Not As Bad As Abbott, But Carbon Blindness Isn’t A Competition

Here is Guest Poster Thom Mitchell’s latest missive from COP21:

The Paris climate talks are staggering to a close, folks. An unwieldy and cumbersome beast by nature, the Ministers who jetted in this week will put her down over the course of the next day or two, or three. It’s not clear.

The French want a weekend – to have the text nailed down on Thursday, ready to be legalled Friday. We’ll see. As I wrote last night, there’s been little movement on the big overarching decisions that need to be taken, and when I went for a kip – on the couches off from the upstairs press pool, at 3.30am Central European Time – there were still closed negotiations dragging through the frosty Paris night.

I hope Julie Bishop was in one of them, eyeballs stinging. The ridiculous nature of Australia’s positions at the talks – called out, as I reported at the time, by a series of coordinated actions that stalled coal exports along the east coast of Australia – was stripped naked by her ridiculous comments a few days ago.

“Barring some technological breakthrough fossil fuels will remain critical to promoting prosperity, growing economies and alleviating hunger for years to come,” she told an event focused on transitioning to a low carbon economy.

The fact words like these are still coming out of senior frontbencher’s mouths is the saddest indictment, perhaps, of Malcolm Turnbull’s prettier-than-Abbott government. I mean, actually, Julie, what’s difficult to see is how, without some marvel of innovation, coal could be made tasty.

Curing hunger? Really? Have some coal, poor people! Delicious!

Feed them your greedy death stare, more like it.

But there’s been surprisingly little of that; everyone is playing nice, congratulating the French on the admittedly admirable job they’re doing of keeping the hissing, booing and jumping up and down private.

If the French are going to hit their deadline, though, countries will need to resolve the ultimate ‘guardrail’ of how much warming the world will allow; the ‘collective long term goal’ on emissions cuts that will allow us to get there; who will pay; and what role developing states will be expected to play on a range of fronts.

Most of the good stuff has survived the latest prune of the Paris agreement, though. It’s come down to a very manageable 29 pages long, but the nearly 200 countries involved must come to consensus, which is always a big ask. And a lot of the bad stuff is still there, too. Either or will have to face the chopping block.

I suspect that a lot of the nuts and bolts will be deferred to the next ‘Conference of the Parties’ in Morocco, next year, where there’ll be a bit more space to operationalise the deal before it comes into affect in 2020.

And as you might expect, as the negotiation draws towards the pointing and possibly stabbing end, the antics at the Le Bourget conference centre where this political showdown is being staged are getting more frayed.

Last night funny man Dan Ilic, an Australian, presented Bishop with the ‘Fossil of the Day Award’ for her attempt to cram coal down the throats of the poor. And on the Saturday after the Paris summit is slated to close a pretty serious line up of mass demonstrations and creative actions are planned.

But there’s been a surprising sense of calm-before-the-storm to the last few days, because the big questions have remained fairly stagnant. The fact it’s come so late, though, could simply invite a more ferocious storm. There might be some fireworks today.

Or one would hope so, particularly if we’re all going to get that weekend the French President of the conference, Laurent Fabius, is trying to bag. I for one bloody hope so. I feel like I’ve been hit by a non-renewables-fuelled truck. After many nights of three, four, or six AM sleeps, I’m hoping for some time alone with a few bottles of middle-of-the-road vin de rouge.

I did have one brief soiree two nights ago, though, on the generous hospitality of Climate Councillors Tim Flannery, Amanda McKenzie, and Prof Lesley Hughes: I heard an interesting story about a certain rat, from a certain mammalogist (not Flannery), in their somewhat salubrious apartment. You might be hearing more about it, at some point. Again, we’ll see.

And I hate to repackage the rat metaphor I used when I last wrote to you good folk, but we’ll see what rats if any crawl up and die in the text of the Paris agreement. It’s increasingly clear it’ll be no panacea, but that’s no surprise. I’m more and more of the view that actions like those of the brave folk who shut down the coal export ports in Newcastle, Brisbane and Port Kembla this week will be the real means of operationalising the fandangled circus here in Paris.

It rolls up every year, replete with the carbon footprint of shipping in thousands or tens of thousands of journalists, observers delegates and politicians, but it’s clearer than ever already that something’s got to make it give. And that that momentum, like the commitments to cut carbon themselves, must come from the national level and domestic level.

As the President of Kiribati told me in an interview a few days ago, overcoming the drug dealer’s defence we in Australia use to persist in profiting from the coal exports that are sinking his nation, “it is a job for you people in Australia”.

“If you don’t believe your government is doing the right thing,” he said, “then change your government”.


Thank you, as ever, for your generous support.

I’ll let you know how things pan out.


373 thoughts on “Not As Bad As Abbott, But Carbon Blindness Isn’t A Competition

  1. Ducky,

    He has (or had as a youngster and young man) an eidetic memory. That is a huge advantage to a barrister – the ability to bone up on every detail of a case and be able to retrieve the relevant fact immediately – and would undoubtedly also be useful when negotiating business ‘deals’.

  2. The Fairfax piece on Ronaldson’s retirement said Timmy Wilson was interested in Andrew Robb’s seat, rather than a senate spot. The only problem there is Robb hasn’t said he will leave.

    Ronaldson, apparently is another ‘close friend’ of St Malcolm’s done over so Brough could have his portfolio.

    All these disgruntled former Turnbull BFFs leaving won’t help with the vote if there is a rebellion in the ranks. You can bet the Abbott camp has a little list and is gleefully crossing off names. “They’d none of them be missed…”

  3. Tlbd / Fiona

    [But too lazy to remember and expound policy detail?]

    Talcs’ only policy appears to be PM no matter what happens.

  4. Another one for the ‘precious petals’ file.

    First – any woman who has been through security checks at any airport in Australia will know that the scanner will go off if you are wearing an underwire bra, or, perhaps, a large metal object like a brooch. When this happens a female security person will be summoned and she will wave a wand thing around your upper body to make sure it is your undergarment causing the problem, and not hidden weapons or bombs. You will be asked if you would like this procedure done in a private room but why would you. It takes a few seconds, no-one cares, it’s routine.

    So – Julie Bishop had to have this done instead of just being waved through like a celebrity. And why not? She should go through the same procedures as the rest of us. Turns out she is just another precious petal. She felt ‘uncomfortable’ about a male person being near her while the screening took place. Diddums!

    She whinged about it, Malcolm took action and some poor sod who was doing his job is now minus that job.

    Julie Bishop screening: government questioned airport before staff were suspended

  5. Gigilene,

    But Somare is not one of ‘us’.

    Airport screening is interesting. I haven’t flown much in recent years, but any time I had a backpack I was always screened. No backpack (usually a handbag instead), not once.

    Profiling? NEVah!

  6. fiona

    I know Somare is “not one of ‘us’. He just hasn’t got the “right” colour. They wouldn’t do that to Hollande or Cameron or Merkel.

    As for myself, I’ve always been lucky with my handbag and my suitcase. I never tried with a backpack.

  7. Gigilene,

    I meant to add that the insult to Somare was during Howard’s time, and was, from recollection, calculated.

  8. I suspect Obama will call off the dogs in the near future, including the Aus Airforce:

    In Dramatic Reversal, US Vice President Biden Calls On Turkey To Withdraw Its Troops From Ir

    It has been a strange two days for US foreign policy.

    Earlier today we reported that in what amounts to a significant blow to the official US position over Syria, namely the multi-year demands to replace president Assad with a western puppet ruler, John Kerry on Tuesday accepted Russia’s long-standing demand that President Bashar Assad’s future be determined by his own people, as Washington and Moscow edged toward putting aside years of disagreement over how to end Syria’s civil war.”

    “The United States and our partners are not seeking so-called regime change,” Kerry said, adding that the focus is no longer “on our differences about what can or cannot be done immediately about Assad.”

    In a testament to the fact that mainstream media is beginning to understand just how weak America’s negotiating position has become, AP offered the following rather sarcastic assessment: “President Barack Obama first called on Assad to leave power in the summer of 2011, with “Assad must go” being a consistent rallying cry. Later, American officials allowed that he wouldn’t have to resign on “Day One” of a transition. Now, no one can say when Assad might step down.”

    Kerry also called demands by the “moderate” opposition that Assad step down before peace negotiations begin an “obvious nonstarter.”

    All of the above, some may say, makes the US presence in Syria, whether through CIA covert ops, commandos, or even the Islamic State, moot: after all, if the US has folded on an Assad regime change, then there is no longer any point in continuing the proxy war, which revolves around one key issue: regime change in Syria.

  9. When is a Coalition not a Coalition?

    Doubts about membership of Saudi coalition

    Pakistan’s foreign minister, Aizaz Chaudhry, was taken by surprise yesterday when he read in the newspapers that his country has joined the new Saudi-led military coalition against “terrrorism”. He then contacted the Pakistani ambassador in Riyadh to try to find out more.

    “This is not the first time that Saudi Arabia has named Pakistan as part of its military alliances without Islamabad’s knowledge and consent,” Dawn newspaper reported. “The Saudis earlier named Pakistan as part of the coalition that carried out operations in Yemen and a Pakistani flag was displayed at the alliance’s media centre. Pakistan later declined to join the Yemen war.”

    Questions are also being asked in Lebanon, another country which the Saudis say has joined their coalition. This is a sensitive issue in Lebanon, divided as it is among Sunni, Shia and Christian communities.

    The Saudi coalition’s stated aim is to defend “the Islamic world” against terrorism (thus ignoring Lebanese Christians) but its exclusion of Iran and Iraq also makes it look like a Sunni attempt to combat Shia Islam under the guise of fighting terrorism.

    It appears that in Lebanon the Saudis approached prime minister Tammam Salam – a Sunni Muslim – about joining the coalition and he accepted their invitation without consulting others. Challenged about this yesterday, Salam said it was only “a preliminary decision” which he felt entitled to take because the cabinet is not currently meeting.

  10. The screening at the airports are a pain in the behind when you are in a hurry because you are running late. I fly at least 5-6 times a month and I really have it down pat; disposable razors only, roll-on deod, no nail file, scissors, pocket knives or shoes with nails and the mob phone, wallet, and car keys are place in my “less than 7kg” carry-on luggage before I get to the security gate.

    I still get pulled up for a wand and explosives check most times. I try not to get upset about the security check.

  11. Pictures are worth a 1000 words, especially with the US-Russia talks on Syria:

    Victoria “F*** the EU” Nuland not really shaking Putin’s hand:


    Putin and Kerry across the table:

  12. Off to see Christine Anu at the Milton theatre,woo hoo. She is doing the songs of Aretha Franklin plus her own toons.

  13. I don’t remember this being reported in our MSM?

    The Australian Federal Police and Dutch police and prosecutors investigating the cause of the crash of Malaysian Airlines MH17 believe the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) has failed to provide “conclusive evidence” of what type of munition destroyed the aircraft, causing the deaths of 283 passengers and 15 crew on board.

    Testifying for the first time in an international court, Detective Superintendent Andrew Donoghoe, the senior Australian policeman in the international MH17 investigation, said a “tougher standard than the DSB report” is required before the criminal investigation can identify the weapon which brought the aircraft down, or pinpoint the perpetrators. Their criminal investigation will continue into 2016, Donoghoe told the Victorian Coroners Court (lead image) on Tuesday morning. He and other international investigators are unconvinced by reports from the US and Ukrainian governments, and by the DSB, of a Buk missile firing. “Dutch prosecutors require conclusive evidence on other types of missile,” Donoghoe said, intimating that “initial information that the aircraft was shot down by a [Buk] surface to air missile” did not meet the Australian or international standard of evidence.

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