Peter O’Brien: Myths Surrounding the Paris Agreement

There are a number of myths surrounding the Paris Agreement.

The first, and strangely enduring, one is that Tony Abbott committed us to the agreement.   Let’s accept that, as Prime Minister, Abbott agreed that negotiations could be based on a 26% target.  Unfortunately for Abbott, he was knifed some three months before he had a chance to commit us to an agreement that was signed on 12th December 2015.  Abbott claims that his intention was that the agreement would apply to Australia only if all other countries made meaningful commitments and stuck to them.   In other words, he reserved the right to withdraw if it became obvious that the agreement was not working , which  has now become apparent – as even the climate alarmists are conceding.  He rightly points out that Donald Trump had clearly signalled his intention to withdraw if elected and that would have altered the situation.  That may be self-serving rhetoric from Abbott but, since he was denied the opportunity to put that resolve into practice, we must give him the benefit of the doubt.   But what can be said unequivocally is that Tony Abbott did not commit us to the Paris Agreement.   And it is not inconsistent for him to now advocate our withdrawal from it.

The second myth is the conflation of the Paris Agreement commitment with our electricity sector.  Some conservative commentators, such as Chris Kenny, claim that there is an inherent contradiction in Scott Morrison’s commitment to lowering power prices and his, apparent, continuing support for the Agreement.    Here is Kenny in last Weekend Australian:

It is one thing for Morrison to remain in Paris but it is quite another to place great store on meeting the targets. Most other signatories have no meaningful targets to meet or are on track to miss them. Our Prime Minister ought to make clear that if something needs to give on electricity prices, reliability or emissions targets, it is the climate goals that will be disregarded.

Instead he is stuck arguing a contradictory line: that the Paris emissions reductions can be delivered at no cost but Labor’s higher targets will be costly.

The point that Kenny has consistently missed is that the Paris Agreement applies to the whole economy not just the electricity sector which comprises only 30% of our emissions.  There is no inherent contradiction in Morrison’s position.  He could exempt the electricity sector from any further mandated cuts and simply impose an additional burden of the other sectors, principally transport and agriculture, to make up the shortfall.  So why hasn’t Morrison said this explicitly?

Well, that’s because he doesn’t want to scare the punters and, as a result, the public is being lulled into a false sense of security.  I strongly suspect that most voters believe that once we’ve cut emissions in the electricity sector by 26% then that’s the job done and dusted – pain over.  Kenny’s analysis would tend to reinforce this misperception.  And they are being told, by Morrison and the renewable industry, that the target will be easily achieved anyway by 2020.  If Morrison were to come out now and say “no, the pain is only just beginning”, more people might join the chorus to get out of the Paris Agreement.

Paul Kelly recently claimed:

Polls say the public expects Australia to participate in global action on emissions reduction.

“Which polls?” one may well ask.  But even if Kelly’s claim were true, it may be because they don’t have any idea of the real cost of such action.  And how could they? The government has not done any costing on this commitment let alone released their findings to the public.  I expect this support would largely evaporate if the government were to come clean on the real extent and cost of adhering to its relatively modest target.

Another myth, being propagated by Peta Credlin and others, is that the Paris targets are aspirational only and never intended to be binding, let alone legislated.  It is true that the Paris Agreement targets are non-binding, which simply means that there are no in-built sanctions on signatory countries for failing to meet them.  The Agreement also mandates that countries may increase their targets but not reduce them.  The clear intention going into the Paris talks was that the agreement would be binding.  As it turned out that was a step too far for most signatories and, in the end, what was agreed was that countries would make their best endeavours to meet their self-imposed targets.  Given that CO2 emissions reductions impose significant costs on individuals and business, ‘best endeavours’ necessarily mandates legislation of some kind or other.  Voluntary action is unlikely to work.  Evidence has shown that very few people will even agree to a voluntary $2 carbon offset when they fly.  So how much more receptive will they be when it is made clear to them that 26% emissions reduction in the electricity sector is just the start of the pain.  The targets may not be binding on the government but, to comply with the spirit and intent of the Agreement, governments, ultimately, must make them binding on their citizens in some way.

Of course, the fact is, we could repudiate the Paris Agreement but that would not stop Labor legislating its own targets anyway.   It would not need the Paris Agreement, but it would be so much easier for them to argue their case for 45% emissions reduction based on the Coalition’s own rhetoric, namely its nominal support for the agreement that it negotiated and signed.

If conservatives are to win this debate they must ensure that they argue based on a complete understanding of the facts and issues.

It is possible the government has put the entire Paris Agreement, not just the electricity sector portion, on the backburner and intends to leave it there ad infinitum.  But I doubt it.

So why should the government repudiate the Paris Agreement?    There are three reasons.

The first, as a symbolic gesture that we will not subordinate our national interest to the United Nations for purely symbolic rhetoric.

Secondly, to deny Labor a vehicle with which to wedge the Coalition by preaching their own superior virtue viz a stronger version of Paris than the Coalition’s.

And lastly, and most importantly, to commence the arduous task of disengaging from the CAGW myth.   Admittedly, this is the tricky part. It can’t be denied that some Coalition MPs accept the CAGW premise and, when challenged with the brutal reality of the futility of the Paris Agreement, they avert their eyes from the uncomfortable truth and trot out the dumbest myth of all – that we, as an upstanding global citizen, must stand by the commitments we have made.

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21 Responses to Peter O’Brien: Myths Surrounding the Paris Agreement

  1. Rafe

    Surely the killer argument is the cost not just dollars but collaterak damage of the mitigation effirt worldwide PLUS the fact acknowledged by the Chief Scientist that no instrument could measure the difference we make by our ruinous effirts.

  2. a happy little debunker

    Just wait til Labor start putting the screws to transport costs, manufacturing, farmers and the resultant costs to consumers via their supermarket purchases.

    Gonna make the costs of heating/cooling your home a non-issue.

  3. wal1957

    Power prices are now at the stage where some people have to choose whether to stay warm or be able to eat. This shows how far removed the representatives of ‘the people’ really are.
    Wind power and solar both need a backup contingency. This means that we have 2 electricity generating systems when we only need 1. Thus we have extra costs which must be passed on down the chain to us, the poor bloody consumers. For anyone to say that RE will lower power prices fails in the face of reality.

    Fossil fuel generators do not need backup. They provide power 24/7, irregardless whether it’s nightime or the wind isn’t blowing.

    PS…and the big eveready battery in Sth OZ can power the state for a whopping 4 minutes! WOW!
    Politicians and their ‘experts’ have totally stuffed our once reliable power grid. Unfortunately it doesn’t worry them. They are on their $200k salary…what’s to worry about?

  4. Peter Greagg

    Good article.
    An additional point is that if we accept all the logic underpinning the Paris Agreement, then to meet the declared goal of limiting the temperature rise to 2 degrees C, then all countries need to do the Paris abate times 100.
    And yes, that is the dismal fact that no-one wants to discuss. Paris only does 1 percent of the abatement necessary to limit the temperature rise to 2 degrees C.
    Oh, and BTW, I certainly don’t accept the conceptual framework of AGW. The point I am making is that even if it were true, there is zero chance of the world de-carbonising to the extent that the AGW supporters are urging.
    So to me, we should just ignore the whole scam.

  5. AH

    I’d like to see politicians advocate voluntary action, rather than government coerced action.

    Ok, most people won’t take action. But that would be democracy at work. It’s a completely democratic process. If enough people turn off their electricity then Australia can successfuly reduce it’s emissions by 26%, which would decisively reduce global emmissions by 0.47%. But if enough people can’t do that then it’s simply democracy at work, nothing to be ashamed of. If you are against voluntary action you are against democracy.

  6. Rob MW

    He could exempt the electricity sector from any further mandated cuts and simply impose an additional burden of the other sectors, principally transport and agriculture, to make up the shortfall. So why hasn’t Morrison said this explicitly?

    Why worry now, they’ve already completely fucked the inherent efficiency of the diesel engine with really fucking stupid emission controls (i.e – the completely fucked up EGR diesel engine – 2008 to approx. 2014) and with new and potentially even more fucked up diesel engine emission control regulations now in effect, and regulated land ownership in all its forms, including agriculture production, into the next century.

    Even a Canary in a coal mine can withstand the emissions of any diesel engine, so the only thing they are regulating is very expensive fucking soot.

    Virtue signalling is an extremely expensive business for everyone else not giving a shit about chasing high maintenance and hugely expensive green votes.

  7. RobK

    There are a number of myths surrounding the Paris Agreement.
    ….
    There are a number of myths that are the Paris Agreement.
    FiFY

  8. mareeS

    We are travelling out here in Western Qld at present, and the drought is so front and centre, the land has mostly been de-stocked, road trains are fewer in number than usual except for those carrying hay, the drought has done by necessity what Paris wishes to do by force.

    Once the rains come, and they always do, will be when we see how much force the Paris scam has over Australian agriculture and transport. None, I hope.

  9. Mark M

    “Abbott claims that his intention was that the agreement would apply to Australia only if all other countries made meaningful commitments and stuck to them. ”

    And that was one of Abbott’s biggest mistakes.

    He should have called crap and not signed anything.

  10. Mark A

    Mark M
    #2816140, posted on September 14, 2018 at 6:15 am

    And that was one of Abbott’s biggest mistakes.

    He should have called crap and not signed anything.

    I lost faith in Abbott when he signed up for NDIS, Gonsky at al etc.
    Mainly because he didn’t have to.

  11. Bruce of Newcastle

    The Paris Agreement is hilarious.
    Both China and India are projected to triple their CO2 emissions by 2030.
    China is already the biggest CO2 emitter by far.
    And they are allowed to triple it again. Farce.
    We on the other hand will turn ourselves into a third world state for no logical reason.
    The CO2 savings we make are microscopic.
    Nothing will stop India and China doing this.
    The only reason they signed the stupid agreement was that Obama gave them a free pass.
    Otherwise they refused to sign.
    Total joke, but the joke’s on us as our pollies take us on the road to Venezuela.

    We should immediately pull out of this fake agreement in protest of China and India’s actions!

  12. egg_

    Both China and India are projected to triple their CO2 emissions by 2030.

    More from the beyond parody file.

  13. Gerard

    Given natural emissions are in the order of 750 Billion tonnes, how much difference will 26% of our emissions make?

  14. Rossini

    wal1957
    #2816056, posted on September 13, 2018 at 10:09 pm
    +1
    Most of those who spruke the warming scam are the ones who can afford to eat,drink,and turn the heating on
    without a care for those who cannot

  15. struth

    Maybe it’s time to revisit section 44 (I) of the constitution.

    If they call Paris and all other dictates from the global socialist UN, “agreements”, then what are they when no other country is agreeing, by way of ignoring targets?
    Who exactly, are those who signed us up to all manner of destruction, (which all oddly has 2030 as the target year), in agreement with?

    The UN has it’s own forces and has the ability to punish countries with embargos and restrictions.
    It is a foreign Power, if ever there was one.
    The wording in section 44 describes being under obedience, or allegiance to a Foreign power.
    It does not say countries.
    We have, a long time ago, gone from agreement to obedience.
    To an out and proud global socialist POWER.

  16. Terry

    “The point that Kenny has consistently missed is that the Paris Agreement applies to the whole economy not just the electricity sector which comprises only 30% of our emissions.”

    Don’t worry Peter. High energy prices impact far beyond the energy sector itself. Plenty of scope to capture that remaining 70%.

    High energy prices have a wonderful habit of redistributing our productive enterprises to offshore abodes along with their emissions, the jobs and wealth that go with them.

    Of course, it does SFA for world CO2 emissions or temperature but that was never really the point now was it.

  17. DD

    Struth @ 0853hrs,

    YES.

    Our politicians and their advisors have been subverted by the UN.

    Think Common Purpose.

    Think UNiparty.

    S44 can prevent politicians acting in their own interests or those of any other country, power (think UN), political system (think communism and or your favorite poison) or individual (think Soros).

    We all see how successful that is.

    The recent kerfuffle about dual citizenship appeared to trivialize S44 as an anachronism.

    Go back to the TV and social media, switch off your brains and let us get back to raping Australia.

    Nothing to see here!

  18. jupes

    The Paris Agreement is hilarious.

    Remember when Australian governments used to govern in the national interest?

  19. Senile Old Guy

    We on the other hand will turn ourselves into a third world state for no logical reason. The CO2 savings we make are microscopic.

    As in, viewable only with an electron microscope. We are less than 1.5% of developed countries emissions. And much of that is agriculture/farming (i.e. cow farts). If AGW was real — it is not — shutting down every human CO2 emitter in Australia would have no effect on anything. A single volcanic eruption would wipe out any “savings” we made. It is the biggest scam in history.

  20. Rayvic

    The Paris Accord is a complete farce. It is based on the UN-promoted false premise: that anthropogenic CO2 emissions will cause dangerous global warming.

    Agreement rests on so-called developing countries having been bribed with promised distributions from funds contributed by the so-called developed countries.

    It would not surprise if sovereignty-sacrificing, unpatriotic ex-PM Turnbull committed to it as it would help realisation of his egotistical ambition of becoming UN Secretary-General, ruling over a world order.

    That trillions and trillions of dollars would be wasted worldwide in the process of promoting grossly-inefficient, part-time renewables, was immaterial to conceited Turnbull and the like-minded.

  21. Rossini

    jupes
    #2816276, posted on September 14, 2018 at 10:54 am
    Remember when Australian governments used to govern in the national interest?

    At least Trump puts America first.
    Where as the Stupid Forken Liberals are currently running dead, hoping to win the race in 6 years time.
    Trouble is that no one I repeat no one will be prepared to pony up the dough for the repair costs.
    Australia is forked!!!!!!!!1

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