CoP 21 is over; the politicians have all headed home patting themselves on the back, and“Didn’t we do well.” echoed across the airwaves. The world is saved and we can all look forward to a greener happier future; well no we can’t, at least not yet.
All the agreement really says is that we will try. The words in the agreement are;-
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.
At the moment the use and abuse of fossil fuels is responsible for approximately 36 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions every year. The graph below shows just how big a challenge we face in the energy sector alone.
Fossil fuels make up around 86% of the global energy supply. To change this ratio enough to hold temperature rise below 2 Deg C, the University of Colorado’s Roger Pielke Jr. says that carbon-free energy generation will have to rise from 14 percent of the energy supply today to more than 90% by the second half of the century. In other words we need to deploy at least one gigawatt of renewable, carbon neutral energy every day from now till the end of the century. This is the challenge and no amount of political spin will change that. The Paris agreement such as it is has no inbuilt mechanism for accounting, no sanctions if our carbon emissions continue to spiral upwards and no indications of how we will actually make the change to a carbon neutral modern world.
Robert Wilson a researcher at the University of Strathclyde puts it succinctly;
Fossil fuels continue to dominate new energy infrastructure. Maersk is not unveiling solar powered container ships. Boeing and Airbus appear content with the age of kerosene. Steel makers are sticking with coal. 20 million new cars are added to China’s roads each year. Electric cars remain marginal everywhere: in Germany, where they wanted 1 million of them on the roads by 2020 and in America where Obama spoke of 1 million being on the roads by 2015. Despite what you may read, China is still opening roughly one new coal power plant each week. India plans to double its coal production by 2020. Green Germany just opened a new coal power plant last month. Britain announced a phase out of coal power plants, but plans to build a new fleet of gas power plants.
In other words 1.5 deg C will be breached, as will 2 deg C and very likely 3 deg C.
The Paris agreement is barely worth the paper it is written on.