Doha

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As predicted, the 18th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change did not bring much, despite the arduous effort of most of the 17,000 delegates in Doha. The Doha Gateway Package promises that a new treaty will be negotiated by 2015. The 2007 Bali Roadmap promised the same, only to fail two years later in Cancun. I predict that the Paris negotiations will not deliver either.

Doha did extend the Kyoto Protocol from 2015 (as agreed in Durban) to 2020. The Kyoto Protocol is now a European affair, with Australia as an honorary member. The emissions targets agreed in Doha are the same as the targets adopted a long time ago in Brussels.

Doha did agree to end the twin-track negotiations, with one track for Europe to do what it wants and another for the rest of world to be in deadlock. Europe will join the deadlock so.

At the moment, donor countries divert development assistance to climate aid, meant to reduce overseas emissions and help poor countries adapt to climate change. (By the way, development assistance also pays for the international travel of Ireland’s climate negotiators.) In Doha, there was much talk of changing these voluntary contributions to mandatory ones, based on some form of accountability.

Needless to say, the USA are dead against any admission of liability. China’s position will rapidly change once they realize that they are the greatest contributor to climate change since 1992, when climate change was internationally recognized as a problem.

Today’s editorial in the Irish Times paints a different picture. However, the EU did not take on further commitments to reduce emissions. Sandy and Bopha cannot be attributed, either physically or statistically, to climate change.

The Irish Times also calls for a Climate Bill. Draft Bills would have created new bureaucracies, but would not have contributed to emission reduction (as argued here and here).

Climate policy does not need bureaucrats. A carbon tax would work just fine. I was therefore pleased that as of Budget2(0)13 solid fuels will no longer be exempted from the carbon tax. Let’s hope that the fiscal problems elsewhere will force other countries to follow Ireland’s example and introduce a carbon tax too. It would be even better if austerity would cull the excessive numbers of climocrats.

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34 Responses to “Doha”

  1. seafóid Says:

    The question of liability is going to be very interesting in future. Car companies already market their products on the basis of lower carbon emissions. Once the link between climate breakdown and oil burning is finalised the game will be up.

    “Sandy and Bopha cannot be attributed, either physically or statistically, to climate change.”

    That will make a great epitaph

  2. The Dork of Cork. Says:

    “Climate policy does not need bureaucrats. A carbon tax would work just fine

    But who gets to spend the carbon after it is taxed ?

  3. seafóid Says:

    Climate policy needs dirigisme. People working together who can think beyond the end of the financial quarter. Expecting our plutocrats to do something is deluded.

  4. The Dork of Cork. Says:

    More evidence of something very deep happening within the Anglo countries – In the States the constant rise of rail freight
    In the UK the constant rise of rail passengers

    http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/server/show/ConWebDoc.11062

    Dec 6
    “The total number of kilometres travelled by rail passengers in Q2 2012-13 was 14.8 billion kilometres – more kilometres recorded within any quarter since records began and an increase of 4.0% compared to the same period last year”

    The Euro tactic of simply taxing activity rather then producing more base like (almost) monetary units merely exports activity elsewhere…..

    Carbon will be burned regardless – tax it seems will merely transfer where it is burned.

    The Euro boys have more concern for their Asian plantations rather then their domestic slaves in the Big Euro plantation house.

    The EU is one big gigantic Folly.

  5. The Dork of Cork. Says:

    http://dataportal.orr.gov.uk/displayreport/html/html/e1305639-6147-4f64-af62-c8d78477c685

  6. Sporthog Says:

    Indeed…

    “The Irish Times also calls for a Climate Bill. Draft Bills would have created new bureaucracies, but would not have contributed to emission reduction ”

    Very sad when serious problems are seen as an opportunity to build an empire instead. Jobs for the boys.

    In the end it might not matter, if national policy is unable to implement positive job creating change… then the extreme forces of nature might create the change for us anyway.

    Apart from the carbon tax on solid fuels, don’t forget Mr Noonan’s tax rebate system for employing tax certified tradesmen to carry out home improvements etc.

    Now that has to be positive, abet even if it is a small step, and will not save the planet.

  7. veronica Says:

    The Irish carbon tax was introduced to generate revenue for the Exchequer and had little or nothing to do with Ireland’s climate change obligations. As to what impact, if any, it has had on reducing emissions, I have no idea. The effects of our economic crash is generally credited as the main agent in securing an overall decline in Ireland’s rate of GHG emissions. This implies negative associations with carbon tax and climate change policies in the public mind.

    The negative association has been compounded by the way in which climate change was politically framed by scientists, environmental NGOs and some campaigners as an apocalyptic issue. Designed to frighten the bejayus out of us all, this approach only served to further estrange a large proportion of the public, especially middle-ground opinion, over time.

    Ironically, the very organisations and high profile individuals that persistently decry the so-called ‘deficit model’ of science communication when it comes to technological innovation, from health to food to nanotechnologies, have been to the fore, establishing themselves as the ‘expert opinion ‘ and insisting that they, and only they, know best about the policies and actions required to reverse AGW. The biofuels debacle should be evidence enough that such belief in their own omniscience is misplaced.

    No doubt your predictive analysis of the likely continuing failure of the current process of big conferences in exotic locations for seeking global agreement has much to recommend it. However, surely it goes beyond a game theory model? Some form of global agreement is ultimately going to be necessary in order to confront the challenges of climate change resulting from AGW. The current mechanism to achieve that end looks unlikely to achieve the desired result. Might a more regionally-based approach that focussed on the particular challenges facing specific areas and population work better, with some over-arching role for the G20, or equivalent body?

    From a parochial perspective the notion of an Environment Minister, who will be responsible for the regime of a new ‘property’ tax that many regard as unfair in its design and punitive in its application, not being around on Budget day to explain what is envisaged to a frightened and confused public, because he and an entourage of several were at the Doha Conference at a cost of €30k to the taxpayer, does little to inspire confidence, even if the treatment of the story by the Irish Independent was unfair. If the Doha conference required an Irish ministerial presence, surely a junior minister would have sufficed? The ‘new era’ Minister, Mr. O Dowd, for example? Or was Minister Hogan’s personal presence in some way ‘vital’ to the outcome of these talks?

    As for domestic climate change legislation, the case advanced by the Irish Times is unconvincing on both environmental and political grounds at this time.

  8. Richard Tol Says:

    @Veronica
    My recent VOX article links to an earlier piece there (Long live Kyoto) in which I set out how the climate problem can be solved without installing a world government.

    Minister Hogan’s presence in Doha was not noted by anyone but the Irish media.

  9. veronica Says:

    @ Richard,

    Yes, I have read that piece. But how does it square with only 37 countries remaining signed up to Kyoto? Besides, Kyoto was born out of the process that is now trying to construct a successor to it. If it doesn’t work, time to abandon it and seek some other way?

    Why not move towards a smaller scale, more regionally-focused approach? I, for one, am not persuaded that gatherings of 17,000 plus are capable of reaching any kind of sensible decision about anything.

    Minister hogan’s presence must have been noted by someone, surely? Otherwise, what was he doing there?

  10. Richard Tol Says:

    @Veronica
    Only 37? European countries are not bound by emission targets, so signing up brings benefits (green kudos) without costs. The Great Recession came along and Europe met its Kyoto targets by happenstance.

    The Minister made a speech, he had a pint, and he spent 30k. Otherwise, no news on Hogan in Doha.

  11. Gavin Kostick Says:

    @ Veronica, Richard

    ‘Otherwise, what was he doing there?’

    Trying to drum up business apparently. Anecdotal warning.

    “http://www.politics.ie/forum/fine-gael/196862-irish-daily-mail-breaking-big-story-minister-phil-hogan-119.html”

  12. Ste Says:

    “China’s position will rapidly change once they realize that they are the greatest contributor to climate change since 1992″

    but I thought China took over the US, for CO2 emissions, only in 2005. Right?
    Further, if you add that a) it is GHG atmosphere concentration (stock) rather than annual emissions (flow) that matter and b) that Chinese emissions per capita remain much lower than those of the US, why should the Chinese feel more responsible than Americans?

  13. grumpy Says:

    @veronica

    “I, for one, am not persuaded that gatherings of 17,000 plus are capable of reaching any kind of sensible decision about anything.”

    Not so surely. Such gatherings seem to readily, and on a weekly basis, reach a consensus on the merits of the referee…

  14. Richard Tol Says:

    @ste
    Liability is not easy to define. A minimal definition has that one is only accountable for things one knew were wrong. That puts the start date at 1992, when UNFCCC was negotiated, or perhaps a bit later when it was ratified.

    An expanded definition makes one liable for things one could have known were wrong. That puts the start date at 1896 (Arrhenius’ paper) or perhaps a few decades later when most meteorologists (who then as know were often civil servants) knew about the enhanced greenhouse effect.

    A maximum definition makes one liable for anything that is wrong. That puts the start date at 1750 or so, the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

    Different people would argue for different definitions, but the minimum definition cannot be excluded. It is certainly the one for which data are best, and border changes are not very complicated.

  15. Robert Browne Says:

    @ Richard

    Are you telling us that the ministers 3 minute speech, that cost the exchequer a bargain 30,000 or 10,000 a minute, was a waste of time? Surely not? Sounded important especially the bit where he told the world “that it was important that something be done about climate change”. Surely, that alone would have woken them up? I mean, coming from the mouth of no other than Big Phil Hogan of Ireland?

  16. veronica Says:

    @grumpy,

    Umm, yes. Normally they’d be better employed looking at the merits of their own team.

  17. Ossian Smyth Says:

    Since bubble peak in Ireland, fuel imports and carbon emissions have both fallen much more rapidly than GDP or GNP.

    So not all of the fall in emissions may be attributed to the recession. The economy has become less carbon intensive.

    In Ireland we have multiple policies supporting a move towards a lower carbon economy: carbon tax, bike to work scheme, insulation retrofitting, stricter new building insulation standards, emissions based VRT and motor tax. But then we also have many policies that act in the opposite direction: a 70m/year fuel subsidy for diesel truck freight was announced in the budget to add to existing VAT concessions for hauliers. Commercial truck taxes are set at a level that does not compensate for the externalities of the damage they cause to the roads. Electricity from peat is subsidised at twice the cost as wind power.

    Richard argues (I think) that all policy actions aimed at emission reduction should be subsumed into a carbon tax. This is not a politically feasible policy in any country. Even dictatorial countries face huge public resistance in moving away from fossil fuel subsidies,let alone taxing fuel.

    The alternative to a silver bullet is a collection of many actions and an effort to minimise the number of actions that work in the opposite direction.

  18. Gearalt Ua Fathaigh Says:

    ammm…. Sorry to burst the climatic consensus bubble – but is anthropogenic global warming a proven theory? in the way that plate tectonics is? I don’t think so… Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be less inefficient in our use of fossil fuels, or more polluting to the environment however. 17,000 people in Doha! how much carbon was that!

  19. veronica Says:

    @ Gearalt,

    I think it’s fair to say that AGW is well understood theoretically. What is less well understood is its precise long term climactic impact since ’cause’ and ‘effect’ is difficult to impute based on our current state of knowledge of the planet’s natural processes and mechanisms of heating and cooling. Inevitably, AGW is highly politicised – there’s no end to the number of ‘stakeholders’/’rent-seekers’ with a strong vested interest in manipulating policy responses in the direction of their own preferred solutions, whether ideologically or commercially motivated.

    Early conferences had a modest attendance, as far as I know. But over time it has expanded – the highest number, well in excess of 20,000, was at Copenhagen in 2009.

  20. Gearalt Ua Fathaigh Says:

    @ veronica,
    thanks for the reply – I agree that all our emissions must have had some effect on the atmosphere and the climate (cf. the ozone layer); it’s just that we don’t know how big this impact has been or will be

  21. EWI Says:

    @ veronica

    Inevitably, AGW is highly politicised – there’s no end to the number of ’stakeholders’/’rent-seekers’ with a strong vested interest in manipulating policy responses in the direction of their own preferred solutions, whether ideologically or commercially motivated.

    One very simple question for you to answer, Veronica – what do the actual climate scientists say? For al the deliberate obfuscation (look to shysters like US thinktanks), there’s no getting away from that unpleasant fact.

    It would be even better if austerity would cull the excessive numbers of climocrats.

    Richard is welcome to elaborate on just who he refers to here as “climocrats”. Playing devil’s advocate, if one were to imagine someone determined to delay and obstruct any progress on cutting carbon emissions, trying to end official government involvement with the issue might be seen as a desirable end – one might imagine.

  22. EWI Says:

    @ Ossian Smyth

    The alternative to a silver bullet is a collection of many actions and an effort to minimise the number of actions that work in the opposite direction.

    Bingo. But like many other social sciences, “economics” can apparently be turned into a pretzel to justify any end you want without much fear of being laughed out of it.

  23. Eli Rabett Says:

    “Climate policy does not need bureaucrats. A carbon tax would work just fine. ”

    You planning to put a tin cup at every petrol station?

  24. Richard Tol Says:

    @EWI
    Climocrats are bureaucrats in private, public, or multilateral organization who spend most of their working time on climate policy.

    Over the last 20 years, the number of climocrats has grown much faster than attempts, let alone successes, in emission reduction.

    Bureaucracies often exhibit negative returns to scale. If you compare the rate of progress (say measured in the number of lines agreed per delegate) at early COPs to late COPs, you would find that climate policy is no exception.

  25. EWI Says:

    @Richard Tol

    Over the last 20 years, the number of climocrats has grown much faster than attempts, let alone successes, in emission reduction.

    Governments create bureaucracies to tackle major problems. I’m not sure how one can view this as a bad thing, given that the baseline of effort on this started effectively at zero and this is an issue that has serious consequences for the world as a whole.

    A minute few will look on the bright side of being able to grow grapes in Norway, or whatever, as being enough to compensate for the destruction, chaos and increased poverty elsewhere on the planet. The rest of us will beg to disagree.

  26. Bunbury Says:

    Let’s not forget another possible human rights benefit of increasing global warming (assuming it does exist): it will open up previously inaccessible areas of the Arctic Circle for minerals and oil exploration. Anything that reduces our dependence on oil imports from corrupt Arab regimes which foment terrorism and repress women has to be good right?

    Personally, I’d love to get a job with one of these climate policy bureaucracies. Just think: no real means of assessing success and you’d always be ‘on the side of the Angels’. Plus loads of junkets to exotic destinations.

  27. EWI Says:

    I do realise that Bunbury is just looking for a reaction here, but I do have to express my appreciation for the LOL.

    Concern-trolling about how giving the oil companies more wells to drill from the destruction of the Arctic will suddenly cause them to grow ethics (in who they support, and therefore get their govs to support) is always good for a laugh on a morning.

  28. seafóid Says:

    “Anything that reduces our dependence on oil imports from corrupt Arab regimes which foment terrorism and repress women has to be good right?”

    anything that drowns London, Dublin, New York etc as an uncosted externality isn’t necessarily a good thing

  29. Bunbury Says:

    @ EWI

    There may or may not be man-made global warming. Personally I don’t give a toss. I’m more anxious about the Leinster v. Clermont game on Saturday afternoon. There’s sweet FA we can do about it if there is man-made global warming unless someone finds a way to stop 1.3 billion Chinese people and a few billion people elsewhere in the world wanting to achieve Western living standards.

    What to me is indeed LOL is the fact that fanaticism just changes guises as the centuries pass. We dump religious fanaticism and take up things like ‘climate change’ or ‘third world aid’ instead. Recently I heard an Irish journalist refer to someone as a ‘climate change denier’. I immediately thought of John Cleese in that scene in ‘The Life of Brian’ when someone is accused of using the word ‘Jehovah’ incorrectly. It seems we can have a reasoned debate on whether mortgage arrears are getting worse or improving (I don’t know so I’m open to persuasion) but such a reasoned debate us utterly impossible when it comes to climate change and I have never understood why that is the case. If you have any suggestions I would be genuinely interested to read them.

  30. Richard Tol Says:

    @Bunbury
    Hear hear, but with all due respect, there is not much you can do about the Leinster game either.

  31. Eli Rabett Says:

    Richard Tol engages in self description: “Climocrats are bureaucrats in private, public, or multilateral organization who spend most of their working time on climate policy.”

  32. Richard Tol Says:

    @Eli
    My work on climate policy is not as a bureaucrat. My work as a bureaucrat is on university stuff.

  33. fact checker Says:

    “development assistance also pays for the international travel of Ireland’s climate negotiators.”

    This would be in breach of various rules, probably OECD DAC. Have you got any evidence for this claim?

    Any estimate for the current number of ‘climocrats’ and what number you think might not be excessive?

  34. Richard Tol Says:

    @fact checker
    You can look it up in the annual report of DFAT / Irish Aid.

    I do not know how many climocrats there are.

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