Western nations keep the talks going, to justify costly de-carbonization programs at home.
At a perilous juncture in world affairs and with the international system visibly breaking down — the first forcible annexation of European territory since Hitler’s war; a bunch of fanatics and psychopaths, perpetrators of a double genocide, seizing control of a vast swath of the Levant, and American leadership exhausted — the U.N. secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, is convening a summit of world leaders to discuss, of all things, global warming. True, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton calls it the most consequential and urgent set of challenges facing the world, but the leaders of Canada, Germany, China, and India appear not to agree and are giving next week’s meeting in New York a pass.
The idea for the summit is Mr. Ban’s, who has made global warming the overriding mission of the United Nations since becoming secretary general in 2007. No previous secretary general has evinced so little interest in the great matters of peace and war and has so little to show for his efforts. Were it not for the prestige of his job, Mr. Ban would cut a hapless figure, over the years making a string of histrionic warnings and absurdly optimistic forecasts of the imminence of a global warming treaty.
Those might have been understandable at the outset of his term, before hopes for a treaty were repeatedly dashed. Mr. Ban was in Bali at the end of his first year hailing the annual climate talks as the chance to usher in a “a new age of green economics.” After the collapse of attempts to agree on a new treaty two years later, he told delegates at Copenhagen, “You sealed a deal,” which they hadn’t, and promised to have a legally binding treaty in 2010, which there wasn’t.
Having lost the race to have a new treaty in place before the end of the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period, Mr. Ban declared at the start of the 2012 Durban conference, “It would be difficult to overstate the gravity of this moment.” So he gave it his best shot: “Without exaggeration, we can say: the future of our planet is at stake.” In fact, Durban was the high water mark of hopes for a son-of-Kyoto. Agreement in Durban on a road map to an outcome “with legal force” was later eviscerated by developing nations at subsequent conferences.