When UK energy, climate environment and sundry other things secretary Ed Miliband fleetingly visited Aberdeen a few weeks ago, I deliberately did not ask him anything about the COP15 climate-change conference. There wasn’t much point: the UK mainstream media circus was indulging in such a feeding frenzy that the topic had become boring.
Come the gathering itself and that frenzy became a gargantuan orgy – little wonder given the shambles that unfolded over the two weeks pre-Christmas.
Event over, Miliband branded it “a chaotic process dogged by procedural games”, while UK negotiator and sometime deputy PM John Prescott basically told the British media that they were stupid for focusing on the negatives, even though he himself blamed the US as a major contributor to the failure to achieve a legally binding agreement at COP15.
Miliband was to write: “The last two weeks, at times, have presented a farcical picture to the public. We cannot again allow negotiations on real points of substance to be hijacked in this way.
“We will need to have major reform of the UN body overseeing the negotiations and of the way the negotiations are conducted.”
But hang on, that’s a bit rich as it seems to me that the UK played a rather prominent role in the G20’s hijacking of the conference, telling more than 100 much poorer nations to toe the line and accept whatever deal the richer nations cared to offer them – including money bribes dressed up as climate change-related financial assistance.
It was as if the G20 wanted to command the future course of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. That’s no surprise given G20 attitudes to the UN in general.
Copenhagen was a farce in other ways, too.
Denmark went overboard to offset – via new brickworks in inundation-threatened Bangladesh – the massive carbon footprint generated by the travel of nearly 40,000 delegates, media, environmental groups and groupies, and the shuttlings of 1,500 gas-guzzling limousines as they carted Miliband, Prescott et al around Copenhagen.
As for security, I was told it bordered on fascist, with legitimate delegates given a hard time and, in at least one case, a keynote speaker being denied timely access in order to deliver his speech. NGOs were threatened with arrest.
Apparently, only a few hundred out of 1,500 NGO representatives were granted access to the Bella Centre, with an even smaller number being able to access the key plenary session.
It has been reported that, while NGOs were evicted, urgent consultations took place at ministerial level between the US, the EU, China, India and Brazil.
It was said: “The excuse for limiting NGOs to fewer and fewer participants was that the venue could only hold a limited number of participants, despite the fact that the Bella Centre was almost empty.”
Handling NGOs in such a manner is downright stupid. Kyoto, Copenhagen and the various other climate-change conventions that have spawned since the Earth Summit of 1992 can be attributed to NGOs.
In energy terms, it is very hard to detect a clear set of messages, except that natural gas is seen as being a great short-term fix in terms of attempting to curb rising emissions of greenhouse gases.
However, since COP15 failed to produce a legally binding agreement, the energy free-for-all is set to continue. If any country – or group of nations such as the EU – makes specific climate-related, and therefore major energy, commitments, then it is its choice – more or less.
For the petroleum industry, that means business as usual until such time as a solid global agreement is reached.
That’s not to say that renewables will not continue to gain ground. They will, but more likely because they increasingly make commercial sense rather than out of the need to save our collective skins.
MEANWHILE, there is a worry or two here in Scotland.
Some of you may know that the Scottish Government has set up the so-called “2020 Delivery Group”. Its purpose is to ensure that all sectors of Scotland’s economy and civic society contribute fully to achieving the Climate Change Delivery Plan, which includes the target of a 42% reduction in emissions north of the border over the next decade.
The group, convened by Scottish and Southern Energy CEO Ian Marchant, met for the first time on home turf as the Copenhagen farce rumbled along.
Now, I don’t doubt Edinburgh’s commitment to the cause – not at all. And that comes from direct and very positive experience. But I do, at times, worry about how some things are gone about, and one of them is this 2020 entity in which Marchant is playing an anchor role.
He gathered a stack of big guns around him – but there is one huge gap and at least one bizarre choice, in my opinion.
The huge gap is the total absence of the oil&gas industry, despite its critical importance to the Scottish economy, and, I would argue, progress towards the brave new less carbon-intensive world that is being sought.
So Marchant & Co, why has Big Oil been left out in the cold? I look forward to your answer.
As for the bizarre choice, what is it that David Lee (listed as a freelance writer and media consultant) has that makes him so attractive. What deep knowledge is it that he brings to the 2020 entity’s table? None that I have detected on Lined-in, and so on.
Another worry – last month, Sir Ian Wood apparently warned that Scotland can no longer compete in manufacturing and will have to increasingly depend on churning out highly educated individuals and harnessing that cerebral capacity.
If the future really does lie in brain power, then surely it will not be beyond the wit of said brain power to come up with ways of profitably manufacturing in this tiny scrap of a country.
We should not forget that one of the most successful – if not the most successful – Toyota manufacturing operations anywhere is located here in the UK. Indeed, until the credit crunch, more cars were being manufactured in these islands than ever before.
So, Sir Ian, it is disappointing that you appear negative about manufacturing.
Of course, I realise you are a successful, highly experienced businessman. But if the Japanese can succeed in Britain, then so too can the Brits – but with charismatic leadership that can fire up, not fire, the British worker.