Why COPs Should Have No Teeth

Ivor Williams

One definition of insanity is ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.’ (Supposedly an Einstein quote.)

A good example is the forthcoming 28th session (COP28) of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This will convene from 30 November to 12 December in the United Arab Emirates. The ‘Parties’ are UN member states plus some observers. The last one, COP27 at Sharm el Sheik in Egypt, had 12,000 delegates from over 200 countries.

There has been one every year since except for 2020. All the 27 so far have warned about the increasingly noxious state of the atmosphere and declaring that something must be done about it before it’s too late.

It all began with the May 1992 UNFCCC Convention. This comprehensive document was supposed to lay the foundation for all subsequent action to deal with climate change. In essence it said: ‘human activities have been substantially increasing the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases … the global nature of climate change calls for the widest possible cooperation by all countries and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response.’

Nothing much happened so the UN planned a series of Conferences of the Parties to the Convention. The first (COP1) in 1995 declared: ‘The Parties should protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations of humankind … the developed country Parties should take the lead in combating climate change.’

Ten years and ten Conferences later produced the Paris Agreement at COP21 in December 2015, ‘a legally binding international treaty on climate change.’ The 196 Parties attending agreed ‘to limit global warming to 1.5°C … greenhouse gas emissions must peak before 2025 at the latest and decline 43% by 2030 … the Agreement is a landmark in the multilateral climate change process because, for the first time, a binding agreement brings all nations together to combat climate change and adapt to its effects.’

The scale of inaction now clearly bears traces of insanity. Seven years and seven Conferences after the Paris ‘landmark’ COP27(2022) announced: ‘Parties have established their resolve to limit the global average temperature increase to 1.5°C in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change … with cascading crises facing governments and citizens alike, global efforts risk backsliding against the scale and speed of action required … stakeholders must ensure they deliver on their promises.’

The CO2 content of the atmosphere has been measured since 1957 and has risen steadily every year. The twenty-seven Conferences have had no effect on total global emissions. Nations have realised their people’s need for electricity had to come first. The cheapest and quickest way to provide that is by way of fossil-fuelled power stations.

Leaders of nations may also have wondered at the increasingly manic shouts of: ‘global boiling’; ‘July the warmest in human civilisation’s history’; ‘oceans growing hotter … triggering global weather disasters … heat searing  enough to knock out mobile phones’; ‘daily temperatures hitting a 100,000 year high’; ‘the September data shows … the planet’s temperature reached its warmest level in modern records and probably in thousands of years.’

Advisers to leaders of nations may have pointed out that we have only been measuring daily world-wide temperatures for about 140 years. NASA makes it quite clear that ‘before 1880 there just wasn’t enough data to make accurate calculations.’ The last ice age ended about 10,000 years ago; the advisors may have advised that it would therefore seem reasonable to expect that records will be broken, will continue to be broken, and may or may not have anything to do with global warming.

There has curiously been very little comment about the willingness of the UN to go on having Conferences calling for actions that don’t happen. Occasional remarks have appeared, in March 2019 for instance: ‘After 25 years of failure, we should abandon the UNFCCC … Emissions are at record levels and the international treaty designed to rein them in cannot drive action, it is time for new ideas to be explored.’

Dominic Raab, then the UK Foreign Secretary, was quoted in the Daily Telegraph for 24 October 2020: ‘We want to see a reformed UN, a UN that is ready … to address the global challenges that lie ahead.’ After the COP27 climate conference closed in Egypt, Simon Stiell, head of the UNFCCC, said he intended to review the COP process ‘to make it as effective as possible.’

Pope Francis, in his recent Laudate Deum Exhortation sums up the problem, declaring that (section 4.52): ‘the accords [of the UNFCCC] have been poorly implemented, due to lack of suitable mechanisms for oversight, periodic review and penalties in cases of noncompliance … international negotiations cannot make significant progress due to positions taken by countries which place their national interests above the global common good.’

But is it a problem? If the UN had had unlimited power and authority, would the industrialised nations have been ordered to give up their coal, oil and gas, send much of their ill-gotten treasure south and east as compensation to Africa and Asia, and shoved back a century as punishment for taking the world down the wrong path?

Perhaps we should be thankful that where climate is concerned the UN can only talk, not act.

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October 12, 2023 2:09 pm

I’ll volunteer to spend a few weeks studying the horrific effects of climate change on French Polynesia. January is open for me.

Reply to  Shoki
October 12, 2023 4:04 pm

I hope you don’t forever sink into the boiling ocean due to gobsmackingly bananas sea-level rise during your stay!
Thanks for your bravery!

Bryan A
Reply to  Tommy2b
October 13, 2023 10:16 am

Even the great Climateers don’t follow their own dictates.
Fly to COP meetings then tell us to stop flying
Eat Beef and Lobster flown in from other countries then tell us to eat bugs
Just a bunch of Harper Valley Climate Hypocrites

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Tommy2b
October 13, 2023 4:28 pm

Why do they keep doing it? Well just think for a minute. If they quit, that means it’s all over! The poor slobs are locked into a cycle of perpetual failure that they have to face. Since Global Warming is clearly a religion, it will become a holy day observance.

Reply to  Shoki
October 12, 2023 5:04 pm

If I have to, I’ll take Bali.

Reply to  Shoki
October 13, 2023 9:05 am

Is that close to the island that is in danger of tipping over? Hank Johnson would like to know.

Bryan A
Reply to  DFJ150
October 13, 2023 10:19 am

Climate tipping is only a northern hemisphere issue where Guam is located. BALI is a southern hemisphere island. (Just barely)

Tom Halla
October 12, 2023 2:09 pm

As the COP is an exercise in virtue signaling, why should one expect anything real?

Ed Reid
October 12, 2023 2:15 pm

The UN has clearly demonstrated on numerous occasions that it is incapable of effective leadership and that it is prone to various types of corruption, both financial and carnal. The Iraq “oil for Palaces, Payoffs and Payloads is but one glaring example.

Many of the UN member nations are incapable of governing themselves or acting rationally. A global government run by one of their leaders is a horrible prospect.

Ed Reid
Reply to  Ed Reid
October 12, 2023 2:17 pm

“Oil for Palaces, Payoffs and Payloads Program”

Richard Page
Reply to  Ed Reid
October 12, 2023 4:13 pm

If you want to see what a UN global government would be like then just imagine the EU writ large. It’d be a complete disaster.

Edward Katz
October 12, 2023 2:21 pm

Why would the proponents of these conferences shut them down when the attendees usually are getting a free ride without having to accomplish anything?

October 12, 2023 2:25 pm

COP (Carry On Private jetting) is just an elite schmoozing, gin & tofu back patting get together, bit like the Tupperware parties in the 70s

Rud Istvan
October 12, 2023 2:41 pm

Nice post. A few UN specific observations:

  1. It was supposed to promote world peace. Failed miserably multiple times—Korea, Vietnam, Balkans, Kuwait, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan…Because nation states have national interests and the UN is a toothless debating forum. See Russia Ukraine and Israel Gaza for the most recent UN useless forum examples. Russia sits on the Security Council, yet invaded Ukraine!
  2. It was supposed to promote ‘international order’ in troubled lawless regions like Haiti. Instead, its post earthquake African peace keepers introduced chronic cholera. The most recent Kenya led Haiti anti gang approved incursion was indefinitely delayed by—Kenya. Maybe they just figured out the cost/benefit ratio of their volunteered UN intervention.
  3. UNFCC IPCCx was to produce then reproduce x times a scientific compelling argument to ‘save the oceans from boiling’, and then the COPx would produce a politically binding solution. Failed on both counts. The ARs grow in verbiage, the COPs grow in attendees, but both to no consequence.

One obvious US deficit reduction measure would be to reduce the US UN support contribution to sums proportionate to China and Russia support. Then charge the NYC UN HQ and all its staff housed there normal NYC rents. We would end up paying net NOTHING. And UN would soon just disappear, or go elsewhere.

I half suspect Trump has a plan to redevelop UN HQ after he wins his bogus NY AG dissolution via overvaluation lawsuit, The Deutsche Bank testimony today cut both ways—overblvalued, but they applied haircuts so dopiest not rely. Kills the core of her consumer fraud (NY|62-12) lawsuit.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
October 13, 2023 4:10 am

One exception to your list: Korea. Owing to the absence of the Soviet delegation, the USSR was unable to use its veto on UN military action to defend South Korea. So, yes, the UN did not prevent the war starting but it did take military action to defend the victim of aggression. Otherwise, yes, the permanent members have a veto so, normally, the UN isn’t going to take any military action against any one of them.

October 12, 2023 2:44 pm

The Earth is still in a 2.56 million-year ice age named the Quaternary Glaciation. It will stay in this ice age until all natural ice on Earth melts. The Earth is in an interglacial period that alternates with glacial periods. The last glacial period ended about 11,700 years ago. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quaternary_glaciation

Reply to  scvblwxq
October 12, 2023 4:34 pm

You are right, but it’s dodgy linking to Wikipedia. Last time I looked, they said the Quaternary ended at the start of the Anthropocene! Someone must have shoved William Connolley aside to get a bit of sanity in, but who knows when it will change back. On another page, Wikipedia says “Ice ages go through cycles of about 100,000 years, but the next one may well be avoided due to our carbon dioxide emissions.”.
(Well it did when I posted this)
What a joke. We haven’t got that much fossil fuel, even if the IPCC have got things right.

October 12, 2023 2:49 pm

A couple things. Get the US out of the UN and the UN out of the US. The UN and individual countries have wasted trillions on CAGW and achieved exactly nothing, I want my money back.

Richard Page
Reply to  Bob
October 12, 2023 4:17 pm

You wont get your money back – it’s in someones back pocket, impossible to say who though, it’d be a very long list.

October 12, 2023 2:59 pm

The scale of inaction now clearly bears traces of insanity. 

Not at all.
They have decided that any action on climate is currently more harmful than doing nothing. That seems to be correct. Poverty is a far worse problem.

They have also decided to keep monitoring this situation in case things change, That seems to be correct. If climate change becomes a problem we would want to know.

They have decided to keep meeting to review the situation. That seems to be correct. It needs to be actioned if things change.

Not insane at all.

general custer
October 12, 2023 3:22 pm

Current temp in the UAE is 79F, tomorrow might be as high as 98F, about the same for the rest of the week. It should be comfortable for the COP 28 fiasco. No point in having it in a place like Nome, Alaska, 19F tonight, or Fort McMurray, Alberta, 38F before tomorrow morning. UN delegates would need to bring sweaters and toques.

Reply to  general custer
October 12, 2023 4:03 pm

They really need to restrict all access to fossil fuel powered electricity, transport etc during the COP period.

At 98ºF… that should be very enjoyable! 😉

Walter Sobchak
October 12, 2023 3:58 pm

“One definition of insanity is ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.’ (Supposedly an Einstein quote.)”

The authoritative Quote Investigator reported:

In conclusion, based on current evidence the saying originated in one of the twelve-step communities. Anonymity is greatly valued in these communities, and no specific author has been identified by the many researchers who have explored the provenance of this adage. The linkage to Albert Einstein occurred many years after his death and is unsupported.

Reply to  Walter Sobchak
October 12, 2023 4:40 pm

Nice to see Albert Einstein off the hook on this ‘insanity’ quote. It implies that practising on a musical instrument is insane.

It doesnot add up
Reply to  Mike Jonas
October 12, 2023 5:37 pm

But when you practice on a musical instrument you do get a different result – every time. Even the very finest performers subconsciously modulate their performances and react to their surroundings. Concert performances are rarely note perfect, yet often provide the most memorable recordings.

October 12, 2023 4:02 pm

COPs in the past had ‘teeth’? I thought it was already just a big circle j**k where they ineptly fantasize about how rich countries’ poorest citizens will fund their extravagant plans.

David Dibbell
October 12, 2023 4:14 pm

A related exhibit of insanity is why the U.S. allows itself to be shamed and manipulated time after time by the UN on this and other issues.

October 12, 2023 4:19 pm

The COPs are clearly not an example of “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”. They are actually doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same result, namely a continuation of the gravy train.

The sooner they get the Christmas Turkey result, the better.

October 12, 2023 4:54 pm

The reason why this continues year after year should be obvious. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the disintegration of the Warsaw Pact and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United Nations has had no reason to exist. UN dues from various nations have been imploding for years.

So they needed a new cause. Climate change was it. This is why the various Secretary-Generals have been increasingly hysterical about the threat of climate change for the last 30 years. This cause is quite literally the bitter end for the UN. So they need this to happen or else the Tombstone on the Hudson might fall into the river. This is an existential issue for Guterres and the rest of the socialists who inhabit the Tombstone.

It doesnot add up
Reply to  cgh
October 12, 2023 5:43 pm

It has the sort of feel reported in the history of the League of Nations, which of course collapsed. It is not helped by the parlous state of the EU which threatens to implode in the light of its internal contradictions. Many other supra national organisations are in trouble too. WTO, NATO, etc. Only efforts like BRICS that are at the stage of formulating their ideals and jostling for who will be Queen show signs of positive life.

Reply to  cgh
October 12, 2023 6:46 pm

Minor correction. The UN Headquarters building in New York City is on the East River, across from Queens. The Hudson River is on the west side of Manhattan and separates NY from NJ.

John the Econ
October 12, 2023 5:39 pm

Perhaps wasting money sending well remunerated political functionaries to pointless conferences is the point.

Phil R
October 12, 2023 6:16 pm

Don’t defund the police, defund the COPs.

Smart Rock
October 12, 2023 6:20 pm

The COPs and their toothless agreements are no different from UN Security Council Resolutions. Since 1948, the UNSC has passed 226 different resolutions condemning Israel for its “occupation” of Palestine. Last time I looked, Israel was still there and looks like it’s not going away any time soon, intelligence failure notwithstanding.

The UN, like the League of Nations before it, was a good idea that came to nothing much. Fact is, national governments really don’t like the idea of handing any aspect of their sovereignty to a bunch of unelected, unaccountable posers. Who can blame them.

COPs are just a forum for politicians to strut on a big stage and make promises that they have no ability to keep. Reduce global warming to 1.5C? How, exactly is that to be accomplished?

michael hart
October 12, 2023 11:57 pm

“One definition of insanity is ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.’ (Supposedly an Einstein quote.)”

Not always. Sometimes after a few ales, I have woken up somewhere I didn’t expect.

Be that as it may, who would stop going to an endless round of parties with your mates, payed for by somebody else?

By now I expect at least some of the delegates must have learned a lesson in politics. Promises made by politicians in the full glare of publicity are always rowed-back later on.
And that the UN, as an institution by itself, is really just a narcissistic money spending machine with no real power.

CD in Wisconsin
October 13, 2023 1:33 am

“The first (COP1) in 1995 declared: ‘The Parties should protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations of humankind … the developed country Parties should take the lead in combating climate change.’”

Twenty-eight years, and 27 COP[OUT] conferences with a 28th one on the way. Yet fossil fuel usage and CO2 levels worldwide keep rising. No wonder the UN SecGen borders on getting hysterical now whenever he opens his mouth about climate change.

And what is amusing is that the leftist news media treats each new COP[OUT] conference as though it is something meaningful and important. We are all supposed to hold out hope that each new conference will be the one that stops fossil fuel use and slows or stops the global rise in atmospheric CO2.

All the usual MSM suspects are always involved in this: CNN, MSNBC, the NYT and WaPo, etc. It is an annual source of entertainment and amusement if nothing else.

I am increasing getting the impression that the UN could indeed shut down and it would make little difference to the world. It is an abysmal failure at keeping world peace (Ukraine and Israel are current examples of the failure). Its humanitarian work could be continued and carried on by other humanitarian organizations.

Coeur de Lion
October 13, 2023 2:52 am

As a matter of unimportant historical importance, where did 1.5degsC come from.?‘Paris’ said 2.0 actually (not as above) then there came the IPCCs ridiculed SR1.5 in time for the failed Katowice COP. Why? Who generated it? Drivelling stuff explaining how much less dangerous 1.5 was than 2.0 and hopeless unrealism ( give up coal in 12 years!!). I think it was because 2.0 was too far away and people would get bored so we need to frighten them right now. 2.0 was selected because 3.0 was too easy – we’d never get there- and 1.0 too difficult – we’re already there.

October 13, 2023 4:04 am

” If the UN had had unlimited power and authority,”
From where would it get its power to enforce anything? Countries seem to be sleepwalking into giving up their sovereignty on health matters to WHO but how many divisions does WHO have? Each permanent member of the Security Council has a veto. This was designed to avoid the UN taking any military action against any permanent member. Suppose they gave up their veto. And then suppose that the USA didn’t implement its international climate obligations. What could the UN do about it. None of the five permanent members are going to give the UN control over their armed forces. And if the UN got stroppy with the USA the USA could just stop funding the UN. That would show them.

Pat Frank
October 13, 2023 7:12 am

I say we turn the tables on the defund the police folks (co-extensive with greens), and defund the COPs instead.

October 13, 2023 9:25 am

I’ll bet if the meetings were held in Barnswallow, Tennessee or Rottweiler, Germany, they would come to a screeching halt. At least the in-person ones.

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