Climate conference in Glasgow or why Biden’s mission is impossible

MOSCOW, 02 Nov 2021, RUSSTRAT Institute.

The 26th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change began in Britain on October 31. It will end on November 12. This conference in Glasgow is becoming particularly significant, since in May 2021 the UN International Energy Agency presented the concept of “Net Zero 2050” to achieve zero carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

One of the authors of this concept, Rae Kwon Chung, a former chief adviser to the UN Secretary-General on climate change, bluntly stated that its implementation was made possible thanks to the election of Joe Biden as US president. However, everything suggests that the United States will not be able to lead the world community under the flag of decarbonisation.

Joe Biden declared his commitment to the “green course” in the energy sector in his election promises. Upon taking office, he confirmed his statements by limiting oil drilling and canceling the construction of an oil pipeline between the United States and Canada. At the G7 summit this summer, he tried to seize the initiative from the European Union as a world leader in the fight against climate change.

However, in reality, Joe Biden’s successes in this direction are very modest. He could not even achieve unity in his own party to adopt a regulatory framework to stimulate the development of “green energy”. All because of the banal distrust between the centrist and progressive wings of the US Democratic Party. Two infrastructure bills for $1.2 and $1.7 trillion, which included tax incentives for $320 billion and direct public investments in green energy for $130 billion, were suspended in the air.

The leadership of the Democratic Party knew perfectly well how important the adoption of these bills was before Joe Biden’s visit to the G20 and the climate summit in Glasgow. ”I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate will determine my presidency and what happens next week”, Joe Biden warned fellow party members before departing, according to Politico.

The vote scheduled for October 28 did not take place, the progressive wing of the Democratic Party did not agree with the reduction of their bill to $1.7 trillion from the original 3.5 trillion.

The situation at the recent hearings of top managers of oil companies before the US Congress is indicative. Representatives of the Democratic Party criticised industry representatives for their attempts to deny and mislead the public about their role in climate change.

In turn, members of the Republican Party put pressure on the fact that because of Joe Biden’s “green policy” the country lost its energy independence, and ordinary citizens lost their jobs.

It is now obvious that there is a split position in Joe Biden’s climate agenda. The reduction in oil production in the United States caused a sharp rise in gasoline prices. Therefore, he is already asking OPEC countries to increase oil production. The American Energy Agency reports that coal generation in the United States has gone up for the first time since 2014, now there is a shortage of coal in the United States, which threatens blackouts in the winter, Bloomberg writes.

How Joe Biden will convince the leaders of other countries to reduce carbon emissions into the atmosphere against the background of such a situation in his own country becomes a big question. Although we already know that the special representative of the President of the Russian Federation on climate Issues Ruslan Edelgeriyev held talks for eight hours with the special representative of the US President on climate Issues John Kerry during their meeting in July 2021.

Then John Kerry demanded that Russia completely abandon coal in this decade, but at the same time he did not have his own plan to achieve the same results in the United States. Therefore, we will not see any positive examples from Joe Biden at the Glasgow summit, there will be only bare demands.

In 2015, in Paris, the countries agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming to 2°C, ideally to 1.5°C. To do this, emissions had to be halved by 2030 and reach net zero by about the middle of the century. At the conference in Glasgow, it is expected that countries will increase their commitments to reduce emissions, as recommended by the conclusions of the UN Environment Program.

British Energy Minister Alok Sharma, who heads the conference, believes that coal energy should go down in history following the results of the meetings. In accordance with Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, it is planned that countries should decide on a central UN mechanism for trading carbon emission quotas.

These goals of the conference are under great question. The BBC has studied the leak of 32,000 documents, where countries such as Norway, Saudi Arabia, Japan and Australia lobbied for the need to downplay the requirements for a rapid phase-out of fossil fuels.

In particular, Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, asked UN scientists to remove from the conclusion the words that “decarbonisation efforts in the energy systems sector should focus on a rapid transition to zero-carbon sources and active abandonment of fossil fuels.”

The Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia lobbied to increase the role of nuclear energy in achieving the UN climate goals. While the UN studies indicated that thanks to nuclear energy, it is possible to achieve only one acceptable indicator in the field of sustainable development. They argue that this can play a positive role in the implementation of most of the 17 goals of the UN climate agenda.

There is clearly an attempt at a renaissance of nuclear energy in the world, although this is not widely advertised. The First Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans, responsible for the “Green Deal”, said that the EU will assist in the resumption of the nuclear power plant project in Bulgaria. The UK and France have said they will put nuclear power at the heart of a strategy to achieve zero carbon emissions. Even Japan now believes that restarting nuclear power plants is the key to achieving carbon emissions targets.

Also, judging by the materials obtained by the BBC, all major producers or consumers of fossil fuels, including the organisation of OPEC oil-producing countries, support the introduction of carbon capture and storage technology. It is claimed that this technology will significantly reduce fossil fuel emissions from power plants and in some industrial sectors.

The other day it became known that Australia will not support the agreement on the abandonment of coal mining and use at all.

“The Australian government in both Rome and Glasgow will put Australia’s interests first. All countries approach the tasks (to reduce emissions) in different ways, their economies are different, they face different problems. The situation in Australia is also very different from what has developed in Europe and other countries,” said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Coal mining is a significant part of the Australian economy, and coal prices have increased almost 4-fold compared to last year, amid its shortage in China.

In general, there is a general increase in energy prices in the world, oil and gas have also increased significantly in price. In European countries, there was an energy crisis, partly provoked by the game of traders on gas futures and rising LNG prices in Asia. However, the energy crisis has concrete grounds in the form of a decrease in electricity generation by wind turbines in Europe, the cessation of production at the Groenegen gas field in the north of the Netherlands and the absence of the usual hydrogenation in Brazil due to a lack of rain.

First of all, ordinary citizens felt the rise in the price of electricity. Therefore, remembering the “yellow vests” riots, which began with an attempt to raise the tax on diesel fuel, the French government froze gas prices. In Italy, they decided to restrain gas and electricity prices for citizens with subsidies from the budget. In Germany, the fee for renewable energy sources in the price of electricity was reduced by almost 2 times.

In the situation of a general fight against COVID-19, lockdowns and supply chain disruptions, not only ordinary citizens, but already entire industries suffer from rising electricity prices. Fertiliser plants and even metallurgical plants were temporarily closed in Europe. The Association of Steel Producers reports that global steel production has been declining for the fourth month in a row, and it is already 8.9% less than a year earlier.

Some representatives of the gas industry in the United States believe that the current energy crisis could lead to a global recession. The statements of the heads of international financial funds who are investing in accordance with the environmental principles of ESG and are already offering to increase investments in fossil fuels are significant, according to Bloomberg.

Co-founder of Blackstone Inc. Stephen Schwarzman said that the world is facing such an acute shortage of energy that it can cause social unrest. The chairman of BlackRock Inc, Larry Fink, stated, “We have such ideas that we could leave the brown world, and we could wake up tomorrow, in a green world. That’s not going to happen. The short-term policy related to environmental protection, in terms of limiting the supply of hydrocarbons, has led to energy inflation, and we will live with this for some time”.

Indeed, relevant experts believe that oil and gas prices will remain high in the coming years. In the current situation, when citizens cannot pay more than the usual price for energy resources in conditions of rising inflation, the prospects for a “green policy” are becoming very vague.

Surveys conducted back in 2019 showed that 68% of Americans were not ready to overpay even $10 for electricity in order to combat climate change. This raises the question of the political future of the elites, as explained by Thierry Bros, professor of energy at the Paris Institute of Political Studies: “You will not be re-elected if you drive so many people into energy poverty.”

In addition, 24 ministers of major developing countries issued a joint statement saying that the requirements for “net zero” emissions for all countries by 2050 contradict the Paris Agreement and climate justice, which will strengthen the existing inequality between developed and developing countries.

“If the rich want to chase the mirage, they should cut their own emissions more than they currently plan,” said Rajani Ranjan Rashmi, India’s former lead climate negotiator.

Developed Western countries are no longer coping with the task set in 2009, to collect $500 billion in five years to help poor countries in the fight against climate change, now they are postponing this deadline until 2023. Given the above circumstances, the chances of success of the conference in Glasgow, voiced by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as 6 out of 10, look extremely optimistic.

In the event that this conference fails to reach an agreement in principle on the economic principles of decarbonisation and interaction between countries, the entire concept of a “green transition” may be under threat.

The fact is that Joe Biden’s approval rating in the United States is lower than any other president since World War II, and this, in turn, pulls down the rating of the Democratic Party. Today’s problems faced by the United States cannot be solved by a simple infusion of money, so the chances that a Republican will win the US presidential election in 3 years are growing every day.

Representatives of the Republican Party are traditionally lobbyists of fossil fuel corporations, and the situation of 2017, when Donald Trump withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement, may repeat itself. Without the participation of the United States, no concepts like “Net Zero 2050” will be implemented on a global scale.

For the remaining 3 years, it will not be possible to unleash the flywheel of “green energy” without a multiple reduction in the standard of living of ordinary citizens. Even the intimidation of a dinosaur from the rostrum of the United Nations, as an indication that without carbon emission restrictions we will all die, will not force residents of Western countries to abruptly abandon heating and personal vehicles. This will require the methods of dictatorship, but so far the West is not ready to abandon democracy for zero carbon emissions.

Russia, having energy independence and being a supplier of energy carriers, is now quite in a comfortable position. The political leadership of the country noted that speculation and the desire to achieve competitive advantages are possible behind the pursuit of the goals of the climate agenda.

The same was stated by Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit: “Over the past 20 years, the carbon intensity of our economy has decreased by 2.7% annually. And this is more than in the world as a whole. And even more than in the countries of the ‘Seven’. We have recently decided to implement a new program to improve the energy efficiency of the economy for the period up to 2035.

And this program will be an important element in achieving the goal – to ensure carbon neutrality no later than 2060. And we have publicly announced that we are making such a commitment. Moreover, it is not easy to achieve carbon neutrality, but to make sure that in the next three decades the accumulated volume of net greenhouse gas emissions in Russia is less than that of our neighbours in the European Union. And this is a completely solvable task for us.”

Therefore, Moscow will take a very balanced approach to the obligations that Russia will assume as part of reducing carbon emissions, so as not to voluntarily cut its own economic development potential.

Institute for International Political and Economic Strategies – RUSSTRAT

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