Tuesday, December 17, 2019

No breakthrough at Madrid

After two weeks of contentious negotiations, world leaders put in charge of averting a cluster of accelerating climate threats remained at loggerheads late Saturday about whether they could commit, just on paper, to raise voluntary climate targets next year.

The annual talks, which had been scheduled to end on Friday, were meant to hammer out the final details of the landmark 2015 Paris climate accord, and expectations initially ran high that they would yield a collective political call for raising climate targets.

The delegates from nearly 200 countries who gathered in the Spanish capital were similarly stuck on two other issues that have vexed the Paris Agreement since its inception: working out rules for an international carbon trading system and providing money for the poor countries that suffer most from climate catastrophes.

The draft texts that emerged early Saturday immediately set off furious criticism from inside and outside the plenary room. By Saturday night, delegates were waiting for new drafts and there was no telling when the sessions would wrap up, with or without an agreement.

“Adopting this would be a betrayal of all the people around the world suffering from climate impacts and those who are calling for action,” said Jennifer Morgan, the executive director of Greenpeace International.

Diplomats and advocates at the deliberations repeatedly cited opposition from large economies that are run by leaders suspicious of international cooperation — including Australia, Brazil, and the United States, the only country in the world that is pulling out of the Paris accord.

The US delegation was among those that objected to the notion that the conference document should signal the need to enhance climate targets next year, saying it did not support “expansive additional language on gaps and needs.”

And while the divide between rich and poor countries loomed over these talks, as it often does in climate negotiations, the battle lines were far more muddled this time. Many countries from the global South, like Fiji and Colombia, insisted on higher ambitions by 2020, while India was among those that resisted such a deadline.

“The spirit and the objectives of the Paris Agreement are being eroded clause by clause, discussion by discussion,” Simon Stiell, the environment minister of Grenada, said as the negotiations entered the final stretch.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, went further. In a twitter message Saturday afternoon, she called the talks “an utter failure.”

These are the last negotiations that the United States can participate in before it formally retreats next year, and it used the Madrid session to vigorously push back against appeals from several poor countries to be compensated for the economic damage they suffer from hurricanes, droughts, and slow-moving climate catastrophes like the decimation of coral reefs. They have been seeking “loss and damage” funding that is separate from what is now in place to help poor countries rein in their emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change.

Delegates from other countries said the United States had insisted on a waiver in the negotiations that would protect big emitters from liability claims in other countries, but that was unacceptable to many developing nations.

“We refuse to import that paragraph,” said Ammar Hijazi, a Palestinian diplomat who is chairman of a large bloc of poor countries, known as the Group of 77, which is backed by China. “If we accept it at this stage it will come back to haunt us.”


The EU’s Green misdeal

In poker if you are dealt a hand with a card missing that is a misdeal and the dealer must shuffle the deck and start again. The EU’s so-called Green Deal is just like that.

What is missing is any hint of a plan. The proponents of this planless nonsense gleefully admit they have no idea how to make it work. The fact is it can’t work.

The GD is nothing but a bunch of distant future targets for emission reductions. Target dates range from 2030 out to 2050, all of which are politically very comfortable. Nothing serious has to be done right bnow, so praise to all, we have a deal.

The warm fuzziness of this non-plan is evident in its proposed budget, which is a magically round 100 billion euros. It sounds like a lot of money, but spread out over 30 years it is just 3.3 billion a year.

This is chump change when it comes to restructuring the EU’s entire energy system, which is what the GD proposes to do. A 1,000 MW wind farm costs about a billion euros a year. Adding three of these farms a year would not even cover the retirement of the existing wind facilities that blight the EU landscape.

In fact disposing of the myriad worn out existing wind farms will likely cost a lot more than this. To my knowledge the EU presently has no budget for this nasty business.

In short this 100 billion euros contributes nothing to decarbonizing the EU energy system. A few trillion euros might begin to approach the goal. I say approach because it simply can’t be done. The technology does not exist to decarbonize modern civilization. Nor can it be invented, developed and deployed in time to meet these absurd targets.

Keep in mind that this is just the usual climate emergency nonsense, which is driven by worthless computer models. The extreme targets are taken from the IPCC’s playbook for keeping future warming under a minuscule 0.5 degrees C (according to the hot computer models).

The control freak alarmists have morphed this tiny warming into the threshold of climate catastrophe. There is no scientific basis for this, not even in the hopped up IPCC reports. A half degree of warming, if it actually happened, would never be noticed.

As with the budget, the targets are wonderfully simple, reality not being a constraint. The nearest term target is truly bizarre. The 2030 emissions target is presently a 40% reduction from 1990 levels. The GD target raises this to a whopping 55%.

What makes this truly strange is that the EU’s environmental agency just issued a report saying the 40% target will be missed. They will be lucky to get to 30% as things are going.

This pretty well certifies the 55% as impossible, especially given the ponderous slowness with which energy technology must be deployed. Extreme measures would be called for and these are politically very unlikely, given the widespread anti-action demonstrations that are already occurring.

No wonder the GD proponents say they don’t know how to do it, because it can’t be done. But they want to pass a law mandating it anyway. How crazy is that? Well crazy is where we’re at, when it comes to the climate emergency hysteria.

Hysterics are not known for sound judgement and the EU leadership is no exception. Fortunately 2030 is not far off so the nonsensical nature of this non-plan will soon show up. I give it five years at most.

The Green Deal is a card short and that card is reality. This game will be fun to watch.


Greta Thunberg Threatens to Put World Leaders Who Don't Act on Global Warming 'Against the Wall'

Greta Thunberg is a smart, brave, young woman who, at 16 years old, has offered herself as a spokesperson for her generation on climate change. It's a noble undertaking and she should certainly be commended for her activism.

She is also, if you listen to her adult supporters, above reproach and criticism. She must only be encouraged, coddled, and praised. Any criticism is "bullying." If you point out that she's hardly an expert on the extraordinarily complex issues of climate change -- issues that involve a half-dozen scientific disciplines -- you must be scolded for hurting the poor little girl's feelings.

It doesn't get any lower than using children as a shield against criticism. And Greta Thunberg needs to be criticized. The notoriety appears to have gone to her head and unless some adult intervenes, she will become another used-up, tragic victim of leftist political activism, a late-night comedian's one-liner.

Daily Mail:

Greta Thunberg told cheering protesters today 'we will make sure we put world leaders against the wall' if they fail to take urgent action on climate change.

The Swedish teen activist was addressing the crowd at a Fridays for Future protest in Turin, Italy.

She arrived there from Madrid where she had been attending the UN climate summit but said she feared the event would not lead to change.

She was speaking metaphorically, of course. No one believes she's going to want to storm the White House and line Trump and other leaders against the wall and shoot them. I might say, "string them up from the highest yardarm" but that doesn't mean I'm threatening to hang anyone from the spar of a sailing ship.

Except if it had been a climate skeptic saying those words, the left would have been apoplectic and accused them of plotting the mass murder of world leaders. Such is the Twitter world we live in.

Of course, Ms. Thunberg can be criticized. She has shouldered her way into the arena and is using her notoriety to hysterically denounce politicians -- freely elected and carrying responsibilities that she cannot possibly understand.

If she understood those responsibilities, she'd know that the world she is asking for -- even if everyone agreed with her -- will take decades to achieve at an unimaginable cost. That's real money coming out of real people's pockets -- the fruits of their labor. She has a child's view of how the world works. This puts her on par with other hysterical activists who have a similar worldview. They apparently don't understand that simply throwing a tantrum about predicting the end of the world changes no minds nor moves anyone toward their position.

There are ways to criticize the child without being mean or bullying about it. Trump's tweet that sent the left into orbit was actually not a bad way to go about criticizing her.


COP 25: The business of climate change

Saving the planet takes money, and lots of it. Money is both the theme and the subtext of the latest round of UN climate talks being held here—a vast river of cash flows through the UN climate process. Formally, the meeting is about nailing down one of the more obscure provisions of the Paris Agreement: Article 6, which provides for market-based instruments so that countries can trade their way out of their decarbonization commitments. Billions of cross-border dollars and transaction fees hang on the outcome.

With the negotiations concerning mind-paralyzing definitions of interest only to the most intrepid climate geeks, business and finance leaders could wind up taking center stage. When they first started coming to climate conferences, it was to observe and advise. Now it’s to show-and-tell their green virtue. “Momentum is there,” declared Paul Polman, the former Unilever CEO. “Climate change is the biggest business opportunity of all time.” We’re close to several policy tipping points, he suggested.

The EU is about to approve a massive Green New Deal. Michael Bloomberg’s Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TFCD) encourages companies to make voluntary climate-related risk disclosures. Draft EU regulations, meantime, could pave the way for  mandatory climate disclosures that would force investment managers to justify their investments against climate and environmental benchmarks. Businesses are transitioning to “net zero,” Polman claims—meaning zero carbon emissions. They’re so far advanced that at this point, it’s only governments holding them back.

Peeling away the hype reveals a very different picture. Companies promising to cut their carbon emissions rely on offsetting—that is, paying for their consumption of hydrocarbon energy by supporting projects that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, such as renewable energy. If companies were genuine in their commitment to tackle climate change, though, they would develop zero-carbon baselines for their own activities.

A growing number of companies boast about the proportion of wind and solar in their energy consumption. These claims rely on an entirely legal accounting fraud that says that renewable electricity can be stored; the physical reality is that electricity is consumed the instant that it’s generated. In peddling the falsehood that business and households can depend on anything close to 100% intermittent renewable energy, companies are misleading the public.

Rather than demonstrating a genuine – and painful – commitment to radical decarbonization, business leaders’ public professions of climate awareness reflect a confluence of interest between, on the one hand, corporate public-affairs departments steeped in doctrines of corporate social responsibility (CSR), and, on the other, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). It’s a collusive process. The more environmental reporting requirements, the greater the importance of CSR in corporate hierarchies, the more work there is for external environmental consultants—and the greater the leverage NGOs wield over corporations.

Then there’s the psychology of herding, whereby CEOs are fearful of being hung out to dry if they don’t sign the latest statement pledging their company to save the world from climate breakdown.

All this might remind readers of two groups in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged: the Moochers, comprising, in this example, the craven CEOs and their in-house CSR crowd; and the Looters, the environmental NGOs. Their ultimate victim is capitalism, the only economic system ever to have produced durable, transformative economic growth.

Madrid also marks the debut of finance ministers at UN climate talks, with the formation of a coalition of finance ministers for climate action. Under their Santiago Action Plan, over 50 finance ministers, including most from the EU, pledged to incorporate climate-change considerations into economic policy and seek “analytical expertise” to put their economies on the path of “inclusive economics, social, and wider restructuring.”

The first rule of economic policymaking is that any government intervention in the economy involves trade-offs. In the case of decarbonization policies that drive up energy costs, “net zero” means zero growth. The en masse capitulation of finance ministries before the altar of climate change sends a negative signal about future economic growth. Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN climate-change convention, has already sent out invitations to finance ministers to attend next year’s talks. Once on the climate bandwagon, it’s almost impossible to get off.

Then there are those desperate to get on the climate bandwagon and never get off. Anyone who has attended a UN climate conference will have noticed that some of the best-dressed participants are from Africa’s poorest nations, some with chunky Rolexes on their wrists. The UN makes sure that they suffer no hardship from their climate-change-fighting efforts. The Daily Subsistence Allowance, once handed out in envelopes with $100 bills, is now disbursed in its plastic equivalent of Swiss value cards. NGOs, whose role at climate conferences is to act as the spontaneous expression of civil society, are also eligible. Unsurprisingly, youth NGOs want to get in on the DSA act, too.

The incentive this creates is to make the UN what its critics always accuse it of being: a talking shop. According to one estimate, participants in the Article 6 discussions have already spent 70,000 hours failing to define what a “market instrument” is. Why decide, when another comfortable meeting in another expensive city beckons?

When it comes to Article 6, rich nations want tight rules to ensure that their money won’t be used to fund phony emissions cuts. Environment ministries in poorer nations naturally see Article 6 as a stream of funding that will flow through them. In principle, though, it’s hard to see how an emissions market can work as intended, when developed nations with hard caps on their emissions can pay to outsource their cuts to nations with no caps and no rigorous inventory of greenhouse gases.

Back in the U.S., some 80 business leaders have signed a statement urging the U.S. to remain in the Paris Agreement, with its commitment to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial levels. Anyone who has looked at the numbers and what they entail in terms of global emissions cuts knows that this is next to impossible. It’s conceivable that global greenhouse-gas emissions will plateau, but steep cuts to “zero” aren’t going to happen. But America must have a seat at the table, comes the response. Perhaps, then, to show that they have some skin in the game, these business leaders should endure thousands of hours of meetings trying to decide what a market instrument is.


Australia: The soaring cost of gas and electricity is the top financial concern for households in 2020, a new report has found

Despite an energy pricing shake-up this year resulting in cheaper deals for many, power prices still remain a significant burden on budgets. Canstar's 2019 Consumer Pulse report, which surveyed 2000 people, found that 14 per cent of respondents said their biggest monetary concerns for the coming year were electricity and gas.

Next was grocery prices (10 per cent), job security (10 per cent) and running out of retirement savings (8 per cent).

Canstar's Simon Downes said power bills remained a "consistently high cost that is a shock to the budget". The report found that three out of four people opted to pay
power bills quarterly, which Mr Downes said was a big part of the problem. "If you are paying quarterly you are almost setting yourself up for a shock every quarter," he said.

"Quarterly energy bills can be $600 or $700 and it triggers shock in your head, leaving you cursing energy bills." He urged households to look for a provider that bills monthly or to set money aside each month.

The Australian Energy Market Commission's 2018 Residential Electricity Price Trends report shows the national average annual residential bill in 2017-18 was $1522. Origin's Jon Briskin said most of their customers "still receive and pay for their bills quarterly" but there were alternatives.

"Another option that many customers find helps with managing their household's budget is to set up a payment plan and make regular monthly, fortnightly or weekly payments," he said

"For people with a smart meter in their home, an easy way to reduce the stress of big quarterly bills is to switch to monthly billing and make smaller but more frequent payments." However households with a smart meter may still face an "estimated" read, which does not reflect actual energy use.

EnergyAustralia's head of retail. Mark Brownfield said most of their customers were billed quarterly. However he said that of those with a specific payment plan, 16 per cent paid weekly, 64 per cent fortnightly and 20 per cent monthly. "When people use the EnergyAustralia smart phone app, they can check their electricity usage down to the hour," Mr Brownfield said.

From the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" of 8 December, 2019


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