So what about this new G7 “Climate Club”? Are all the cool kids joining? Can you get decals? Sorry, that one probably dated us. Nowadays it’s apps, hashtags and emojis. But in an era that sends words to do the work of deeds , with apologies to Calvin Coolidge, who thought the 1920 American election meant “the end of a period which has served to substitute words for things”, poor chap, it is typical that the same group of governments who have flubbed their climate targets for decades, while doing appalling damage to their economies and societies along the way, have pompously constituted themselves into a glorious international group whose members will meet their climate targets. The idea is that countries not on track to meet their Paris Agreement targets will sign an agreement to form an alliance of countries to encourage themselves to meet their Paris Agreement targets. Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.
We are not kidding. We wish we were. The “G7 Statement on Climate Club”, unveiled by our own Justin Trudeau in his characteristic cat-that-ate-the-canary style, begins with this great gust: “Recognising the necessity of the transition to a 1.5°C pathway and climate neutrality at the latest by 2050, we note with concern that currently neither global climate ambition nor implementation are sufficient to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We aim to establish a Climate Club to support the effective implementation of the Paris Agreement by accelerating climate action and increasing ambition, with a particular focus on the industry sector, thereby addressing risks of carbon leakage for emission intensive goods, while complying with international rules.”
We do not speak for “Silent Cal” Coolidge, nor are we sure that he would have spoken to us given the opportunity. But in his spirit, we are prompted to ask why, if they know how to do all these things globally, they don’t do them at home to show the rest of us. And why, given that we’re already looking at another COP in Egypt this fall, and one in the UAE the next, and we’ll always have Paris, and the IPCC, and Catherine McKenna’s new UN climate panel, what’s left for this Club to do other than wine, dine and tell amusing anecdotes, like the one about Coolidge and the tea saucer? Or Coolidge, the lobbyist and the carpet. Or the time Will Rogers… but no. If we started in on all the clever things Coolidge said in his taciturn life, we’d never be done. Merely listing his pets would tax your patience, including Rebecca the Raccoon, sent to the Coolidges for their Thanksgiving Dinner (no, really and no, thanks) and adopted instead.
The point is, Coolidge abhorred empty words especially from those in important positions. “The words of a President,” he wrote at one point, “have an enormous weight and ought not to be used indiscriminately.” It is not possible to imagine him fist-bumping a foreign tyrant. And it is not possible to imagine him declaring in advance a “pillar” of “Advancing ambitious and transparent climate mitigation policies to reduce emissions intensities of participating economies on the pathway towards climate neutrality, by making policies and outcomes consistent with our ambition, strengthening emissions measurement and reporting mechanisms, and countering carbon leakage at the international level” if he and his government had been trying in vain to do anything remotely resembling that object for many years.
By contrast, the blatherskites who now dominate politics across the Western world are going to bloviate the crisis into submission, this time for sure:
“The Climate Club, as an intergovernmental forum of high ambition, will be inclusive in nature and open to countries that are committed to the full implementation of the Paris Agreement and the decisions thereunder, in particular the Glasgow Climate Pact, and to accelerate their action to this end. We invite partners, including major emitters, G20 members and other developing and emerging economies, to intensify discussions and consultations with us on this matter.”
Oh yeah. We will “intensify discussions and consultations” until… until… you’ve had enough? No. They never have. “We will each designate relevant Ministers to develop comprehensive terms of reference while reaching out to interested and ambitious partners, and to report back to Leaders for approval of next steps to establishment by the end of 2022. We ask the OECD, the IMF, the World Bank, the IEA, and the WTO to support this process in line with their relevant expertise. In this regard, we welcome the OECD’s Inclusive Forum on Carbon Mitigation Approaches (IFCMA) and look forward to its contribution to the Climate Club.”
Because, of course, there’s no real urgency. No need to do things. Words will carry the load from here to “Just Energy Transition Partnerships” and beyond.