabin


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  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Negetive rated ?
    SURELY the thought of such a converter would be welcomed.
    Or is it you dont believe the EU would bury it ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    So now reporters are using extreme weather events when they want to talk about climate.

    I thought the mantra was “it's about the global climate not local weather”, well at least that was used when people were freezing last winter and mocking “global warming”

    Hurricanes will happen no matter what we do about CO2

    The climate is going to change no matter what actions we take

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    13 Mike Haseler - Ah, the goalposts have moved again! Just in a few years it's progressed from:
    "There is no warming & CO2 doesn't cause warming"
    "CO2 does cause warming, but it's negligible"
    "There is warming, but it's the Sun causing the warming"
    "CO2 causes warming, it's significant, but it's beneficial".

    Following the same progression as every other conspiracy theory in history!

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    BLACK_PEARL - overwhelmingly the evidence is that CO2 is beneficial even up to levels of 1000ppm (0.1%). I used to say there were two pieces of contrary evidence: reduced Arctic ice (not Antarctic which has grown) and Himalayan Glaciers. Now Himalayan glaciers are back to normal and all that is left is Artic ice (to be fair Arctic ice was back to its 30 year average earlier this year).

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Just imagine the panic in the EU & UK if a catalytic converter that reduced / converted CO2 output to nil out the tail pipe was available.
    The base of their major tax revenue would be ended.
    Bet it would be buried in the EU bunker.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Little_Old_Me "So many posts already misrepresenting the science -"

    Are you one of these people who deny the science that almost all scientists and sceptics support: that the greenhouse warming effect of CO2 is 1°C for a doubling?

    Are you one of these people who deny the science that CO2 is a plant food and all plants & crops grow better with higher levels of CO2?

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    BLACK_PEARL: 'Have I been miss sold' CO2 Road Tax?

    Yes, in the sense CO2 & CO2 greenhouse warming seems to be beneficial. But, there are good reasons to discourage cars, and if we could it would be better not to emit CO2.

    Personally I'd raise age of driving to 21 - they can easily cycle, walk & it will make them fitter for later life. (And less dangerous drivers & cars)

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    While wealth is in the hands of corporate banking interests, I can't see poor countries being bailed out. Saving poor people is not in their interest.

    Any support that is agreed will be palmed off straight onto the consumer and the banks will take a cut of any transaction. As per usual. I hope I'm wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    1.Mike Haseler of SCEF
    15 years without warming
    15:00 on 31st December is the time the Kyoto Commitment ends and there is no legally biding treaty with a commitment to reduce CO2
    So does this mean I've been 'miss sold' CO2 Road Tax ?
    Will the consumer Dept fight my case for a reclaim like PPI ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.


    I see you are begining to recognize that China is the "elephant in the room". Their carbon emmissions continue to rise at 400 MtC/year. Their total emmisions will soon be double that of USA.

    Since 1990 the UK have met their European targets by reducing our carbon emmissions by 20%. We have reduced emmissions by 30 MtC/year. 20years of work will be irradicated in one month by China.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    So many posts already misrepresenting the science......

    ....the only thing of real note the models are inaccurate about is how faster GW is happening - in reality it is happening at the pace we hitherto thought of as worst case.....

    ....if you are young enough to live more than a another couple of decades be afraid, be very afraid.....civilisation will collapse.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Yes. The climate changes. Like the weather
    A King Canute Tax won't change this tidal flow which has gone on for millions of years
    Only dummies believe we can control the weather





  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Drunken Hobo: 'Already 2 people claiming "No Global Warming in 15 Years'

    Would you prefer I said: "no warming this century". The simple fact, acknowledged by most climate researchers, is that their models based on massive (unsubstantiated) feedbacks do not predict the real climate. Without the feedbacks we are left with 1°C CO2 warming this century which even Stern says is beneficial.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Charlie1902 - I was selected to stand for the Green party. I just assumed there was good science. When I checked I found that that not only was there no science (behind most of the claim) there were a lot of lies.

    The reason I devote my time to getting rid of this scam is because I care about the type of world I leave to my children. And that doesn't stop me caring about the environment!

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Already 2 people claiming "No Global Warming in 15 Years" proving that you just read Daily Mail headlines and believe everything they say!
    If you pick an arbitrary start point, you can make any claim you like. Pick '99 or '00 and it'll "prove" that global warming is real, however that is not how you read a graph! We use long-period trends and they still show warming.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    I used to care - stopped flying, became a vegan, didn't drive but gave up - I'm not having kids so no matter what happens in the future I don't have anyone that will suffer for my actions: Do You?

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Have any of you decrying the sound science that is Anthropogenic Climate Change ever considered two things:

    A/. What will be the downfall of society?

    B/. What has caused more empires of yore to fail than any other?

    The answer to A is mankind's stupidity through causing the answer to B, climate change.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Outside the European Economic area, except for Australia there are only a couple of countries like kazakhstan that have signed up to this non-science. (15% of global CO2)

    It is just a fig-leaf agreement whose only purpose was to pretend there is an international treaty (when there isn't) to legitimise for the EU bureaucrats green non-science economic suicide pact.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Shale gas will offer both a financial and environmental reprieve but nuclear remains the only truly viable long term sustainability strategy.

    Unfortunately, nuclear energy has a massive image problem. A friend of mine discusses this here at: http://www.maxevda.com/ . What we really need is mainstream media like the BBC to start discussing nuclear energy in a light other than disaster.


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