Interviews And Articles by Nick Breeze
- Published: 13 December 2015 13 December 2015
As the backslapping of the main protagonists of the COP21 summit joined in the celebrations, many others turned their attention to the details of how the agreement is going to play out in the real world. We can rest assured because, as ever, the devil is in the detail.
The ‘carbon budget’ relates to the amount of burnable carbon (coal, oil and gas) that we can burn before emissions cause global temperatures to rise above certain thresholds. The term is controversial enough due to differing debates on Earth’s sensitivity to temperature, especially as we see the level of impacts on ice-sheets, Arctic ice, extreme weather events, human life and the natural world, from just 1ºC warming. However, having a carbon budget does attempt to quantify in an equitable way, an amount of burnable carbon that can be then divided up among nations, during the transition to a sustainable future.
Currently, our global output of carbon emissions is around 30 billion tonnes per year. In order achieve the new aspirational goal of 1.5ºC we would need, globally, to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2025. I was in Paris for most of the UNFCC talks and did not once hear any mention of zero carbon emissions by 2025 as real goal for our civilisation.
Why no budget?
It seems obvious that the reason the budget was removed is because to keep it in the agreement, would raise further questions about how it is going to be achieved. In other words, who is going to cut emissions and by exactly how much? What we currently have is a renewed numerical icon of 1.5ºC with no roadmap of how to get there.
This absence of budget also attempts to shift the burden of emissions reductions away from the industrialised nations and onto the developing and developed nations. For instance, the US is all to happy to talk about it’s achievements in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by switching from oil and coal to gas, but it should be remembered that this was not due to any environmental aspirations, it was purely down to the boom in fracking and loose regulatory policy to allow this dirty industry to expand rapidly. Had this not happened, it is very unlikely the US would be the bold and leading voice at these talks in Paris.
Historic emissions play a role
The carbon budget issue is also an important factor because it allows us to look at global emissions over a longer period of time, since the beginning of the industrial revolution. This is important if we are to say truthfully that we are seeking a fair and equitable way forward for all the peoples of world. In this respect, we would have to conclude that nations such as the UK and the USA have already used their carbon budget and will have to accelerate their decarbonisation programmes to zero emissions. The rest of the budget would then be divided up between the developing nations in order that they may raise many people in their societies out of poverty, whilst transitioning to renewable energy.
Of course, if this was presented to the negotiators in Paris, there would be no Paris Accord. Politics and ambition may couple nicely for the individual politician but in the wider context where courage is required for implementation of bold policy, ambition evaporates.
The status quo: no mitigation targets
So where are we? Well, nowhere really. The celebrating politicians will all fly home feeling slightly relieved by the mainstream media press headlines, whilst those in developing nations will be left asking “where is the climate justice?”. With no mitigation targets put in place and an agreement that is non-binding (yes, “voluntary” is another word for it), we see that the greatest burden to both decarbonise and to cope with the massive impacts from climate change, will fall on the same narrow shoulders of the world’s developing nations.
I’m alright Jack
So we in the wealthiest nations look away and shrug our shoulders, turning a blind eye to what this really means. At the same time we question the strength of our borders as refugees seek safe climates by moving north. We understand the concept of the “global village” but our mentality is often fixated by fear and aggression.
This is a great shame because at the COP21 Paris talks there was also another side where organisations involved in tackling the huge problems that we face around the world, demonstrated how we do have the intelligence and power to move in the right direction. We can restore forests and rivers, building resilience against droughts in regions such as Ethiopia. We can stem the flow of refugees into and across the Mediterranean. We can do so much and yet, when we retract into selfish introversion and greed, we are really saying, “no, we will fight this out until the last man is standing!”
The next choice for us on this planet is to evolve to being custodians of the Earth and each other. To quote from the subject of my next post, “We have to give back to nature!” A major part of this journey is with eachother. We can no longer turn away as millions suffer, when we have the power to end that suffering. The true cost of turning away is too great. It requires the courage of individuals to stand up and do what we can to get this job done.
 A Green Africa Is Possible:
More posts by Nick Breeze
XR's Rupert Read in Davos: "The mother of all protests" in 2020
The World Economic Forum (WEF) is the first of the big global conferences of 2020 that will lead us to COP26 in Glasgow where governments will be under enormous pressure to agree safe and realistic action for the future. With Extinction Rebellion (XR) and other protest groups converging in the Swiss alpine town of Davos, I asked their leading spokesperson, Rupert Read, whether the tone being set here is encouraging:
The Journey To COP26 - Glasgow - Starts Now
The UK is readying itself for the presidency of the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26), to be held in Glasgow in November 2020. In the wake of the failure of COP25, a British presidency must bring to bear its accumulated powers in diplomacy, persuasion, purpose, and determination, to recreate trust in the Paris accord, kickstarting a new decade of meaningful achievements on safeguarding our collective future.
Interview with Jackie Bond: Extinction Rebellion... radical climate action... 'of course I wanted to join'
Seeing the extent of environmental destruction in 2015, Jackie Bond started volunteering for the Green Party in Southwark, SE London. In the last year, aside for standing for the Greens in Vauxhall and doubled their share of the vote, she has worked extensively with Extinction Rebellion, organising civil actions in pursuit of radical climate action. In this interview with Nick Breeze, Jackie discusses how she got involved in XR, why we need to put the climate crisis at the centre of policymaking, and her strategy for creating change in the UK.
Interview: James Hansen on negative emissions & the baby boomer issue
Longstanding climate change siren, Professor James Hansen talks to Nick Breeze about negative emissions technologies NET's, accelerating emissions, the need for international and intergenerational cooperations. Is he optimistic?
Obama joins launch of Porto Protocol initiative to tackle Climate Change
Addressing a wine industry on the frontline of climate change, Former President Obama said: “We are speeding our car towards the cliff at a very fast rate”. The audience and former president were invited to the launch of this new initiative by 326yr old port company CEO, Adrian Bridge, who is calling for solutions, saying “what we need to do is stop talking and start doing!” Nick Breeze reports.
UK Oil & Gas (UKOG) In Court Battle To Stop Public Protest - Green Party Co-Leader Addresses Crowd
A three day hearing at the High Court is in process that will decide whether an injunction be granted, effectively preventing any campaigning that might negatively impact the economic interests of UKOG and their associated companies.