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Climate emergency: diplomacy is dead, long live the law!

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By Fabrice Bonnifet

· 4 min read

We did not expect anything for this 26th COP in Glasgow, and we were disappointed anyway! Let's summarize. The Heads of State of the world were supposed to re-commit themselves (as since the first COP 25 years ago) to a 45% decrease of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 (Paris Agreement). Instead, if nothing changes between now and then, we will be entitled to an increase of 16%, or a projection of + 2.7°C at least by 2100. In short, we face a scheduled genocide for biodiversity, and that includes ourselves. This says a lot about the value of the words of politicians.

As a final result of this 2021 edition of the COP, our ruling elites are urged, in the final agreement signed in pain on Saturday, November 13, to re-re-re-raise their targets by the end of 2022, to finally comply with science, which adjures us to stop the exploitation of fossil fuels immediately, starting with the dirtiest of them: coal! Note that those who try to pass off natural gas as a clean fossil fuel are a fraud of the first order. Natural gas" is just less emissive per unit of production than "natural coal", but it is still a dirty fossil energy that contributes, like "natural oil", to global warming.

In fact, the longer we wait to finally begin to effectively lower CO2, the more effort it will take. The motto of the COPs is that the slower I move backwards before acting, the less I move forward in responsibility. Well, there were also some advances in Glasgow on the subject of methane and on the cessation, one day or another, of deforestation, as well as on the "programmed reduction" of the use of coal. Terrible semantics of international agreements to reflect their powerlessness. Not to mention the fact that the carbon neutrality commitments of the main polluting countries by 2050, which are as ambitious as they are fictitious due to methodological biases, are not based on any verification system.

Even worse, in a Washington Post article published on November 7, experts noted that climate commitments are based on erroneous data. In other words, many countries are underreporting their greenhouse gas emissions in their reports to the United Nations: "A review of 196 country reports reveals a huge gap between what countries report as their emissions and the greenhouse gases they actually send into the atmosphere. The global gap ranges from at least 8.5 billion to 13.3 billion tons per year of underreported emissions - large enough to move the needle on how much heat the Earth will accumulate." Not only are the financial commitments of rich countries (100 billion euros per year) to help poor countries prioritize renewable energies far below the COP21 promises, those to contain global warming below 1.5°C are also very insufficient, but in addition to the fact that they are not even kept, the bases of calculation are reduced to limit the reduction effort. Please stop, we will have to invent something else than the COP to save humanity.

What if the law became a means of breaking the deadlock? For a few years now, we have been witnessing in several countries in France, Poland, Ecuador, Colombia, Pakistan and Brazil, the creation of citizens' groups that are taking States to court for climate or environmental inaction. And it is starting to work. In its February 3, 2021 ruling on the Affaire du Siècle brought by the association "Notre Affaire à tous", the Paris Administrative Court recognized the responsibility of the French State in the climate crisis and deemed illegal the failure to respect its commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The State is also recognized responsible for "ecological damage".

Let's remind the world that 70% of the primary energy consumed in France is of fossil origin .... ! Yes, not everything works with nuclear electricity. So those who claim that thanks to our 85% decarbonized electricity, which represents the remaining 30% of energy, we would not be concerned by the need to reduce our CO2 emissions, are invited to inform themselves before saying anything. What the young demonstrators of the Climate Marches failed to achieve, will the rule of law succeed? Time will tell, but these legal principles of action deserve to be followed closely, as they may foreshadow the levers of tomorrow's advances.

"What about countries without the rule of law?", those who think that it is always up to others to act first may retort. In this case, perhaps it would be necessary to show a little more political courage, by ceasing to consider them as reliable partners and therefore by ceasing, for example, to allow them to organize global sports events in the heat of the year in air-conditioned stadiums.... in the open air!

This article is also published in French on LCI, a state-wide national TV & information channel. Energy Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Energy & Sustainability writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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