UN divvying up illusory loot in Bonn

The UN is meeting to divvy up windfall climate payments of $100 billion.  Although that number is under pressure with the withdrawal of the US.  To be fair – the amount is small in the context of a $100 trillion world economy.   And like aid – I would presume that the cash would be country directed by donors and not stumped up to the UN.  Stumping up to the UN for their sustainable development goals would be a massive waste of scarce resources.  But as you are giving aid anyway – you may as well achieve the biggest bang for the buck.

Copenhagen Consensus – smart development goals

Each of the 19 smart goals has a benefit/cost ratio of more than 15 – and each has implications for population and emissions.  The endorsement of the Doha round of trade talks and a 40% increase in agricultural productivity being key elements.  Adding many trillions of dollars to the world economy.  Along with energy research and development that is needed not to avoid the great moral panic of global warming – but to transition production to new sources of energy that will be the cornerstone of development in the 21st century.  Aid may field test ideas and methods – but ultimately it is economic growth that will deliver progress in development and environment.  To put it in context – aid and philanthropy is some 0.025% of the world economy.

Below is a ‘sceptic’ take of the UN’s mooted revenue streams.

http://www.cfact.org/2017/11/10/five-rivers-of-gold-to-flow-from-the-magical-un-cop-not-really/

In my view, it suffers from the worst of the sceptic mindset – it is all oppositional.  It’s against things – and fails to deliver an optimistic narrative for this century.  The latter would involve – I would presume – a core commitment to democracy and markets.   We must make freedom again an intellectual adventure for our brightest minds – to paraphrase Hayek.

Mitigation

“This is money to pay for any project the supposedly reduces or avoids the emission of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases. So-called renewable energy tops the list but there are many, many other candidate activities, including forestry and agriculture.”

The economic principle is that there is some rationale for supporting sunrise industries – but the sun always sets and this is the problem for solar.  Intermittency creates a significant barrier to large scale deployment – and subsidy time for operational deployment of wind and solar is well and over.

Renewing agricultural soils and restoring ecosystems is a very different matter – and one in which great progress is being made.  Carbon sequestration in soils has major benefits in addition to offsetting anthropogenic emissions from fossil fuel combustion, land use conversion, soil cultivation, continuous grazing and cement manufacturing.    Restoring soil carbon stores increases agronomic productivity and enhances global food security.  Increasing the soil organic content enhances water holding capacity and creates a more drought tolerant agriculture – with less downstream flooding.  There is a critical level of soil carbon that is essential to maximising the effectiveness of water and nutrient inputs.  Global food security, especially for countries with fragile soils and harsh climate such as in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, cannot be achieved without improving soil quality through an increase in soil organic content.   Wildlife flourishes on restored grazing land helping to halt biodiversity loss.  Reversing soil carbon loss is a new green revolution where conventional agriculture is hitting a productivity barrier with exhausted soils and increasingly expensive inputs.

Increased agricultural productivity, increased downstream processing and access to markets build local economies and global wealth.  Economic growth provides resources for solving problems – conserving and restoring ecosystems, better sanitation and safer water, better health and education, updating the diesel fleet and other productive assets to emit less black carbon, developing better and cheaper ways of producing electricity, replacing cooking with wood and dung with better ways of preparing food thus avoiding respiratory disease and again reducing black carbon emissions.  The warming potential of black carbon is equal to that of carbon dioxide emission from electricity production – but is given little attention in the public sphere.  A global program of agricultural soils restoration is the foundation for balancing the human ecology.  The In this international year of soils – France has committed to increasing soil carbon by 0.4% per year.  As a global objective and given the highest priority it is a solution to critical problems of biodiversity loss, development, food security and resilience to drought and flood.

Adaptation

“These projects supposedly prepare the country for some sort of climate change, especially floods, droughts and in some cases sea level rise. Of course these all occur naturally so this is a open ended concept.”

The reality is that temperature rise was 0.4 degrees C between 1944 and 1998.  The end points are high points in warm regimes seen in the 20th century.  The subsequent cooler regime seen since may or may not transition within a decade to a warmer regime again.  Very long term climate data shows the spatio-temporal chaos of the Earth system – and that climate is chaotic is an idea as certain as evolution or relativity.  It follows then that climate may change abruptly and extremely in response to being poked with greenhouse gases.  Hmmmm?

Along with this is evidence that natural climate extremes exceed by a wide margin those seen in the 20th century.  It makes sense to build then for resilience.

Loss and damage

“This is compensation for the adverse effects (of supposed climate change) that cannot be prevented by mitigation and adaptation. Any weather related damage is a potential candidate.”

It is a matter of common humanity to assist in disaster areas – and there will always be disaster areas.

Capacity building

“This vague term includes indirect costs like training, employment and infrastructure development.”

There are many areas where the west has evolved systems – building codes, disaster planning and management and infrastructure engineering – that are ripe for dispersal.  New land management and farming techniques are shared legitimately in the global community.

Technology transfer

“The core concept here is that patent rights will be waived for those technologies needed for the above activities. There may also be actual technology transfer, such as building new manufacturing and operating capacity (for free).”

I frankly doubt if patent waiving is a core concept.  It would be counter productive.  Inventers and firms are driven by the desire to make zillions.  They can with the right mousetrap.  The thing about production technology is that experience and a track record count – not just the design.  Technology such as high efficiency-low emission coal fired power plants are likely the technology or choice for nations – who don’t have cheap gas – over the next decade or so.  Japan has the track record in these things – although China is catching up and is not adverse to buying contracts with government money.

If you look back at the Copenhagen Consensus smart development goals – using aid to build coal powered generating plants is a possibility.

But if you are really going to make an impact on emissions – taxing electricity and transport is a marginal prospect at best.  A fraction of the fraction of emissions from electricity and transportation.  It should be remembered that in Paris nations agreed to increase emissions of greenhouse gases by 3.7 billion tonnes a year by 2030.

To make an impact on the broader areas requires a focus on development – which in turn provides resources for tackling the real issues of the world.

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