The Legacy of COP27: COP28 and Chronic Failure

COP27 did not disappoint. Disappointment implies that one had expected something positive. After decades of dodging the action question of the necessity of major reductions in carbon emissions and therefore producing and using fossil fuels, there had been (and still is) NO indication that any nation would commit to action. Thus, they did not disappoint. However, they did stimulate the outrage these pretenders to global policy formation I would expect from rational people around the world.

The one plausibly positive outcome of COP27 was the ‘agreement of the rich nations to fund the poor nations’ efforts to deal with the ‘loss and damage’ they have suffered because of the profligate carbon pollution the rich nations have caused over the entire industrial era. The rich polluting nations of the global north having agreed to contribute to the establishment of a loss and damage fund. Some tout that as the success of the COP27 meetings; I will wait for them to come up with the actual money before celebrating. Meanwhile, the COP27 failure to action to reduce carbon emissions was the most important (non)outcome of the conference. Absurdities abound.

As economist Nicki Hutley put it, “Unless we immediately accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, then no amount of funding will be able to address the loss and damage that will result.” “That is illogical,” I am sure Captain Spock would say. The common pattern to avoid facing the overwhelming dilemma of how to implement mitigation measures, is to focus on promises of adaptation to severe climate conditions. Yet, if governments do not initiated extreme measures immediately to rapidly wind down the use of fossil fuels, no amount of repairs of loss and damage will allow continued human life in the areas where conditions are no longer livable.

Promises, Promises

The history of climate meetings is replete with broken promises and avoidance of even talking about how to go about reducing damage to the planet caused by burning fossil fuels. Some loss and damage is irreversible and in some locations mitigating the ecological destruction may be impossible. If destruction goes far enough, there will be no compensation possible.

Meanwhile, promises, promises…

Here’s how Emily Atkin put it: “On Sunday, the two-week COP27 climate summit in Egypt ended with a global agreement to keep warming to 1.5° Celsius—but without a global commitment to phase out, or even phase down, the use of fossil fuels.” Do you sense a collective self-contradiction here?

How weird is that? No, not Emily’s summary, the fact itself. There is simply NO PATH to slowing climate instability, no less to reach an average global temperature limited to 1.5° Celsius hotter than at the beginning of the industrial era, without severely cutting the extraction and burning of fossil fuels, right down to zero as fast as possible.

Evil Lurks…Where?

To answer that question by stating “in the hearts of men,” is far from adequate. When it comes to global crises, it is never even close to that simple. When complex institutions and international relations of power are involved, we know that the representatives of powerful institutions simply do the bidding of those institutions–they do not have the power, they just represent it. Like good Nazis, they follow orders emanating from board rooms and CEOs. I don’t care about their hearts, which may or may not be beyond repair; I care about their actions. When the Russians and the Saudi’s demand that references to curtailing fossil fuels use be excluded from any final report, no less from an actual action agreement, well, there is no point to having these COP meetings in the first place.

About 80 nations were in agreement that phasing down, if not phasing out fossil fuels is a urgent necessary action, even Canada, the U.S., and Australia, nations heavily involved in the ‘oil patch.’ Yet, nothing meaninful happens. Is nobody in charge, even of the security of their own nation?

Even Good Technology Is Not Enough

Al Gore has been involved in some very interesting technology, no, not the carbon capture boondoggle of Bill Gates and his billionaire boosters who encourage further investments in the very system that is the cause of the climate emergency. No, Gore is involved with, a consortium the mission of which is to document in detail every major source of carbon pollution on the planet.

This consortium is using multiple methods using technologies such as satellite imagery (of course), supercomputers, artificial intelligence algorithms, etc., to pinpoint the most important sources on the planet of carbon emissions. The consortium plans to provide all the information necessary to set emissions reduction targets that can produce the greatest results in the shortest time, if their findings are acted upon.

Well, there is the rub. Al has taken his usual stance of seeking consensus where it is most likely not to exist in sufficient quantity. He wants ‘private sector buy in.’ Well, some private and institutional support can be garnered for such a monumental task, but without some major form of leverage, that is, in political and/or economic power, it just won’t happen on its own.

Most important, what national government or multinational corporation is about to take the steps necessary to curtail its own carbon pollution when it is one of the biggest polluters, making such an undertaking very expensive if taken on alone? None, as evidenced by the collective dodging of the most important necessary action to reduce climate-chaos risk.

The TRACE technology, is exactly the information we need. But it will remain just more talk, this time about extremely valuable data, but without any international mandatory enforcement. “Where’s the beef?”

The only potential leverage that seems to remain is for the mobilization of large populations to form social movements that are too big to fail. That may be very difficult to accomplish, but it will become increasingly feasible as global conditions become much worse and political regimes become more unstable.

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