Some notes about Climate Change

The Paris Agreement was, if you believe the political leaders who took an active part, a game changer. It was, on this view, a triumph. As Barack Obama put it, it will save the planet. But you should not believe them: the reality is that Paris demonstrated how big the international failure has been, and provided little by way of comfort that its framework will do the necessary job. You can see it everywhere: climate change has slumped down the list of priorities for companies and governments. The repeated hype over Glasgow COP26 followed the old soundtrack – and yet the central aim to limit temperatures to 1.5˚C stands almost no chance of being achieved as a result of Glasgow.

A cold, hard reality check on all the rhetoric is needed. Here are the facts. The ambition set out at the Durban Conference was that Paris would see a legal global agreement binding the main world players to targets that would jointly keep global warming below 2˚C. What happened? Most countries came up with their proposed national targets, just as they had for the Copenhagen Agreement. They are voluntary, not legally binding, and they do not add up to the 2˚C. In the case of the big players, China offered to cap emissions by 2030 (after another 15 years of potential emissions growth), India has no real meaningful cap, and the US is embedding the switch from coal to gas. For all three, what will happen has little or nothing to do with Paris. The one bit of good news is incidental: China’s economy may slow down rapidly.

Fast forward to Glasgow and the legal bit has got nowhere. This did not stop the negotiators doing two things: first, making the COP circus a regular five-year event, and thereby keeping all the UN-led bureaucracy and all the NGOs up and running; and keeping a target of 1.5˚C alive by proposing yet another stab at the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) consistent with this target in Egypt in 2022.

Latest publications

COP26 – so was that it?

November 15, 2021

Climate Change Publication

Why COP26 is woefully inadequate to tackle the serious challenges of climate change.

Publications

  • Publication Climate Change Too Good To Be True? The UK's Climate Change Record
    December 10, 2007

    At first glance Britain has one of the best records in Europe on climate change; greenhouse gas emissions fell in the 1990s and it has already surpassed its 2012 Kyoto target. This paper examines whether the claimed superiority of Britain's approach is so
  • Publication Climate Change The Structure and Operation of Government and the Challenges of Climate Change
    June 20, 2007

    Memorandum of evidence submitted to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee Inquiry.
  • Publication Climate Change Climate change: sustainable growth, markets and institutions
    April 1, 2007

    Paper for the UN Human Development Report 2007
  • Publication Climate Change The Rising Cost of Change
    January 10, 2007

    Published in Oxford Forum, Volume 3, Autumn 2005, pp. 22-23. In the twenty-first century, there are many challenges that threaten our way of life, itself the product of the enormous economic expansion of the twentieth century. International terrorism and
  • Publication Climate Change Climate-change Policy
    May 5, 2005

    The threat posed by climate change has not yet been matched by international agreements and economic policies that can deliver sharp reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions. Although the Kyoto Protocol has now been ratified by Russia and hence come into le
  • Publication Climate Change Climate-change Policy - A survey
    May 5, 2005

    Climate change presents a challenge to policy-makers of an altogether different kind to the day-to-day business of intervention in the economy to correct market failures. It is characterised by major and multi-dimensional uncertainties (in the science, th
  • Publication Climate Change Climate-change Policy - A Introduction
    May 5, 2005

    The importance of climate change is now widely accepted. From being a research topic, it has moved to the political stage, and whilst most politicians have yet to see it as a 'greater threat than weapons of mass destruction', the main political parties of
  • Publication Climate Change Climate-change Policy - Credible Carbon Policy
    May 5, 2005

    Most developed countries have adopted targets for the reduction of carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions. Some of these are aspirational, some are recorded in voluntary international agreements, others have the force of law and are enshrined in national legisla
  • Publication Climate Change Comments on Terms of Reference for the 2005-06 Review of the Renewables Obligation
    August 20, 2004

    The review of the Renewables Obligation (RO) is an important opportunity to take stock of the renewables policy and its contribution to the ambitious climate change objectives for 2010, 2020 and 2050.
  • Publication Climate Change The Assessment: Climate-change Policy
    September 1, 2003

    The paper provides a guide to climate-change policy, and, in particular, the three core components: targets, instruments, and institutional structures. First, the optimal path for reducing carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions, and the role of the social cost of

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