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« Notes from a conference, part II | Main | The extraordinary benefits of global warming »
Thursday
May212015

Notes from a conference

This is a guest post by Cameron Rose.

Just thought I'd share my brief diary from the Business and Climate conference at the UNESCO building in Paris on 20th/21st May 2015.  It is in the lead up to COP21 in December and I'm a delegate this week.

Arrived late and missed the opening warm-up from Christine Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC. The businessman in the next seat told me there had been nothing new from her.

Wed 20th PM.  I was in time to catch the second half of the 'Energy' thematic session, where there were six CEO-level panelists plus the Norwegian Minister of European Economic affairs.  I learned the following (perhaps a True/False quiz would be appropriate):
  • 'Onshore wind is now competitive with coal fired power stations.' 
  • 'The biggest global challenge is Climate Change but the second biggest challenge is Development - and energy is critical to both these.'  That's at least half true!
  • 'Fossil fuels are going to be with us for a long time.' That was from the Norwegian minister in pragmatic mode - but he also said:
  • 'CCS is crucial if we are going to reach the target of 2 degrees' and,
  • 'Natural gas is Renewables' best friend'.  
  • 'The best thing policy can do is put a price on carbon and remove fossil fuel subsidies.' More on subsidies later.
  • 'Buildings occupy 150bn metres squared of the planet'  I must check the maths of that one when I'm bored.  But one can imagine where that was going - designing eco buildings.
  • 'Solar is being looked upon from a Climate Change perspective. But it is independently competitive'  I am sure that is true in some places but I'll stick that one to the wall meantime.  The quote was from an Indian CEO (name not on the programme) but clearly the situation in India is worth watching, especially since Prime Minister Modi has begin to ruffle things up.
Then the second Plenary Session:  'Mapping the Trajectory' with a further six CEO-level panel members plus the Mexican  Minister of the Environment, all compered by CNN anchor Nina dos Santos.  I learned:
  • There are now 'Save the World' products from Ben and Jerry's'.  The Unilever CEO was keen we should know that!
  • 'Total's gas production last year was equivalent to it's oil production.'  The Total  CEO was keen to point out that his company is the second largest solar producer in the world.
  • 'Our country is responsible for 1.4% of global emissions but we, ourselves are vulnerable.  Last year we were hit by two hurricanes and this year it looks like it will be worse.' plus a load more weather attributed shamelessly and directly to human emissions.  Yes, it was the Mexican Environment Minister.  He was, shall we say, a little imprecise.
  • 'The fact is Climate Change is here.'   Well, at least I can agree with that.  Best without the capital C's though.
  • 'If we were to shut down our coal plants we would go bankrupt.  It is a question of evolution, not revolution.' That from the CEO of RWE, a major electricity generator in Germany.  He was curiously quiet about their dash for coal to replace nuclear.
  • 'Poverty is not going down in the world.  It is going up'.  There's one for Matt Ridley to take apart.  Can't recall which CEO said that.  The inaccuracies are coming thick and fast.  I can't keep up.
Then as a wash up we had Angel Gurria.  The programme describes him as the Secretary General, OECD.  Charismatic, dramatic and just the person to whip up some enthusiasm.  He summed up what had been said well and picked on his Big Idea for what action is needed to whip this Climate Change problem into shape: 'A Big Fat Price on Carbon'.  I knew it was his big idea because he repeated that phrase 3 more - no, maybe 30 more times.  But there was also some comment on the IMF report that we spend $5.3 trillion dollars in subsidies for fossil fuels.  I'm not sure he was quite accepting that as a meaningful contribution to the debate.
Then the closing session (for the day) from Segolene Royale, France's Minister for the Environment.  Up to this point everything had been in English.  But sure enough, being the UNESCO HQ in Paris, there as a translation to be listened to with the headphones.  But I don't think she said anything exciting - unless more about saving island nations is exciting.  And she is a 'True Believer'.
On to an informal dinner along with our ESG advisor and some of his other clients.  I'm afraid I almost blotted my copy book by revealing that I think the science underpinning all this is a bit uncertain.  One of the guests took quite strong exception to this and I had to advise him that all his arguments were arguments from authority not arguments from evidence.  But I was a guest so I'll maybe drop him an email just to try and reassure him I am really relatively normal otherwise.
Wonder if I'll get a chance to ask a question tomorrow. Martyrdom awaits the brave.

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Reader Comments (42)

Obama scapegoating Climate Change for his failure in Middle East US foreign policy and the unrelenting rise of ISIS and his impenitence in stopping their carnage.

Fortunately provides an opportunity for the US Tea party.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/jeb-bush-criticizes-obama-for-overstating-climate-change-issue-1.3081552

May 21, 2015 at 9:41 AM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

'Save the World' products from Ben and Jerry's'.

What's that? An empty tub? Kill obesity and send the money to the poor in one fell swoop?

Thanks for reporting but if you feel your sanity drifting, please make your way swiftly to somewhere more logical... anything from a fun fair mad house onwards.

May 21, 2015 at 9:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

It would be interesting to observe the apoplexy as you drop a few bombshells of facts in there.

We are doomed, not to the horror of Glowball Warbling but to the true terror that is about to be unleashed by those supposedly acting in the best interests of we, the people, in their undiminished desire for control.

May 21, 2015 at 9:44 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

I've only been to Norway once. My recollection is a country which exported gas, was able, thanks to its unusual terrain, to power itself by hydro-electricity and could then strike poses about coal, which it didn't use. It also despoiled its beautiful landscapes with wind-turbines, which it had, but didn't need.

May 21, 2015 at 9:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterOwen Morgan

What I wonder about these things, is what do they achive other than a mutual ego stroke ? Chances are, there are very few new people involved. They already believe, so what are they doing there, wasting energy?

May 21, 2015 at 9:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

If wind and solar are competitive (as claimed) why are we still paying subsidies???

May 21, 2015 at 9:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterGerard

On the one hand, I enjoyed the lively report - for which many thanks. On the other, my jaw dropped, as it has done so often in recent years, at the astonishing level of effort and participation there is in this modern 'madness of crowds'. I say 'madness' for the evidence for, and the theorising about, climate catastrophe due to our CO2 are so weak as to scarcely deserve a module in some graduate course on atmospheric physics. But what impressive orchestration there has been to produce conferences such as the one Cameron Rose reports from! And of course, much else besides has been 'produced', and so much of that much being wasteful of resources and destructive of lives, prospects, and wellbeing. Madness seems the right word, but perhaps Tragedy would also serve. Perhaps Paris in December will be different. Perhaps 'shy climate scientists' will emerge to win the day. That pleasing thought has helped the old jaw ease back into place.

May 21, 2015 at 9:58 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Tiny and John S.

Whilst I have not met anyone - or heard from anyone from the platform - with whom you or I would probably agree on the fundamentals, there are lots of shades and colours and I have elected to engage. A lot of these CEOs are taking real decisions and it is not all black and white. The good is the enemy of the best - or in this case - the worst is the enemy of the bad (it's like voting in the election!). Some of these guys are speaking important practical reality into the debate. I hope to be able to report later on some vital and helpful contributions eg from Tony Haywood, CEO of Glencore, a major commodity producer.

May 21, 2015 at 10:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterCameron Rose

If it is all going so well, why do taxpayers have to subsidise, a mutual backslapping event to promote it.

Something does not add up about Green economics. Again.

May 21, 2015 at 10:41 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

'Total's gas production last year was equivalent to it's oil production.' The Total CEO was keen to point out that his company is the second largest solar producer in the world.

Several years ago (4/5) whilst I was still working I used to watch The EuroNews Channel for ten minutes whilst having a cup of tea and preparing for the M1 J24A and J21 and later TollBar End at Coventry, One of the adverts I remember was by an "dirty" oil company, Total I think, about how they were researching producing diesel from natural gas. There seems very little in the press about this, possibly because these days diesel is the devil's own fuel..

May 21, 2015 at 10:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

golf charlie
One of the reasons for going to church once a week is to recharge the spiritual batteries and meet your co-religionists so that if you are in danger of becoming a little weak in your faith you can talk about it to people who have had the same problems and can help you overcome them.
Since we have long since established that AGW is merely one more religion, same principle applies.
Cameron is right that the issues that face business are not black and white. Company planning has to take into account the environment in which it operates and at the present time there is a push for "greenery", not all of it unacceptable in principle provided it is based on reality. The difficulty is trying to make the right business decisions in an essentially hostile climate where, as we saw yesterday, the most fantastic definitions of "subsidy" are created from nothing with the specific intention of demonising fossil fuels.

May 21, 2015 at 10:54 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Mike Jackson, religious groups get charitable status, but not cash handouts. If global warming is a faith organisation, tax payers and religious faith groups should be demanding parity!

A Christian can be found liable for declining to promote gay marriage, while decorating a cake, yet the BBC can drop David Bellamy for not sharing their belief system.

Do not adjust your mindsets, normal double standards still apply.

May 21, 2015 at 11:09 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

'Buildings occupy 150bn metres squared of the planet' I must check the maths of that one when I'm bored. But one can imagine where that was going - designing eco buildings.

Not so much eco buildings if you read the Agenda 21 writings, but the general idea is to get smaller more compact housing with the ultimate aim of producing 'city towers' - imagine London with less than half its present footprint but about a mile high and double the present population.

It is happening today if you read the planning guidelines produced in several countries. It is especially apparent in countries that have vast open areas like Australia where the excuse is saving the planet by reducing the distances that people travel in cars.

May 21, 2015 at 11:23 AM | Unregistered Commenterivan

Taking the surface area of the Earth as 510e12 sq. metres then buildings must occupy 100x150e9/510e12=0.03% of it. Not much point in painting the roofs white then (as US energy secretary Dr Steven Chu suggested).

May 21, 2015 at 11:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

So you saw a group of super rich and super powerful people telling scary stories to justify their taking our money.

May 21, 2015 at 11:58 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Be careful of your job, by the way. The climate obsessed are obsessed at the cost of their critical thinking skills and tend to react with anger when meeting those that still have theirs. And the obsession tends to metastasize and damage other beneficial traits and characteristics.

May 21, 2015 at 12:18 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

SandyS "preparing for [....] TollBar End at Coventry" LOL. Certain places stick in your mind. We used to take a break at the Morrisons before facing it. Of course, it was for whimps after they put in traffic lights :-)

May 21, 2015 at 12:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

hunter, global warming was forced on us with scary stories, that are now demonstrably false.

Now they are trying to "sell" global warming, by getting business groups to sound positive, by giving them money, via subsidies.

I was fooled once, now, I just look at everything as being an attempt to find a different angle, to persuade, cajole, force me in to accepting their marketing. If a product doesn't sell, despite 20+ years of advertising, it maybe because it is rubbish.

May 21, 2015 at 12:35 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

I don't understand how fossil fuels are subsidised.

And as for a carbon tax - don't we already have that? I reckon it's about £1500 per tonne based on the tax applied to the petrol and diesel I buy.

May 21, 2015 at 12:55 PM | Unregistered Commenterjaffa

Mining disturbs about 0.00002% of the world's surface - aren't they a bunch of criminals? I ask you!
Where's Greenpeace when you need them?

May 21, 2015 at 1:02 PM | Unregistered Commentertoorightmate

jaffa wrote: 'I don't understand how fossil fuels are subsidised.'

Your instincts are broadly correct. Our host has dealt with this issue before:
http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2013/7/6/no-fossil-fuel-subsidies.html

and Tim Worstall nails a few of the key points in response to the recent report:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2015/05/19/imf-report-on-5-3-trillion-in-energy-subsidies-careful-its-not-quite-what-you-think/

May 21, 2015 at 1:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterCameron Rose

But poverty "is" going up in the world. Any GCM can illustrate this "fact".

May 21, 2015 at 1:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeff Norman

Cameron Rose, do we get to know how wind is competitive with coal?

It is a lovely broad brush sweeping statement, ideal for sweeping stuff under a carpet.

Is it bird life destroyed? Noise? Irration? Consistent output? Or the amount of subsidies paid per £ invested, guaranteed?

May 21, 2015 at 1:56 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Cameron Rose said:

Wonder if I'll get a chance to ask a question tomorrow. Martyrdom awaits the brave.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our skeptic dead.
In science there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility.

May 21, 2015 at 2:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

@May 21, 2015 at 1:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeff Norman

But poverty "is" going up in the world. Any GCM can illustrate this "fact".

Yep. But not the facts:

http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21578643-world-has-astonishing-chance-take-billion-people-out-extreme-poverty-2030-not

May 21, 2015 at 2:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterSceptical Sam

As said before, that Ms Figueres deserves an Oscar for the way she can turn on the taps of sorrow at the drop of a hat for the tv cameras, as a concerend citizen of the World, cos she ain't getting enough dosh in her purse!

May 21, 2015 at 2:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

'City Towers', bulging cliff dwellers from every crevice and orifice.
==========

May 21, 2015 at 2:37 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Alan the Brit, maybe Figueres is going to be a mobile drought crisis unit, ready to turn on the taps at will. With her help, the Sahara could be the bread basket of Africa

May 21, 2015 at 3:10 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

ivan said:

Not so much eco buildings if you read the Agenda 21 writings, but the general idea is to get smaller more compact housing with the ultimate aim of producing 'city towers' - imagine London with less than half its present footprint but about a mile high and double the present population.

If you read 2000AD you know how that will end.

May 21, 2015 at 3:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

Modern day city towers
http://www.mediafire.com/view/83fwqr8hfx5art9/HK_Island.jpg

May 21, 2015 at 3:31 PM | Registered Commenterdavidchappell

@ golf charlie: Didn't think of it like that, that's a very good point, I have maligned this good lady wrongfully, she really can serve a useful purpose after all!

May 21, 2015 at 3:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

President Obama has made a lot of really stupid speeches while in office, but his address to the graduates at the Coast Guard Academy the other day has to take the cake. he is a vastly ignorant man.

May 21, 2015 at 3:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Howerton

'Buildings occupy 150bn metres squared of the planet'
Start by converting to km squared, 150K. 150,000 of earth's total 510,000,000 km2. Pretty insignificant. 0.1% of total land.

May 21, 2015 at 4:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterEric Gisin

Phil,
Obama's folly on the climate rivals that of Caligula's war on the god of the sea, Neptune.

May 21, 2015 at 4:17 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

@Eric Gisin/ivan/JamesG: They have simply used m² to create a big number, our warmist friends just love big numbers, hence billion instead of thousands, they think it confuses & misleads which of course it is intended to do!

May 21, 2015 at 5:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

For their next trick, they will be blaming the number of greenhouses, for creating the greenhouse effect.

May 21, 2015 at 7:02 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Just as an addendum to my earlier post regarding 'city towers' there are some people actively working on the concept.

Although, as is mentioned in the comments, why build it there?

May 21, 2015 at 8:11 PM | Unregistered Commenterivan

Off topic:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/nicola-sturgeon/11620425/Nicola-Sturgeon-demands-veto-over-wind-farm-subsidies.html

May 21, 2015 at 9:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul

Ivan. There are many more reasons for the town planning we have than the one your thinking.

The temptation today is for larger rural blocks to be subdivided into a small segment of urban sprawl out in the country. This immediately generates complaints to council for more amenities in this location. Bus stops, rubbish collection, parks. It adds traffic loads to rural intersections that need to be upgraded. Same with town water and sewerage systems, the network between the new isolated estate and the treatment plants are suddenly inadequate and need upgrading. Flood and fire risk must be assessed and addressed. They are typically bought by young families, which in turn add substantial numbers of students to the local school. Local shops love the idea, but parking is usually inadequate in country towns, this generates complaints. The list goes on and on and on.

So for deficiency's sake; they grow the towns in controlled directions and try to prevent satellite towns from developing outside of the principle towns. Sorry for off topic, I thought this comment need addressing.

May 21, 2015 at 10:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterGreg Cavanagh

“… the ultimate aim of producing 'city towers' - imagine London with less than half its present footprint but about a mile high and double the present population …’ ivan 11:23 AM.
=====================================
The policy sounds uncomfortably like a rehash of the city planning in Communist Eastern Europe countries notably Romania where Ceausescu's policy of ’Systematisation’ aimed to concentrate the country’s entire population into grim tower blocks, not so much to relieve a decent housing shortage but as control measure, the ground floors to be occupied by state police or trusty caretakers.

May 21, 2015 at 10:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterChris Hanley

<B> I expect ee'll be hearing more from Christine Figueres staff.

May 21, 2015 at 11:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

The service you get
Renting your CO2 set
From Figueres

May 21, 2015 at 11:30 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

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