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COP21 Stares Down Big Oil

The 2015 Paris Climate Conference scheduled for Nov. 30th – Dec. 11th looks to be a humongous event, a big win with extremely significant world-changing implications for economic behavior and planetary health for decades and centuries to come.

If the hints and statements by Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework on Climate Change (“UNFCCC’) prove correct, the world is about to change in a very positive way.

Expectations are rising by the month, and now by the week that COP21 will not be a cop-out, rather, for the first time in over 20 years of intransigency, a legally binding universal agreement on climate will hit the ground running with the goal of maintaining global warming below an increase of 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

The implications are absolutely huge for the planet, for the world economy, and for the future of fossil fuel usage, respectively the implications in sequential order: (1) a big, huge clean energy win for the planet, (2) a multi-trillion dollar boost to the world economy, and (3) the death knell of fossil fuels.

Already, the price of a barrel of oil has fallen from over $100/bbl about a year ago to under $50/bbl today, as slip-sliding oil prices may be discounting more than the supply/demand equation.

In the final analysis, supply/demand may only be a tail wagging the dog scenario because, lo and behold, Eureka! COP21 is about to rearrange the deck chairs on Titanic oil, Chevron, Exxon, Mobil, BP, et al.

“It is unstoppable. No amount of lobbying at this point is going to change the direction,” according to Christiana Figueres, the UN’s top climate official (Source: U.N. Climate Chief: ‘This Transformation is Unstoppable,’ CBS News, Oct. 1, 2015).

One Hundred Fifty-five (155) countries have submitted plans for COP21 in Paris, covering nearly 90% of global CO2 emissions. Importantly, China and India are included, signifying the bitter end to any further blockage of a universal plan to limit global warming, once and for all.

Not only that, but remarkably, and ever so quietly, a major renewable energy revolution is already well under way. The race towards renewable energy hit a turning point in 2013 when the world added 143 gigawatts of renewable electricity capacity versus 141 gigawatts by new fossil fuel plants (Bloomberg Business).

“The price of wind and solar power continues to plummet, and is now on par or cheaper than grid electricity in many areas of the world,” Tom Randall, Fossil Fuels Just Lost the Race Against Renewables, Bloomberg Business, April 14, 2015.

According to the International Energy Agency, China alone invested more in renewables last year than the U.S. and the EU combined for a total of $80billion. China is literally blanketing huge chunks of the Gobi Desert with solar. China gets it!

Even more astounding yet, China’s Energy Research Institute has floated the concept of renewables accounting for 86% of electricity generation by 2050. That is colossal and should come as a shock to the world’s oil and gas barons/sheiks.

India, the other 800/lb. gorilla in the room, has chimed in with a submission to raise renewables to 40% of electricity by 2030, mostly solar. TERI, which is India’s green think tank, calls the country’s commitment an “unprecedented shift.”

The International Energy Agency, computing the impact of COP21 pledges, expects $13.5 trillion of energy-saving, low-carbon investments alone by 2030 with the expectation that emissions will “slow to a crawl by 2030.”

“World leaders have repeatedly stated that they would defend the line of a ‘two degree planet’, and now they are taking concrete steps to do so. Fossil investors have been warned,” Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Paris Climate Deal to Ignite a $90 Trillion Energy Revolution, The Telegraph, Oct. 28, 2015.

Metaphorically speaking, several prominent Republican senators, governors, representatives and most of the Republican field for president, all lovers of fossil fuel money, likely equate to leader Wallace Hartley and his fellow orchestra members (d. 1912) that continued playing to keep passengers calm after the Titanic hit the iceberg.

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Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at rlhunziker@gmail.com.

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