So Much for The Paris Agreement

Burning Planet
Burning Planet

It looks like the US was simply being straightforward when it backed out of its commitment to ratify the Paris Agreement. Donald Trump may no longer be President by the time his office’s decision to open up more areas for oil and gas happens but his administration has been clear that economy and energy reigns over what happens in 2050.

I don’t blame the politicians because their job after all, is to make sure their voters are happy. Nothing else keeps voters happier with their leaders than robust economies that keep on providing good jobs today. As terrible as the consequences of the US decisions maybe, one has to appreciate being served the ugly truth rather than the sly talk of other countries. Judging from what some signatories of the Paris Agreement are doing in this new year, we’re doomed to a future of shrinking coastlines and freakish weather.

Failing Climate Change Commitments

Take Norway for example. It is a small natural resource rich country where a quarter of its GDP is related to fossil fuels extraction. A large share of this is exported to other countries. The wealth accumulated over forty years of selling its fossil fuels has made this small country one of the wealthiest in the world. Its sovereign fund was valued last year at a staggering $1 trillion dollars which, if assigned to every single Norwegian person, would be worth $190,000 each. No wonder Norway came first in the 2017 World Happiness Report.

This impressive development does beg the question: how much of this current climate crisis can we blame on Norwegian fossil fuels?

Not every much if this court decision in an Oslo court goes unchallenged. A lawsuit brought by Greenpeace and the group Nature and Youth, alleged that Norwegian licenses granted in 2016 to companies including Statoil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Lukoil to explore for oil in the Barents Sea violated Norway's constitution to provide its citizens a healthy living environment. The court ruled against the plaintiffs and according to this report by Climate Change News, made a preposterous statement that:

Norway is only responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions within its borders, not those caused by burning exported oil and gas

Have the Norwegians invented a climate shield that protects them from climate change? As a major producer of fossil fuels, any commitment Norway has to the Paris Agreement should acknowledge the total emissions from its products which averaged close to two million barrels per day (bpd) based on 2017 figures. Imagine if the palm oil industry of Indonesia used the same strange logic and said “we have a similar climate shield which keeps the emissions from our industries within our country so go ahead and use our biofuels for clear skies over your countries.”

I hope Greenpeace appeals the Oslo court ruling. This is an unacceptable approach by Norway towards their responsibility to fight climate change, as is their heavy reliance on carbon offsets to try and achieve climate neutrality. There was a time when I thought Norway was a great champion of forests when it pledged billions of dollars to save them. Their decision to ban palm oil based biofuel now looks suspiciously like an attempt to score on two fronts. First, to protect the fossil fuel industry by declaring the biofuel as worse than fossil fuels in terms of emissions and secondly, to defend their source of carbon offsets as forested countries were starting to develop palm oil industries.

Aside from Norway, reports out of Germany this week are saying that this climate change champion is now looking to scrap its 2020 climate target due to “ strong economic growth and higher-than-expected immigration levels.” When they ratified the Paris Accord in 2016, did no one notice that the target was four years away? The strong bond between the German economy and locally produced coal looks like Germany will fail to meet its commitments to the Paris Agreement even if they set it back to the early 2020s.

And what is the deal with the UK support for Brazil’s offshore drilling? It is understandable that the UK would want to have a backup plan for energy in case its divorce from the EU ends up cutting that source of energy but why fossil fuels from Brazil? It’s not as if Brazil has extra capacity beyond its commitment to the Paris Agreement to spare. If the problem is domestic resistance to developing its own sources of fossil fuels, the UK should be looking at biofuels which are at the very least, a source of energy that can be grown, especially in Brazil.

My commitment to save all of Borneo

All of this makes the Norwegian sovereign funds statement of its plans to divest from the fossil fuel industry look like pure sensationalism. If showman statements like this are acceptable, I would like to state here that I plan to save every stick of forest in Borneo by stopping more palm oil development. I will also need until the end of 2018 to consult with politicians and industry who I expect will use words similar to that of the Norwegian court decision. That their “natural resources shall be managed on the basis of long-term considerations, which will safeguard this right for future generations as well.”

Sarcasm aside, do take heart. All is not lost. There is a chance that the New York City plan to sue oil companies for climate change damages could start the legal ball rolling on fossil fuels, just as we’ve seen the claims against tobacco companies grow.

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