Rhein on Energy and Climate

On October 25, the 27 EU Environment ministers have adopted their “negotiation directives” for the forthcoming Doha Climate Conference. Their seven – page cryptic conclusions, drafted in UN style, constitute a mixture of incantations and empty phraseology that no normal citizen will be prepared to even look at.

Ministers felt it necessary to stress their desire to adopt a “single global and legally binding climate agreement” at the latest by 2015 that should enter into force by 2020 at the latest.

By repeating the Conclusions reached a year ago in Durban they seem to have second thoughts about the Durban Conclusions being unraveled in Doha. Indeed, is it realistic to unite all 195 parties on a meaningful text within only two years, considering the huge divergences of interests between the parties and the stubborn opposition by the USA and others to a legally binding agreement?

And why does the EU insist so much on legal commitments when it is foreseeable that 195 sovereign countries will not be ready to submit to an effective monitoring? The EU should have become wiser in view of its own most recent incapacity to control binding budget targets for only 17 countries with very close political and economic ties.

Their incantation to have global green house gas emissions peak by 2020 is totally unrealistic. So is the plea to have them decline by at least 50 per cent until 2050 compared to 1990! This would require colossal efforts by China and other emerging countries that they will be unwilling and even incapable to achieve.

The wish to see the group of developed countries reduce their emissions until 2020 by 25-40 percent over 1990 can be no more than an illusion, considering the brief interval and the absence, at this moment, of a functioning policy regime in almost all developed countries.

The reaffirmation of the EU objective to reduce its GHG emissions by 80-95 per cent until 2050 over 1990 is, of course, welcome. But will it impress the parties; and will the EU not be forced to review this objective if nobody follows it.

So is the insistence on a global reduction of emissions from aviation and maritime traffic within the framework of ICAO and IMO, if only to paste over EU unilateral action on aviation.

But why does the EU insist on a more balanced gender representation? How will it help to combat global climate change?

And why is it a priority to agree on a host country for a “Climate Technology Centre”of dubious effectiveness? To be able to demonstrate “positive results” in the final conclusions of the Doha meeting?

One wonders why the EU continues to play the unproductive game of the UN climate bureaucracy instead of searching for more pragmatic approaches with a few like-minded partners.

But maybe the UN serves all political leaders as a smokescreen behind which to hide when they may be held accountable for the climate-induced disasters that lie in store for future generations. Maybe, some countries in the northern hemisphere even see themselves among the rare winners of climate change.

Who ever has followed global climate negotiations during the past 20 years cannot but come to the conclusion that several thousand national and UN bureaucrats seem to make a good living on permanent “climate negotiations” and therefore see little reason to end these in any near future. After failing on mitigating climate change they will be busy with “climate adaptation” that will last forever.

Maybe the moment has come to put and end to this global charade and wait for market forces making fossil energy no longer affordable. By that time it may have become impossible to contain the rise of global temperatures within the 2° limits solemnly proclaimed as Humanity’s objective. But human beings, possessing an extraordinary capacity of adjustment, will also learn to live on a much less hospitable planet than during the last centuries. At the same time, their numbers are likely to decline, which would be a welcome change.

Brussels 29.10. 2012 Eberhard Rhein


Author :


  1. Dear Eberhard,

    You probably dont remember me- we met at the EPC through Stanley Crossick. Found your writing thought provoking. I am a pessimist in as much as I dont believe humanity will take the necessary steps before the tipping point has been reached. I am advising the Hungarian government to concentrate on measures mitigating the effects of climate change- not wasting resources on prevention -at least not until China and the US sign up to a legally binding UN agreement on CO2 emmission limits..

    Cordially yours,


  2. Istvan
    Thanks for your helpful comment. By all means advise the Hungarian government on how to confront the consequences of climate change.i would be interesteed in your recipes. Still, I have not abandoned the hope for the EU to convince USA and China embarking on anti-climate change strategies. Leet us seee in 2013 after the most probable failure of the Qatar climate confeference to start in 10 days.
    Eberhard Rhein, Brussels

Comments are closed.