Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #161

The Week That Was: 2014-12-20 (December 20, 2014) Brought to You by SEPP (www.SEPP.org)
The Science and Environmental Policy Project

Quote of the Week: The real problem in speech is not precise language. The problem is clear language. Paraphrased from Richard Feynman.

Number of the Week: 15, 17, 50 to 100 years?

The Game in Lima: The high-stakes energy and diplomacy game in Lima finally ended with little real damage to the industrialized world, in spite of the best efforts of delegates from Western Europe and the United States. The game is sponsored by the UN Conference of Parties

(COP) to the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and over 190 countries participate. The delegates from the West failed in their efforts to establish binding commitments for nations to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Instead, there will be several smaller meetings and questionable commitments before the COP-21 meeting in Paris next December.

Somewhat amusingly, during the conference a joint report by the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and the Join Research Centre, “Trends in Global CO2 Emissions 2014 Report” was released stating that CO2 emissions are at an all-time high. Even this failed to panic the developing countries to agree to a binding limit on CO2 emissions.

According to Michael Jacobs, writing in Project Syndicate, the Lima conference had two goals: 1) establishing an outline for the 2015 Paris agreement and 2) agree to terms under which countries will devise their national commitments. “…one highly significant decision has now effectively been made. Abandoning the rigid distinction between developed and developing countries paves the way toward an agreement that all countries, including the US and China, can sign.”

His view is questionable. As with many international commentators, Mr Jacobs, a Visiting Professor at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, fails to recognize that the US is not an authoritarian state and that an international agreement signed by the President of the United States, does not have the force of law in the United States, without approval of two-thirds of the US Senate, as delineated in the Constitution. Given the results of the election in November, Senate approval is extremely unlikely in 2015 and even less likely during the presidential election year of 2016. It is unlikely that the President can finesse this Constitutional requirement as he is trying to finesse statutory law in attempting to implement his plan to control CO2 emissions from US power plants and similar major facilities.

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