Insights on the COP-21 Paris Agreement

Contributed by Friends of Science Society member Rob Pearce @Dec. 2015

A light hearted look at what the agreement really $ay$.  Really.

Bafflegab: Incomprehensible or pretentious verbiage, especially bureaucratic jargon. (courtesy of Oxford Dictionaries online)

Why does an 11 page document require a 19 page introduction or preamble?

This preamble itself contains 140 sections calling for actions in the form of “Requests” (with variations such as “Further Requests”, “Urges and Requests” and “Also Requests” to break the monotony), “Encourages”, “Resolves”, “Decides”, “Invites”, “Recommends” and “Agrees”. So perhaps someone with legal training can tell me whether this 20 odd pages has any legal effect. And perhaps at the same time educate us on the subtle differences between: Emphasizing, Also Emphasizing, Stressing, Recognizing and Acknowledging, all used in the preamble to the preamble.

This document is likely to be a useful tool and case example in several areas of academic study: English, Diplomacy, Law, Politics, Negotiations, others?

And money.

1 million 100 packets of $10,000

Thanks to PageTutor we can visualize 1 million dollars in 100 packets of $10,000 each consisting of one hundred $100 bills, in proportion to your average taxpayer.

Selected Gems

These are just from the preamble to the preamble (one needs to be selective for the simple reason that essentially every paragraph, sometimes every line, sentence or phrase, has a howler).

“Also emphasizing that enhanced pre‐2020 ambition can lay a solid foundation for enhanced post‐2020 ambition.”

Really!? How long did this language take to negotiate? Who insisted this be included?!

“Acknowledging that climate change is a common concern of humankind, Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity.”

100 million dollars

$100 Million.  Still something you can get a grip on.

What more can one say, really?

“Emphasizing with serious concern the urgent need to address the significant gap between the aggregate effect of Parties’ mitigation pledges in terms of global annual emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020 and aggregate emission pathways consistent with holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre- industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.”

Note the “serious concern – not just regular concern. In short, even with all the time and effort we have expended (wasted) on this, nothing we promise to do here will change the temperature in any meaningful way. Also, note the fine tuning of temperature implied in the last phrase: keep the increase “well below 2 degrees C” and yet “pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C”. Now, given the natural variation in temperature around the globe and across the seasons, do they really believe “well below 2 and above 1.5” is a rational statement of objectives? Further, I thought we had moved beyond “global warming” to climate change”; so why is the focus on temperature? There is a whole thesis available in just this narrow question regarding this document and its generation process!

Just the fact that the Agreement is the “Annex” while the Preamble note (officially the “Proposal by the President”) appears to be the main document is telling. I would think that the agreement should be the main item with the 20 pages of description being appended as an annex.

But that’s just me.

The Agreement Itself

I do love the (intentional?) double entendre of some of the statements, for example:

“Emphasizing the intrinsic relationship that climate change actions, responses and impacts have with equitable access to sustainable development and eradication of poverty

Also recognizing the specific needs and special circumstances of developing country Parties

Taking full account of the specific needs and special situations of the least developed countries with regard to funding and transfer of technology,

Recognizing that Parties may be affected not only by climate change, but also by the impacts of the measures taken in response to it,

Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity”

Certain statements are more frightening, for example:

noting the importance for some of the concept of “climate justice”

Recall the idea of a “Climate Tribunal” was proposed for a while, and I suspect is still on the agendas of some parties.

Selected Items of Concern (my emphasis)

Article 2 is a mixed bag. It talks of a “global response to the threat of climate change, in the context of…efforts to eradicate poverty”.

Talk about conflicting goals!

Again, the reference to well below 2C but limit to 1.5C – as if it can be fine-tuned this way. It refers to “in a manner that does not threaten food production”, which implicitly recognizes the key role fossil fuels play in expanding food production and reducing hunger. It closes with a universal out for all parties by mentioning “differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances”; this phrasing occurs throughout, in various forms. One can easily see it being used approximately 190 different ways, depending on each country’s political and financial objectives at various points in time.

Article 4, Paras 3 & 4

“Each Party’s successive nationally determined contribution will represent a progression beyond the Party’s then current nationally determined contribution and reflect its highest possible ambition, reflecting its common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances.”

“Developed country Parties should continue taking the lead by undertaking economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets. Developing country Parties should continue enhancing their mitigation efforts, and are encouraged to move over time towards economy-wide emission reduction or limitation targets in the light of different national circumstances.”

In other words, the “Developed” countries must fall on the sword, while “Developing” countries continue to grow emissions.

In Para 5 of Article 4, “Support shall be provided to developing country Parties”. “Support” being code for cash payments of various kinds being demanded by many countries, to allow for, as Para 5 states: “greater ambition in their actions”. I guess the fiery end of the world does not make them suitably ambitious.

Para 7 presumably has some intent, though its not clear exactly what that might be, which is perhaps the point:

“Mitigation co-benefits resulting from Parties’ adaptation actions and/or economic diversification plans can contribute to mitigation outcomes under this Article.”

Thinking cynically, though only slightly, one can imagine there is some financial benefit buried within this innocent looking statement.

1 billion

$1 billion. Now things are getting out of hand.

Article 5 is short and focused (apparently) only on forest conservation – presumably this is for the benefit of various forest “conservation” schemes generating substantial GHG credit payments. Enough said.

I note with concern, though no surprise, the use of code language to soften and delete any crude references to filthy payments. An example from Para 6: “the use of internationally transferred mitigation outcomes”.

It is extraordinary to me that we spend enormous efforts on tracking and preventing illegal domestic and international flows of money, while here encouraging the trafficking of payments in respect of…nothing! Nothing but theoretical calculated future benefits of highly doubtful calculations.

And of course this would not be achievable without a very large bureaucracy to oversee and build it. Article 6, Para 6 (too bad we don’t have a subsection 6 to make it 666) says the Conference of the Parties “shall ensure that a share of the proceeds from activities…is used to cover administrative expenses”.

Maybe we can ponder here that great scene in Les Miserables where the nasty barkeep and his wife sing about skimming bits off their customers. Please see the annex to this note for selected lyrics.

And empty statements such as Para 9 of Article 6:

“A framework for non-market approaches to sustainable development is hereby defined to promote the non- market approaches referred to in paragraph 8 of this Article.”

Article 7 deals with adaptation, which every country should be doing on its own anyway – humans adapt, which is why we have been so successful in populating the planet. This section includes a few oddball statements:

“Parties acknowledge that adaptation action should follow a country-driven, gender-responsive, participatory and fully transparent approach”

“Improving the effectiveness and durability of adaptation actions”

“Each Party should, as appropriate, submit and update periodically an adaptation communication, which may include its priorities, implementation and support needs, plans and actions, without creating any additional burden for developing country Parties”

Heaven forbid there should be a burden imposed. And of course there is the expected call for funding to help countries adapt:

“Continuous and enhanced international support shall be provided to developing country Parties for the implementation of paragraphs 7, 9, 10 and 11 of this Article, in accordance with the provisions of Articles 9, 10 and 11”

And of course Article 9 calls for much more “support”, again being the code word for cash.


1 billion

Don’t be alarmed. They only want $100 billion – 100 of these stacks of bills – every year, from you.

Para 1 says developed countries are already obligated and so “shall provide financial resources”, while other parties “are encouraged to provide or continue to provide such support voluntarily”. Right.

Para 3 suggests looking for funding “from a wide variety of sources, instruments and channels” and notes “the significant role of public funds”. One might think the authors are realistically assessing the amount of non-public funding as de minimis; only the public can be bilked of the extreme levels of cash being demanded.

Of course, the providers of funding should not have much say in how the funds are to be spent: “the priorities and needs of developing country Parties” will determine uses.

Really the only saving grace of this article is its vacuity. However, it does state that the “financial Mechanism of the Convention shall serve as the financial mechanism of this agreement”. Is there cause to be worried?

cover who cuts who pays

Read Robert Lyman’s report on the Green Climate Fund

Article 11 is particularly innocuous in its vapidity, with such illuminating statements as:

“Capacity-building should be guided by lessons learned, including those from capacity-building activities under the Convention, and should be an effective, iterative process that is participatory, cross-cutting and gender-responsive.”

This stuff is hard enough to read – how could anyone take any satisfaction in actually drafting it?!

Article 12 is one of the shortest (by far) though with rather sinister implications if one chooses to think that way. It refers to: “climate change education, training, public awareness…”. In summary, let’s cooperate to brainwash the public since we need their acquiescence to make all this work.

It is of course then followed by Article 13 – unfortunate numbering since it deals with transparency, trust and confidence! And of course any reporting will be subject to “technical expert review” – I wonder how these helpful experts will be selected and compensated?

Developing countries will be eligible for “support” (again, cash) to help them build their “transparency related capacity”; in short, pay them to build up a bureaucracy capable of calculating to various degrees of precision endless figures and statistics to enable them to claim they are telling the truth.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the emptiness of many of the clauses in this agreement, Article 14 puts off the first “global stocktake” of progress until 2023. One might be surprised at this given the urgency of the matter, and the range of reaction to this time frame is likely to be quite wide, depending on one’s views of the entire process. Perhaps the end of the world isn’t as near term as promised?

And what proper piece of nonsense would be complete without a committee? Especially one which is “facilitative…transparent, non-adversarial and non-punitive”? Sign me up!

And of course we need to talk about how we will meet again and who can attend and all those important things, particularly how to maintain all the high-priced help in the secretariat, which is the reason we need Articles 16 through 19.

Under Article 20 this is of course a time limited offer, open for signature for just one year, starting four months from now, although it appears the day after the offer closes in April 2017, countries can still sign up. Presumably those latecomers will not get the toaster offered for early commitment.

Speaking of commitment, Article 20 then, with no trace of irony, calls for “regional economic integration organizations” to “declare the extent of their competence”. Unfortunate drafting.

Notwithstanding about 190 countries are supposedly agreeing to this treaty, it requires only 55 countries emitting 55% of global GHGs to bring this Frankenstein creature into force.

Now, “no reservations may be made to this agreement”, which is the entire content of Article 27, so that must be a very important item.

However, given Article 28, any Party may withdraw from the agreement following three years after having agreed to be bound by the agreement (although the departure is only effective after one year following the Party’s resignation from the club). I am guessing there is some twisted logic in the numbers here, which will come to light at some point.

Politicians Final outfront


Selected Lines from Les Miserables: “Master of the House”

From Wikia, Lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer Sung by Thenardier, the Innkeeper

Seldom do you see

Honest men like me

A gent of good intent who’s content to be

Master of the house

Doling out the charm

Ready with a handshake and an open palm

Tells a saucy tale

Makes a little stir

Customers appreciate a bon-viveur

Glad to do a friend a favour

Doesn’t cost me to be nice

But nothing gets you nothing

Everything has got a little price




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