With COP26 just around the corner with all its attendant publicity, the need for a calm and sober assessment on what can and should be aimed for has never been more important. Sweeping promises and hysterical fear-mongering from politicians and pressure groups alike are no substitute for grounded analysis and methodical planning in navigating the global economy towards a net zero destination.
Charles Moore analyses our current predicament in this weekend's Telegraph, highlighting the competing claims and priorities amongst developed and under-developed nations.
The same point is amplified in important leaked documents seen by BBC News which we include as an addendum to accompany the headline article further down. It leads as follows:
"The leak reveals Saudi Arabia, Japan and Australia are among countries asking the UN to play down the need to move rapidly away from fossil fuels.
It also shows some wealthy nations are questioning paying more to poorer states to move to greener technologies.
This "lobbying" raises questions for the COP26 climate summit in November.
The leak reveals countries pushing back on UN recommendations for action and comes just days before they will be asked at the summit to make significant commitments to slow down climate change and keep global warming to 1.5 degrees.
The leaked documents consist of more than 32,000 submissions made by governments, companies and other interested parties to the team of scientists compiling a UN report designed to bring together the best scientific evidence on how to tackle climate change."
We begin with Charles Moore's article which argues that while Net Zero is a goal which all should strive for, it can only be achieved through global co-operation. The trouble is, whenever eco-summits are convened :
"The same basic problem recurs. Nations which industrialised earlier are far readier to reduce carbon emissions than are developing nations, who fear being cheated of economic growth. Because the latter are growing so fast (China and India account for more than a third of all global carbon emissions), there will be no overall carbon reduction unless they “disarm”. They won’t.
Indeed, as these rising nations become richer and more assertive, Western persuasiveness weakens. Even Barack Obama failed to achieve consensus at Copenhagen’s Cop15 in 2009. Neither his former vice-president, Joe Biden, nor Boris Johnson, has as much chance in Glasgow next week as he had then. The environmental equivalent of global multilateral disarmament is not happening. The unilateral disarmament of the West is."
Furthermore, as Lord Lawson, former chairman of the Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF) has argued in his book 'An Appeal to Reason' carbon-based energy is by “far and away the cheapest source of energy … and is likely to remain so, not forever, but for the foreseeable future”.
And therein lies the key political problem for the Prime Minister: how to press on with his green agenda whilst keeping voters on-side.
"Our Government’s failure to recognise how much we need fossil fuels until such time as carbon-neutral, affordable, 24-hour alternative technologies can successfully operate, is driving up demand for those wicked old carbon-producers, and therefore their price."
The full article can be read below with a link to the original beneath it:
The SEC Armadillo building is the venue for Cop26 in Glasgow
We include as an addendum the leaked documents from BBC News on nations around the world lobbying the UN to play down the need to move rapidly away from fossil fuels:
"The leak shows a number of countries and organisations arguing that the world does not need to reduce the use of fossil fuels as quickly as the current draft of the report recommends.
An adviser to the Saudi oil ministry demands "phrases like 'the need for urgent and accelerated mitigation actions at all scales…' should be eliminated from the report".
One senior Australian government official rejects the conclusion that closing coal-fired power plants is necessary, even though ending the use of coal is one of the stated objectives the COP26 conference.
Saudi Arabia is the one of the largest oil producers in the world and Australia is a major coal exporter.
A senior scientist from India's Central Institute of Mining and Fuel Research, which has strong links to the Indian government, warns coal is likely to remain the mainstay of energy production for decades because of what they describe as the "tremendous challenges" of providing affordable electricity. India is already the world's second biggest consumer of coal.
A number of countries argue in favour of emerging and currently expensive technologies designed to capture and permanently store carbon dioxide underground. Saudi Arabia, China, Australia and Japan - all big producers or users of fossil fuels - as well as the organisation of oil producing nations, Opec, all support carbon capture and storage (CCS).
It is claimed these CCS technologies could dramatically cut fossil fuel emissions from power plants and some industrial sectors.
Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, requests the UN scientists delete their conclusion that "the focus of decarbonisation efforts in the energy systems sector needs to be on rapidly shifting to zero-carbon sources and actively phasing out fossil fuels".
Argentina, Norway and Opec also take issue with the statement. Norway argues the UN scientists should allow the possibility of CCS as a potential tool for reducing emissions from fossil fuels.