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In-depth Q&A: How ‘Article 6’ carbon markets could ‘make or break’ the Paris Agreement

Posted on 12 December 2019 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Carbon Brief

A little-known and highly technical section of the Paris Agreement could “make or break” the regime – and its aim of avoiding dangerous climate change.

These “Article 6” rules, for carbon markets and other forms of international cooperation, are the last piece of the Paris regime to be resolved, after the rest of its “rulebook” was agreed in late 2018.

To its proponents, Article 6 offers a path to significantly raising climate ambition or lowering costs, while engaging the private sector and spreading finance, technology and expertise into new areas.

To its critics, it risks fatally undermining the ambition of the Paris Agreement at a time when there is clear evidence of the need to go further and faster to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

If the Article 6 rulebook is to be agreed, a set of interlocking, overlapping and conflicting national priorities – a veritable “four-dimensional spaghetti” of red lines – will have to be traded off at the December COP25 UN climate talks in Madrid, or, failing that, at COP26 in Glasgow in 2020.

This is a classic example of the horse-trading that characterises international negotiations. But the stakes are high ahead of the crunch 2020 talks, where countries are due to raise their currently inadequate ambition towards the 1.5C and “well-below 2C” twin goals of the Paris Agreement.

In this in-depth Q&A, Carbon Brief breaks down the Article 6 text, explaining the key points of contention and how they might be resolved.

What is Article 6 of the Paris Agreement?

On 1 January 2020, a new international climate regime will take effect under the 2015 Paris Agreement, according to detailed rules agreed at the COP24 climate summit in December 2018.

But one piece of that regime is unresolved, having proved so contentious that countries have been unable to agree the rules governing its use. This is Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, covering a single side of A4 and containing just nine densely worded paragraphs (6.1 through 6.9).

This short text contains three separate mechanisms for “voluntary cooperation” towards climate goals: two based on markets and a third based on “non-market approaches”. The text outlines requirements for those taking part, but leaves the details – the Article 6 “rulebook” – undecided.

In simple terms, the first mechanism would allow a country that has beaten its Paris climate pledge to sell any overachievement to a nation that has fallen short against its own goals. This overachievement could be in terms of emissions cuts, but might also cover other types of target. For example, some countries have set goals for renewable energy capacity or forest expansion.

The second mechanism would create a new international carbon market, governed by a UN body, for the trading of emissions reductions created anywhere in the world by the public or private sector. Carbon credits could, for example, be generated by a new renewable power plant, an emissions-saving factory upgrade or the restoration of an area of forest.

(It remains undecided whether to include projects reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, known as “REDD”, within the Article 6 scheme.)

This new market is sometimes referred to as the “Sustainable Development Mechanism” (SDM). It would replace the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which operated under the predecessor to the Paris Agreement, known as the Kyoto Protocol, which gave developed countries legally-binding emissions targets that applied from the start of 2008 until 2012.

(Targets for a second commitment period, running until the end of 2020, were adopted in the “Doha Amendment”, but this has yet to enter force. EU states have pledged to meet it anyway.)

The final Article 6 mechanism for “non-market approaches” is less well defined, but would provide a formal framework for climate cooperation between countries, where no trade is involved, such as development aid.

This could include similar activities to those under the other mechanisms – support for a new windfarm, for example – but without any buying and selling of the resulting CO2 savings.

The three separate mechanisms – under Article 6.2, 6.4 and 6.8 – all became part of the Paris deal in recognition of the different interests and priorities among parties to the agreement. These differences remain and must be traded off once again, if the Article 6 rulebook is to be agreed.

In order to finalise the rulebook, negotiators must navigate a thicket of impenetrable jargon, a series of technical accounting challenges and bear-traps of “constructive ambiguity” in the text, that hide often incompatible visions of how Article 6 should work and what it was created for in the first place.

The negotiations are also embedded in the decades-long political context of the UN climate talks, subject to all its usual battlegrounds over ambition, finance, support for vulnerable nations and the extent to which climate action should be nationally versus internationally determined.

The challenge this represents is clear from the fact that Article 6 was the only part of the Paris rulebook that could not be agreed at COP24 in December 2018.

Whereas draft negotiating texts for each other part of the rulebook were progressively whittled down during that two-week meeting, the sections on Article 6 remained stuck, with 132 unresolved sections of text contained in “square brackets”, shown in the chart below in red.

 Number of square brackets, indicating areas of disagreement, in successive drafts of the Paris Agreement “rulebook”, broken down by the relevant article of the deal. Apart from Article 6 carbon markets, shown in red, all sections reached zero brackets and were agreed by the end of COP24 on 15 December 2018. Source: Carbon Brief analysis of negotiating texts published by the UN climate body UNFCCC. Chart by Carbon Brief using Highcharts.

The chart also shows how the draft Article 6 texts appear to have gone backwards, after talks in Bonn in June 2019 (rightmost column in the chart). As things stand, the draft rulebook texts on Article 6.2Article 6.4 and Article 6.8 cover 41 pages, containing 672 square brackets.

The increased number of unresolved areas in the text after the Bonn meeting reflects a retrenchment, with many countries and negotiating blocs at the talks retreating to their starting positions having previously given way in a spirit of compromise at COP24.

This retrenchment means that issues and red lines can once again be traded off against each other as negotiators work towards agreement across the Article 6 rulebook. There could also be attempts to tie these talks to other political priorities at the COP, further complicating matters.

Kelley Kizzier, now associate vice president for international climate at US NGO the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), was co-chair of the Article 6 negotiations at COP24. She tells Carbon Brief:

“The reason we got as far as we did in Katowice is that people were expecting a deal. Those compromises were made in the context of a deal, so when a deal doesn’t materialise, of course, people back off from their compromises.”

Despite this setback, Kizzier says that “the heart of a deal on Article 6 is still there on the table”. She adds: “There are some crux issues that still need to be resolved, but once those are agreed the text could come together very quickly.”

What exactly does Article 6 say?

At the international climate summit at COP25 in Madrid, in December 2019, climate negotiators will try once again to finalise the Article 6 “rulebook”, which will govern voluntary international cooperation on climate change, including carbon markets.

To truly understand the task they face and the key areas of remaining disagreement, the first port of call is the text of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement itself, shown in annotated form in the graphic, below.

Click here to read the rest

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Comments 1 to 18:

  1. “As you go forward, the role of forests, soils, blue carbon, technological solutions [to removing CO2 from the atmosphere], those all come into play. But in the early stages this is about squeezing as much carbon as possible out of the global energy system.”

    It's happening in reverse. In addition to the criticisms of emissions trading schemes in the article, all emissions trading schemes have done in New Zealand and probably elsewhere is mostly encourage tree planting because this is just easier than reducing emissions.

    This is even worse because its of mostly plantation forests which are of very limited use to the climate problem.The pressure to cut down trees are far too large to ever put much reliance on forestry sinks. It should be the lowest priority thing. For gods sake, we have a population heading to ten billion people!

    There is more potential in using regenerative agriculture to enhance soil sinks because the land is just sitting there, and probably high tech negative emissions solutions. But they are all mopping up solutions, and not as high priority as reducing emissions.

    While in theory it souldn't matter which comes first, planting trees or reducing emissions, it does matter in the good old real world,  because by delaying reducing emissions the task has now been made very hard politically requiring a faster ramping up of emissions reductions by a higher price on carbon, and its the one that hits the public hardest and is most visible.

    IMHO the whole emissions trading concept deserves a great deal of scepticism. It sounds like a free market economists dream to me. NZ bought a whole lot of international carbon credits that turned out to be worthless and caused a scandal. Anything as bureaucratically complicated as an ETS doesn't inspire confidence. It's worse than a tax code.

    Fortunately article 6 is voluntary.

    It's all about electricity grids really. It always has been. Get this right and transport and industry is half solved. If electricity generation is not solved everything else is a fantasy dream. Any carbon sinks or the like will always be chasing emissions.

    We have to have zero carbon electricity grids as the number one priority, using renewables or nuclear power or both, probably both. Government's have to bite the bullet and fund this directly or force it to happen or perhaps use a carbon tax. It's too late for messing around with emissions trading schemes, especially at global scale. That's my two cents worth.

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  2. Building on nigelj's thoughts, which are relevant and accurate considerations of what is happening regarding Section 6.

    Powerful people who try to unjustifiably benefit in harmful unsustainable ways will focus their efforts on the development of a few specific aspects of the rules skewed in their favour, worded the way they want.

    If they fail to get the rule wording to be what they want, they shift their efforts to weakening the enforcement of the rules (like Trump just caused the end of the WTO court).

    The unjustified wealthy and powerful who want to benefit more from delaying or diminishing the global efforts to rapidly end harmful, and ultimately unsustainable, fossil fuel use are likely very focused on crippling COP efforts to achieve that undeniably required objective for the future of humanity to be sustainable and improvable.

    Examples of the unhelpful rules desired by people like those who want to benefit more from Alberta Oil Sands are:

    • Making the reduction of emissions intensity a 'carbon credit that counts towards a nation's GHG reduction actions'. In that scam the total emissions of a developed nation can go up as long as they are a smaller ratio of GDP or there is a reduction per unit of Oil Sands produced.
    • Allow existing forested areas to count as carbon credits against emissions. That scam allows fossil fuel emissions to continue as long as there are no changes to the amount of forests.
    • A new one from the Canadian fossil fuel profiteers is getting carbon credits for increasing the export of natural gas. The claim is that it is better for people to burn natural gas than coal or oil so Canada should get the differential between coal or oil and natural gas for every unit of natural gas exported from Canada. It takes a very "Free Market Economic Mind" to come up with a claim and scam like that one.

    The simple basis for anything in Section 6 has to be 'Certainty' that actions based on Section 6 effectively rapidly reduce the existing global rate of increase of ghg's. Economists are very slippery regarding proving that the system they support will actually do what they claim it will do. Their biggest fault is failing to accurately account for powerful wealthy people being willing to benefit from a harmful unsustainable activity, and being able to regionally temporarily harmfully powerfully resist being monitored and corrected.

    Science will never be certain. But the need to rapidly end fossil fuel use has been a certainty for decades. And economic rules can be set up to be 'very close to certain' regarding the result. An extreme example would be rigorous global monitoring and swift severe penalties imposed regardless of claims of national sovereignty or personal freedom to believe and do as one wishes.

    The main reason economic rules are not set up that way is the powerful resistance to correction of the powerful incorrect Status Quo winners (and the unjustified popularity of claims about Freedom to defend unjustified harmful actions).

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  3. NijelJ, well said: planting trees is snoopy-loopy-land... he'll probably right a song about it and make money, lol,... it's that pathetic!

    It's well acknowledged the big metropolises of the world need nuclear power to survive... none of this is news to anybody.... 

    When the policy change thing looks to ripen things will get nasty and the boris johnson thing has pissed a lot of people off but I love boris... the trump 2020 election is coming and it's all a soft core burn really: the world will meet these challenges via the pathetic carping of necessary things we all knew twenty years ago. We have the know-how; all we need is the can-do attitude.

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  4. I love Trump aswell, btw- if you couldn't tell already, lol- but he is a liar about climate change. He knows perfectly well it's on like donkey kong as all the government agencies put it and if you're in the loop you know that is what they say.

    His modus op. is that he doesn't have to be the guy.... FULL STOP MATE! He's pushing market forces and in the final event it IS what Reagan said!

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  5. bozzza, sequestering carbon with trees is sure not as simple as it seems. There is however an interesting proposal to sequester carbon by growing trees in the Sahara desert and other deserts, using irrigation and desalinisation and nuclear power. It could obvious also be solar power. But given the increasing demands for timber, its hard for me to see enough discipline being found to make these the truly long growing forests needed to sequester carbon properly.

    Cities don't need nuclear power as such. A 100% renewable power grid is possible, but the storage costs are horrendous right now and may not ever drop enough to be really good. But an 80% renewables grid plus some storage plus something like nuclear power or geothermal power is economically feasible and zero carbon. Some backgroundhere.

    I don't know if Trumps believes his own words on climate change or not. Don't care, he will be gone next election or 4 years after that.

    Free markets won't solve climate change. After 30 years free markets have achieved virtually nothing to fix the problem. The only significant progress has come from market interventions like wind power subsidies, government energy efficieny rules, cap and trade schemes ( notwithstanding their failings as mentioned) and carbon taxes, etc. History is not on Reagons side. 

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  6. sorry for english
    1. We need 1000 000 000 000 trees to ...... delay global warming on some years. What about realism?
    2. We had several climat international agreements befor Paris, all positive result = ZERO. The same will be with Paris. For many reasons. (For example: how many % of authors here use a car? ...... And what we want from ........ ? ........)
    3. Humans are absolutely egoistic. All this meetings, agreements useless. Even more. It looks like....some people spent many thousands tonnes of paper on appeals to save forests..... Did anybody calculate, how many CO2 was produced by ALL this climat fuss/rush? I think millions of tonnes.
    4. Most and extraordinary efforts MUST be on solar, wind electricity and storage. We must spend hundreds of billions dollars every year on scientific developments. Now it looks like... this is the only real possibility/opportunity/chance to solve a problem.
    5. Idea of "carbon markets" and "carbon credits" and ... is excellent. But reality..... enough USA China India Africa.
    6. We have to speak NOT about sea level, but about forest fires, droughts, health, economic....locusts.... Forest fires produce smoke, enough to destroy health, even kill millions.

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  7. nigelj:>>For gods sake, we have a population heading to ten billion people!<<

    And there you have it in a nutshell!

    The taboo against even mentioning overpopulation is so strong that even in the myriad of articles, TV programmes, radio talks, forums such as this, it's almost never mentioned.

    Yet it's undeniable, surely, that humanity, with its technology over the past couple of hundred years, has enabled for the first time to (temporarily) transcend the Malthusian barrier and populate way past the planet's capacity. 10 Bn? Arguably the sustainable limit was passed half a century ago.

    Releasing millions of years' worth of carbon into the atmosphere in one great orgasm of industrialisation isn't going to stop without massive state coercion and frankly that's not going to happen until past several tipping points.

    Meanwhile the number of mouths increases at something over three per second.......... and no-one talks about it!

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  8. Wol @7,

    Global total population is a concern. But the problem is the total impacts of the total population.

    So by all means mention the population problem, but always admit the real population problem, the total impact.

    And that means admitting that the portion of the population that is the problem is the highest per-capita consuming and impacting portion.

    Without admitting the true nature of the problem, any perceived solution is likely unsustainable and probably unjustifiably harmful. Not admitting the reality of the problem is misleading marketing excusing of the harmful unsustainable Status Quo.

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  9. Wol @7,

    The population problem can be better understood as increased individual behaviour that is not governed by the pursuit of expanded awareness and improved understanding applied to achieve necessary goals like all of the Sustainable Development Goals.

    • Everybody's actions add up
    • Everybody has the right to behave as harmfully as others get away with.
    • That spiral of increasing harm is a dead-end
    • Competition for popularity and profit with people freer to believe whatever they want to excuse behaving in ways that are understandably potentially, or actually understandably, harmful to Others, especially to the future of humanity, will not achieve a sustainable and improving future for humanity.
    • To deserve perceptions of superiority relative to Others a person would need to be self-governing and self-limiting their actions to expand awareness and improve understanding and apply the learning to achieve and improve the goals necessary for the future of humanity which include all of the Sustainable Development Goals.
    • Anyone of perceived higher status who is not self-governing and self-limiting of their actions to expand awareness and improve understanding and is not applying that learning to achieve and improve the goals necessary for the future of humanity needs to be taken down a few Status Notches until thy change their mind.
    • Only the neediest have an excuse to behave more poorly, more harmfully to the future of humanity. And the the more fortunate, least 'needful', would prove being worthy of higher status by being more helpful to sustainably improving living conditions for the poorest, helping them develop toward the higher status of responsible considerate helpful self-governing.

    Even a very small global population that fails to develop that type of Governing of behaviour can be understood to have no future. And that understanding can be extended to apply to any subset of a total global population. Even businesses that do not achieve that type of Governing of their behaviour will not have a future.

    Any pursuits contrary to achieving and improving on the Sustainable Development Goals Do Not Have a Future. And it is harmful for anyone to try to defend developed perceptions of Status that would be reduced by the achievement of the SDGs.

    The problem is the way that temporary perceptions of winning higher status can be gotten away with by people who wish to personally benefit by defying that understanding. Misleading marketing has been proven to lead many less fortunate people to support competitors for status who do not actually want to help the people of lower status they want to get support from.

    The observable reality is that many of the supposedly more advanced nations actually cause people to become harmfully defiant of expanded awareness and improved understanding because they do not want to be governed or limited by the need to help achieve the goals necessary for the future of humanity to be sustainable and improvable.

    Sustainable corrections have to be the governing priority. Any perceptions of superiority, or improvement of conditions for the poorest, that are developed unsustainably, without serious pursuit of the required sustainable corrections, are tragically popular and profitable dead-end misunderstandings.

    The Real Population Problem is the temporary regional or tribal success of misleading marketing in defiant resistance to the corrections of attitudes and actions required by improving awareness and understanding in pursuit of a sustainable improving future for humanity.

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  10. In answer to Wols comments on human population. Certainly population growth has been rapid and is obviously problematic for the planet in multiple ways, but its slowing quite dramatically in many places anyway, particularly Europe and the Americas. The fastest population growth is in Africa but they are not a major source of emissions and are unlikely to be for some considerable time. 

    There's probably not much more that can be done to slow population growth rates more dramatically. Europe would end up with too many dependant elderly people. Africa are slow to do anything.

    Even if we could slow growth more quickly, it wouldn't be in enough time to have huge implications for the Paris Accord targets of 2 degrees. Zero population growth will however help the climate problem longer term so its important countries do whatever they can to slow growth. Refer to "projections of population growth" on wikipedia and think it through.

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  11. I note the replies.

    They seem to put the emphasis on exactly the target that the deniers' aim at - being sustainable means living at a much lower standard of living.

    Look at it from the other end: most authorities - and I have no reference here - would probably not argue that a population of a couple of a billion would be long-term sustainable even if all had our own standard of living. (Whether such a number would be workable with capitalism as we know it needing constant growth is another argument.)

    However we are at present in the 7 1/2 Bn regime and growing daily - clearly long-term unsustainable even without bringing the third world up to Western consumption. That statement has nothing to do with attitudes of superiority or whatever,

    Trying to contain emissions without addressing the fundamental issue - numbers - is the equivalent of running up the down escalator. A down escalator which is constantly speeding up, moreover.

    My point is that the world is unlikely to accept the restrictions that are being debated at the moment and even less likely to begin talking about overall numbers - the heart of the sustainability problem.

    Look through a thousand random articles and papers on climate change and see how many references you can see to population numbers - hardly any. Plenty about holidaying in Scunthorpe instead of Magaluf, and eating crickets instead of steak yet the fact that twice the number equals twice the emissions (all else being equal) seems unable to be discussed.

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  12. Wol @11

    "I note the replies. They seem to put the emphasis on exactly the target that the deniers' aim at - being sustainable means living at a much lower standard of living."

    I made no reference to adopting a much lower standard of living. In fact I've argued the opposite on this website, namely that expecting people to make large reductions in the use of technology and energy look completely unrealistic to me, so I do agree with you to a point.

    The solutions to the climate problem that seem most plausible to me are zero carbon energy and negative emissions technologies, notwithstanding the political challenges. Lifestyle changes will help as a minor wedge measure. There are some things that can be done that would not hugely lower standards of living, like flying less and eating less meat, and both reduce expenditure so have a positive side.

    I see population policies helping a bit as well, but you need to be realistic about what can be achieved,  and they are also a wedge issue.

    "Look at it from the other end: most authorities - and I have no reference here - would probably not argue that a population of a couple of a billion would be long-term sustainable even if all had our own standard of living. "

    Agreed. I've argued for a global population of 2 billion people myself over at, but this is a long term plan. Business as usual population policies are a fertility rate of 2.2, taking us from 7.6 billion now to 11 billion by 2100, then stability. If we were to get fertility rates down to about 1.5 over the next couple of decades we would hit about 9 billion by 2100 and 2 billion by year 2300. I worked it out with a population calculator, you can google these.

    But achieving a fertility rate of 1.5 globally over the next few decades is about as realistic as making "huge lifestyle changes". Ie not very realistic. A few countries in Europe have this number, but it took a lot of policies to get there and a lot of wealth and economic security,  and they are already worried it is causing too many elderly people in proportion to young people.

    Africa has scope to reduce population growth but I repeat they are not a big source of emissions and what is it you propose to do? We can lead a horse to water but cannot make it drink. You can't force them. Their population growth will still fall over a longer time frame anyway, as they become weathier and have better primary healthcare and access to contraceptives as has happened elsewhere. This will help keep temperatures from climbing to ridiculous numbers, but has little bearing on immediate goals and problems.

    Even if by some miracle we got global population down faster, it won't change much by 2050, because of the demographics, so clearly won't do much to stop temperatures getting over 2 degrees! At most it will help stop temperatures getting over 4 degrees.

    It is important to encourage slower population growth, and for both the climate and other reasons, but I'm just saying the world mostly already is doing this, and you have to be realistic on time frames and what can be achieved. We can talk a whole lot about it, but it distracts from the key issues of zero carbon energy etc and short to medium term Paris Accord goals. 

    "However we are at present in the 7 1/2 Bn regime and growing daily - clearly long-term unsustainable even without bringing the third world up to Western consumption. That statement has nothing to do with attitudes of superiority or whatever,'

    Agree totally.

    "Trying to contain emissions without addressing the fundamental issue - numbers - is the equivalent of running up the down escalator. A down escalator which is constantly speeding up, moreover."

    The fundamental issue in terms of the climate is not population. It's the type of energy we use.

    "My point is that the world is unlikely to accept the restrictions that are being debated at the moment "

    The world is just as unlikely to accept radical population policies. We have to just work away at all the issues so zero carbon energy, population, and lifestyle.

    "Look through a thousand random articles and papers on climate change and see how many references you can see to population numbers - hardly any."

    True. I suggest there are obvious reasons. The IPCC and other authorities probably don't want yet more distractions from renewable energy goals, and they dont want to be accused of social engineering or blaming Africa for the climate problem etc.


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  13. Wol @11,
    I generally agree with nigelj's comment in response to your comment. But on some points I disagree, and not just a little bit.

    I am not as generous as nigelj about people deserving to be able to keep and increase their developed perceptions of comfort, convenience, or status relative to others. What has developed, especially through the past 30 years, is an unsustainable mess of people who have over-developed their ways of living in incorrect and unsustainable ways. The highest per-capita energy users and material consumers have to reduce their rates of consumption regardless of the total population number.

    In response to a claim that pointing out the reality that some developed perceptions of success and superiority deserve to be lost is “... emphasis on exactly the target that the deniers' aim at - being sustainable means living at a much lower standard of living.” Re-read my comments, all of them. I said things that are very different from the interpretation you, and the correction resistance promoters, try to create. And that can be seen without me revising what I wrote.

    In particular I said “Everybody has the right to behave as harmfully as others get away with.” That does mean that as everyone develops to be as harmful as everyone else there is an equalization. The difference in perceptions of status is reduced. And harmful behaviour has to be limited.

    A correct understanding is that there will only be a reduction of perception of standard of living for those people whose ways of living are significantly based on harmful unsustainable activity. And it is absurd to claim that 'only some people' should be allowed to be benefit from behaving in ways that are unsustainable and harmful (except for the poorest in the context that I included in my comments). Everybody has the right to behave just as badly, which will not work out well for anyone, particularly not for the future of humanity.

    As for the claim that “most authorities - and I have no reference here - would probably not argue that a population of a couple of a billion would be long-term sustainable even if all had our own standard of living.” Thank you for agreeing that even a small total population would be unsustainable if the way that people lived continued to be unsustainable and harmful. That is my point about some standards of living, over-developed in the wrong directions (away from sustainable), needing to be lost. But the rest of your comment implies that that is not what you meant to say. I believe nigelj misinterpreted what you stated, probably because it fits his belief that people living high consumption lifestyles is OK as long as the total population is limited. There is far more to correct about what has developed than the climate impact problem. All of the Sustainable Development Goals need to be achieved and improved on.

    Limiting the discussion to climate impacts (only one of the SDGs), for global humanity to be sustainable many of the perceptions of status developed through the decades of fossil fuel use will actually have to be given up, lost. It is happening to coal barons world-wide. And it will happen to many correction resistant oil barons and natural gas barons. It can also happen to everyone else who resists correcting how they live now.

    The past 30 years are a good example. For the past 30 years everyone had adequate warning about the need to be smarter about their choices. People who bet on continuing to get away with relatively cheap fossil fuel, and bought a larger or poorly insulated home, or bought a larger less efficient vehicle, deserve to lose some of their current perceived status.

    You are correct. People who want to harmfully resisting being educated and corrected are the target audience of the climate science arrogant igore-ance brigade. But there is no future for that way of thinking, no matter how popular or profitable it appears to be.

    As for “However we are at present in the 7 1/2 Bn regime and growing daily - clearly long-term unsustainable” I completely disagree. There is adequate capacity for Sustainable living by that total population. The only reason it would not be sustainable is the resistance to helpful correction by the over-consuming and over-impacting (and harmfully opposed to sharing and caring), portion of the population. This is presented in many reports, including the 2016 BBC Earth article by Vivien Cumming “How many people can our planet really support”. It includes the following “A 2012 UN report summarised 65 different estimated maximum sustainable population sizes. The most common estimate was eight billion, a little larger than the current population. But the estimates ranged from as few as two billion to, in one study, a staggering 1,024 billion.” That means niglej's 2 billion is at the bottom edge of the evaluations, and a population of 11 billion is potentially sustainable. But crying "population is the problem" will likely remain popular for a long time among the harmfully correction resistant looking for any excuses they can find.

    As for “Look through a thousand random articles and papers on climate change and see how many references you can see to population numbers - hardly any.” That is because the science is focused on the total impact of the total population. The total acceptable impacts, 1.5 C warming, are in no way affected by a population number. And the reality of the need for correction of development in order for human activity to be sustainable and sustainably improve also does not really depend on the total population, as long is it peaks at about 12 billion and settles down to about 8 billion.

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  14. OPOF @13, when I said that its unrealistic to expect people to "massively reduce their standard of living and use of energy and technology" I was thinking of the average global citizen, who would have an income something like the typical working class person in America, and I contend it would be unrealistic to expect them to make huge changes to lifestyles Could have been clearer I guess. The top 10% - 20% globally have room to make much larger changes to their patterns of consumption without significant problems

    Global population of 2 billion people was my educated guess at the smallest possible global population  that would minimise environmental impacts and resource use, but still have reasonable economies of scale and specialist skills. Looks like it wasn't a bad guess! 

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  15. 1. Population will not rise above 10 billion.

    2. USA COemission larger than 4 billion poor men in the World. So, all talks, that problem is in the population - is a racism, nothing else.

    3. Problem in human egoism . That why all climat agreements useless.

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  16. nigelj @14,

    Thanks for clarifying. Those are indeed very different positions from the way your comment was presented.

    I have no major issue with the clarification that "Agreed. I've argued for a global population of 2 billion people myself..." was meant to be about the minimum practical smaller population.

    And I agree with the need for 20% of the global population to face significant corrections of how they developed to like to live, with half of that group facing significant losses of perceptions of superiority relative to others.

    However, I disagree about what that means for the "average person".

    The highest consuming and impacting portion of the total global population is heavily skewed to the supposedly more advanced nations. The top 10% of the global population is 750 million. The top 20% is 1.5 billion. Total population of the G7 is 800 million.

    Significantly more than half of the population of the G7 nations and other supposedly more advanced nations are in the top 20% group. There are high consuming and high impacting people in nations outside of the G7, but they are a smaller portion of the population of those nations.

    That means that the "average citizen of a supposedly more advanced nation" likely faces a significant change of the way they live, especially those who have not significantly corrected how they live through the past 30 years.

    New Zealand is likely a very different situation, but examples of required correction I see in Alberta are "average people" needing to give up driving big vehicles. And many of them need to give up driving big over-powered vehicles as their regular commute. Commuting in a city using a big pick-up truck or SUV or over-powered inefficient sports car has got to become a thing of the past.

    Places like Alberta have been built to require people to drive everywhere. And there is a large number of people who drive big trucks as their personal use vehicles. And many are impressed by the speed they can drive (over-powered vehicles), and the size of their vehicle (over-weight), rather than how efficient their transportation is. And there are many who enjoy fossil-fueled recreation (something that definitely needs to be ended).

    Selling the idea that those "Average people" do not need to significantly change how they are enjoying their life is misleading marketing. It is lying to get people to support the required corrective action.

    And telling such lies can easily, and correctly, be exploited by people who wish to gather popular support for resistance to the required corrections. The political reality that misleading marketing telling lies about climate science can be successful does not justify telling lies about the required corrections. Shooting down the absurd claims like "the required corrections mean everyone has to live in caves" can be done without lying.

    Saying that meeting the required corrections to limit impacts to 1.5 C will not require the "average person of the more developed nations" to significantly change how they live is more damaging than pointing out the extreme possible future outcomes of the lack of responsible correction leadership by the G7 and other supposedly more advanced nations. That claim may have been valid 30 years ago. But a lot of over-development in the wrong direction has occurred since then.

    We are now tragically in a world where the ease of achieving the required correction has been deliberately ruined by the lying people who want to resist the correction.

    Simply calling them liars will not work. I am just using it in this case for brevity. Pointing out that they are deliberately trying to benefit from fighting against expanded awareness and improving understanding and its application to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals is harder for people to claim to be incorrect. They have to understand that they are choosing to be part of that harmful group and believe liars, or change their mind.

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  17. OPOF @16, fair comments in the main. I was really just annoyed at Wol saying I was promoting that people have "a much lower standard of living". I said no such thing, and I just wanted to make a brief response on that point. I was not really setting out to write a treatise on the lifestyle issue.

    My main focus in my comment was the population issue. Only so many hours in the day, etc.

    When someone comments on the climate issue in a general way on an international website, it should be assumed they are talking globally unless they indicate otherwise. I was always talking globally. But yes I agree   wealth is concentrated in western countries so they can do more to change lifestyles without serious compromises than poor countries would have.

    Yes people need to be considering whether they really need large ICE powered cars. In fact if EV's were subsidised people wouldn't even need to  compromise their lifestyle significantly.

    To me Wols statement of "a much lower standard of living" can only be interpreted to mean fairly serious deprivation in the basics of life. I took him at face value because of what he said. Its absurd to expect anyone to do this. But all of us can make at least some lifestyle changes without it hurting, and often these have benefits. I did actually point that out, so you need to read things in context a bit. 

    I think its about whats reasonable. It's reasonable to expect people to fly a bit less, buy EV's, drive smaller ICE cars if they cant afford an EV,  and buy energy efficient appliances and do home recycling, and things like that. It's not reasonable to expect people to go cold in winter, go without televisions and fridges etcetera and they are unlikely to do so anyway. Its not reasonable to expect working class people even in rich countries to spend a lot of money insulating homes, unless they were to get a government subsidy. And of course subsidies change the picture quite a bit.

    Rich people could do more. Nobody needs multiple homes often left empty, and a fleet of cars etc but we have to be careful not to demonise the rich. Most of their wealth is invested and this does feed back into society in useful ways, in some cases anyway. In others not so much.

    So getting to the point, I think lifestyle changes are a very significant part of the answer to the climate problem, but there will be realistic limits, so renewable energy is the biggest single priority.

    Lying people who want to resist correction. Yes calling people liars and names is unlikely to change their minds or win over sane people in the middle of this debate. Psychology 101. I think we need very solid proof before calling people liars, and that proof is not always easy to get.  I prefer to just refer to inaccurate statements or words like that, and be a bit subtle about it while making sure its clear I don't accept what they are saying. I have no problem with your approach. 

    If we can get the middle ground to shift it will push the intransigent, unhelpful entitled minority groups to shift a bit, or at least marginalise them.

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  18. nigelj @17,

    Mo worries about the difficulty in being brief ut clear. I appreciate the challenge of being clear while being brief.

    My response was more for the benefit of the likes of Wol, who I agree misunderstood the comments that were provided in response to the ones they made.

    It is pretty well established that attempts to be clear on an issue will struggle to be understood by people who are determined to resist expanding their awareness and improving their understanding in ways that are contrary to their developed personal interests.

    The popularity of harmful limited awareness and misunderstanding is a tragic development, especially when it happens to people in supposedly more advanced nations.

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