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Climate change agreement
The Paris Agreement of 12th December 2015 among 195 countries, on measures to control climate, was hailed by politicians, and most of the media, as the saviour of the physical world, or better. However, like any issue so complex, opinions vary. Overall, it is probably somewhat beneficial to the forest products industries.

The full text of the Paris Agreement is available on many web sites. The official source is http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/l09.pdf

Those attempting to reach agreement in Paris faced many obstacles: scientific, economic and political and the desires of some interested parties to prevent any agreement. One member of the French team responsible for coordinating the development of the final wording of the 31-page agreement stated that he had to deal with an ego-system as well as the planet's ecosystem as he coaxed "sharp elbowed negotiators" to a final agreement.

Overall, the Paris Agreement sets out plans for developing programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently to limit the rise in global temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial norm, while noting that current plans will not achieve this objective. The agreement envisions reducing current emissions by nearly 40%, while sustainable growth of economies continues. This would require massive changes in our way of doing business and in our lifestyles, which I cannot visualize coming to pass.

There are many sensible recommendations on implementing standardized measurement techniques, developing better technology and so forth, but no concrete targets, and no legally binding statements.

The Paris Agreement will be open for signature at the United Nations HQ in New York, from 22 April 2016 to 21 April 2017; and will enter into force on the 30th day after the date on which at least 55 parties to the convention, accounting in total for at least an estimated 55 percent of the total global greenhouse gas emissions, have signed.

Past experience suggests that many countries will sign the agreement, but that some large ones will not. Our recent election result in Canada makes me fairly sure that Canada will sign, while the US political calendar will make control of greenhouse gas emissions a significant US election issue.

One major change in the politics of greenhouse gas control is that developing countries like China no longer insist that they should be able to discharge as much carbon dioxide as they wish until their economies reach the level of the most prosperous ones. On the other hand, the poor countries want the rich ones to contribute US$100 billion per year to their costs of emission control and adaptive measures.

Given the absence of any enforcement teeth, compliance with the objectives of the agreement will be mixed. I expect it to influence the actions of many government bodies and companies that are highly protective of their public images.

The aspects of the Paris Agreement promoting sustainable forestry will be generally helpful to the forest industry in negotiation with their national regulators and politicians setting tax and subsidy policies. The fact that the industry has good news stories of energy conservation and the use of wood-based energy production will help marketing staffs compete with petroleum-based products.

The promotion of sustainable forestry will raise costs for those tropical forest operators who are not currently replanting, while having little negative impact on the more advanced forests in Canada and the US.

The conference was based on the assumption that human activity is causing serious changes in the world's climate, with no consideration whatsoever of the fact that the scientific reports on this issue are open to serious question. It is clear to me that while the climate is changing, it is not all for the worse. I believe that if the computer modelers read more history books, they would be a lot less sure of themselves in assigning the changes that are taking place to human activities.

I see increasing signs that the warming of the planet is moderating, and that an increasing amount of data suggesting that climate change is less significant that the media suggest. This arouses hope that the whole issue will prove to be much less significant to the world than COP21 and its gathering of world leaders currently believe.

I fear that the Paris agreement will lead to poor allocation of resources, despite the noble, but ill-informed intentions of its proponents.

Sea levels have risen nearly a foot in the past 100 years, but it is far from sure that human activity has caused all or most of this. Ask a 100-year-old person what has been notable in the past century. That person will probably think of a couple world wars, the eradication of smallpox and near eradication of polio, the Great Depression, the rise and fall of communism, HIV, apartheid, the Cuban missile crisis and so forth. He will not be likely to mention fear of "climate refugees" or drowned civilizations from slowly rising sea levels.

While we ring alarm bells and spend billions accomplishing little (Kyoto and Paris will have a tiny tangible impact, on climate even if we are so bold to think we can forecast 80 years ahead), people in places like Ghana will continue eating mud sandwiches and dying of diarrhea and malaria while we try to "help" them by flying small armies around the world to talk about spending billions of dollars on activities that won't do a single thing for hundreds of millions of people actually suffering today.

I suspect that we will not be talking about climate change in 2050 and will not be seeing the issues forecast by the same type of alarmists who have been frequently wrong since Rachel Carson published Silent Spring. By 2050, climate issue will have gone the way of the grossly over-hyped Y2K problems for computers forecast through the 1990's. Unfortunately, people under about 40 are too young to recall the nonsense that had committees of high level CEOs and politicians hyped up to spend silly amounts of money on some relatively simple software fixes.

So, what is the take-home from COP21 for the forest products industries? Make the most of the encouragement for forestry, and the improved image of wood-based products. Expect to have pressure to stop burning coal, if you still do.

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