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Gasbagging in Glasgow: COP26 and Phasing Down Coal

Words can provide sharp traps, fettering language and caging definitions. They can also speak to freedom of action and permissiveness. At COP26, that permissiveness was all the more present in the haggling ahead of what would become the Glasgow Climate Pact.

COP26, or the UN Climate Change Conference UK 2021, had a mission of “Uniting the world to tackle climate change.” The tackling, however, fell rather short, though countries, in the main, were trying to sell the final understanding as a grand compromise of mature tidiness. COP26 president Alok Sharma called the outcome “a fragile win,” the outcome of “hard work” and “great cooperation” from the parties.

The Pact is a flurry of words, acknowledging, for instance “the importance of the best available science for effective climate action and policymaking.” Alarm and utmost concern is expressed by the parties at the fact “that human activities have caused around 1.1 °C of global warming to date and that impacts are already being felt in every region.” There is a stress on “the urgency of enhancing ambition and acting in relation to mitigation adaptation and finance in this critical decade to address gaps between current efforts and pathways in pursuit of the ultimate objective of the Convention and its long-term global goal.”

The pact had gone through a few iterations, stirring interest, sparking hope, even inducing, at points, a giddy optimism. The first draft had called upon the Parties “to accelerate the phasing-out of coal and subsidies for fossil-fuels.” Its appearance was considered by The New Scientist to be “remarkable” for explicitly mentioning fossil fuels, while Ed King of the European Climate Foundation suggested that it was “the first time fossil fuels have been called out in a draft UN climate decision text.”

But in the final statement, an exit for countries still keen to keep the heart of coal alive was carved. The parties might well ensure that technologies and policies would be adopted “to transition towards low-emission energy systems,” scale up the “deployment of clean power generation and energy efficiency measures” but this would also entail “accelerating efforts towards the phasedown of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.” As this was undertaken, “targeted support” would be directed towards “the poorest and most vulnerable in line with national circumstances and recognizing the need for support towards a just transition.”

And there were those words slipped in with conspiratorial deftness: “phasing down.” Elastic, open, accommodating to the emitters and the vendors. A world left to the beholder. The change of language had been encouraged by India, with the support of other coal-dependent states. The Indian environment and climate minister, Bhupender Yadav, had been less than impressed with the singling out of coal, given the previous text’s deafening silence on natural gas and oil.

The reasons for such omissions were clear enough: countries such as the United States continue to nourish their interest in oil and gas investment. On November 17, the Biden administration will hold the largest offshore oil and gas lease sale in US history, covering 80 million acres off the Gulf of Mexico. Again, President Joe Biden shows that anything his predecessor, Donald Trump, did, he can do several times better.

 

Image from huffpost.com (Photo by Associated Press)

 

After the conclusion of COP26, Yadav merrily declared the summit a success for India, as “we articulated and put across the concerns and ideas of the developing world quite succinctly and unequivocally.” His country had a lesson for the developed world, fattened by a certain lifestyle that required modification to cope with the climate crisis.

It was the hook upon which the Modi government could fasten a new, lecturing mantra: LIFE, or Lifestyle for Environment, one that valued “moderation over excess … Today,” stated Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the summit, “it’s needed that all of us come together and take forward LIFE as a movement.” Presumably a phasing down movement.

Indian voices in the climate action sector did not shy away from approving the dilution of the language on coal. Their targets were the misdeeds of the United States and the European Union, who had, according to Aarti Khosla of Climate Trends, failed “to deliver on the promised $100 billion in climate finance.” Kamal Narayan, CEO of the Integrated Health and Well Being Council, suggested that the use of “phasing down” coal instead of “phasing out” should not be a source of concern, given “the kind of commitment and leadership India has shown in building renewable energy infrastructure.”

While not quite music, the softening approach in the final text was melodious enough for former Australian resources minister Matt Canavan to claim that the coal industry had been victorious in Scotland. Proudly visible before him in an interview with the Today program was a screen with an unequivocal message: “Glasgow: A Huge Win for Coal.” An adventurous reading of the Glasgow text was in order. The agreement had provided “wiggle room” for countries. “Given the fact that the agreement did not say that coal needs to be phased down or taken out, it is a green light for us to build more coal mines.”

For a delightedly cynical Canavan, no country was really taking the agreement seriously, and the likes of India, China and those in South-East Asia were insatiably hungry for coal, with a “demand” that “almost has no limit.” On Twitter, he reiterated the theme with a call to rent the earth with urgent, patriotic enthusiasm. “Let’s get digging then and sell more of the best coal in the world to others, and bring millions more people out of poverty.”

 

 

Pacific Island states were resigned, disappointed and despairing. Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama could only entertain some frail optimism, praising the “heroic effort” of the Pacific negotiators at COP26. “The 1.5-degree target leaves Glasgow battered, bruised, but alive.”

Other states were angrily baffled by the subversion evident in the final text. Mexico’s envoy, Camila Isabel Zepeda Lizama, expressed anger at her country being “sidelined” in a “non-transparent and non-inclusive process … We all have remaining concerns but were told we could not reopen the text … while others can still ask to water down their promises.” A cabal of powers had done its trick.

For activists, there was no death knell to coal, as the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, confidently claimed. “This is no longer a climate conference,” lamented climate change activist Greta Thunberg, the tenured voice of climate change catastrophism. “This is now a global greenwashing festival.” And with greenwashing shall come the vanishing, but not before a few more, gasbagging efforts.

 

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9 comments

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  1. Harry Lime

    Yes,gasbagging in Glasgow,gas fracking in Australia, and GASLIGHTING by the bullshitter in chief.And fartlighting by matt king coal.

  2. leefe

    In the end, the conference did more harm than good. Well, so long, liveable world; it’s been good to know you.

  3. Jack Cade

    After voting in this country since the coup aka The Dismissal, I have absolutely no confidence in the Australian electorate, which displays characteristics totally at odds with its self-image.
    Above all other democracies, our electoral system ensures that we get what we want. In 1975 we did not WANT to ‘buy back the farm’ , or to DEMAND that the CIA/USA tell us what they were doing at Pine Gap that made Australia a front line nuclear target, and endorsed what was in reality a COUP by a waning foreign power.
    So we want – deserve- the government we have.
    And are likely to endorse it again.
    I am actually tired of saying it, so I’ll stop.

  4. Henry Rodrigues

    Its, as that miserable creep Canavan is claiming, a win for coal, enabled and abetted by Modi and China and Scummo, all gleefully congratulating themselves for a big win.

    Modi can now promise every Indian a washing machine in every household, (ignore the fact that they do not have running water, or sewerage or even a bloody toilet. But hey, they can now join the ranks of the affluent with a washing machine. After it is human right of everyone to own a washing machine, isn’t it ?. Never mind the pollution in the rivers and the horrible disposal of dead bodies. But a washing machine washes away all the blues. And any Indian who disputes that, should think very hard before they do.

  5. Phil Pryor

    That horrible slut for money and notice, M Canavan, a Murderer for Money if he gets even some of his distorted way, is an UnAustralian oaf in the grip of donors his his greedy future. No actual human can avoid the consequences of statements that torpedo a weak enough meeting’s poor results. The Biggies in mining, oil, gas, coal, media, advertising, retailing, etc, control so much with applied money injections and there are queues of sluts waiting to be noticed and get a bit now and in future, and, at what cost to those about whom they CARE NOT AT ALL?? Pieces of silver now to the greedy, space rides to the masterful masturbators, social status and show pony obvious positioning, all for a planet, our only one. Somehow, ordinary people everywhere must combine to fight this relentless stupidity and fatal collision course to ruin life itself.

  6. guest

    Mr Morrison, you say Australia will be selling coal for decades to come, even though you claim Australia will reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

    Will you soon be stopping the paying of subsidies to coal miners?

    Which countries will be buying coal in decades to come?

    What pledges did such countries make at COP26?

    Is all this just a game?

  7. wam

    Sadly the fact that a billion white men got rich on coal is irrelevant. Except for the 6 billion who need a power source to achieve such riches. The country that develops that power source will be rich(er). Remember, we were leading last century but have paddled for 25 years of cuts affecting our CSIRO. Zero, of the NET variety, could mean no decrease in mining and burning of, coal, oil or gas. Has the glasgow event concluded scummo’s plan of use coal and capture the waste to be acceptable?
    ps
    Africa and Asia will use coal until a cheaper alternative is available. We should be all out developing that alternative.

  8. David Baird

    As the leader of a Canned Do-do Government, a god-driven fundamentalist, a cocky, shouty, ignorant prick, what the hell else can we expect? Doubtless his three-word slogan-fest will persuade sufficient numbers of too-struggling-to-think voters to come to the party once more and, in the face of a where-the hell’s-the Opposition opponent, he’ll be back for another go. It’ll be another fucking miracle!

  9. guest

    wam,

    “Africa and Asia will use coal until a cheaper alternative is available. We should be all out developing that alternative.”

    Do you mean “renewables”?

    Some sites to look at:

    bookings.ed (5/5/2021) “Figures of the week: Africa’s renewable energy potential.”

    un.org (Jan. 2021) “Push for renewables: How Africa is building a different energy pathway.”

    For Africa, building coal power is cheap but expensive to run: renewables are expensive to build but cheap to run.They might need some economic help.

    nikkei.com (12/8/2021) “South East Asia energy policies on track to disaster.”
    “South East Asia may be one of the few regions that is betting on coal instead of moving to renewable energies, but a green approach is easily achievable…sun everywhere…offshore wind…volcanoes for thermal energy…hydroelectric…

    “But crony capitalism, and the exceptionally powerful coal lobby, are stifling efforts to develop renewable sources…” [sound familiar?]

    thediplomat.com (9/2021) “The first ever Just Transition in Asia Forum (JTFA) met on Sept. 9…to lay a pathway for a just transition…The technology is already here…based on resources that are abundant in Asia.”

    iea.org (29/9/2021) “China has a clear pathway to build a more sustainable, secure and inclusive energy future.”
    “China provides half of the world’s steel and cement, but the CO2 emissions from just those two sectors in China are higher than in the European Union’s total CO2 emissions …aiming to reach a peak in its CO2 emissions before 2030 and carbon neutrality before 2060…

    “A new iea report released today [29/9/2021] – An Energy Sector Roadmap to Carbon Neutrality in China – explores how China can reach its objectives…”

    How does the Coalition “roadmap” compare?

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