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How and Why Obama Designed the Paris Climate Accords to Fail

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Date: Sunday, 16 June 2024

How and Why Obama Designed the Paris Climate Accords to Fail

Eric Zuesse (blogs at

U.S. President Barack Obama started in earnest the U.S. Government’s plan to prevent China from leading the world, and his proposed TPP, “Trans Pacific Partnership,” trade agreement among the potentially anti-China Asian and Pacific countries, was one of his main initiatives to do that. 12 nations became members, but Trump withdrew America from it. China’s response to Obama’s anti-China initiative, was to organize its own 16-nation RCEP, “Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership”. Obama’s other main initiative against China — and against, actually, all of the “Global South,” or economically rising countries, including India — was the Paris Climate Agreement, which the U.S. led in the drafting of. Obama’s Administration led, at the 2015 U.N. Climate Change Conference, the nations that demanded the now-rising underdeveloped countries (mainly the former colonies of European powers), which had not caused the global warming problem, to share with the world’s developed and high-income countries (which had caused it), the costs of solving that problem, as-if they had contributed significantly to causing it (which they had not), and his proposed version became signed as being the Paris Climate Agreement, but Trump withdrew America from it, and Biden then restored America to it. However, in any case, it now is widely seen to be a failure. Some people say that the goal-posts for “success” in it need to be raised higher. They don’t recognize that the Paris Agreement had been designed to fail, and can only fail. Raising its goal-posts won’t be able to stop that.

The following is from my 5 November 2021 article “The Paris Climate Agreement Is Pure PR, A Fraud.” It was subsequently included in my 2022 book, America’s Empire of Evil:

The Wikipedia article on the 2015 “Paris Agreement” says that “Negotiations in Paris took place over a two week span, and continued throughout the three final nights.[10]” and that:

The negotiations almost failed because of a single word when the US legal team realised at the last minute that “shall” had been approved, rather than “should”, meaning that developed countries would have been legally obliged to cut emissions: the French solved the problem by changing it as a “typographical error”.[13] [That statement — that France instead of America raised the objection to “shall” — is false. Actually, it was the chief American negotiator, Todd Stern, who labelled it that and demanded it to be eliminated from the text.] At the conclusion of COP21 (the 21st meeting of the Conference of the Parties), on 12 December 2015, the final wording of the Paris Agreement was adopted by consensus by the 195 UNFCCC participating member states and the European Union.[14] Nicaragua indicated they had wanted to object to the adoption as they denounced the weakness of the Agreement, but were not given a chance.[15][16] In the Agreement the members promised to reduce their carbon output “as soon as possible” and to do their best to keep global warming “to well below 2 degrees C” (3.6 °F).[17]

U.S President Barack Obama announced on 12 December 2015 that

In my first inaugural address, I committed this country to the tireless task of combating climate change and protecting this planet for future generations. 

Two weeks ago, in Paris, I said before the world that we needed a strong global agreement to accomplish this goal — an enduring agreement that reduces global carbon pollution and sets the world on a course to a low-carbon future. 

A few hours ago, we succeeded.  We came together around the strong agreement the world needed.  We met the moment.

I want to commend President Hollande and Secretary General Ban for their leadership and for hosting such a successful summit, and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius for presiding with patience and resolve.  And I want to give a special thanks to Secretary John Kerry, my Senior Advisor Brian Deese, our chief negotiator Todd Stern, and everyone on their teams for their outstanding work and for making America proud.

It was nothing but theater, to fool the public. It succeeded in doing that.

Here is how Britain’s Guardian,  under the headline “How a ‘typo’ nearly derailed the Paris climate deal”, phrased the matter: this Agreement was

confirmed by US secretary of state, John Kerry, that the US had objected to Article 4.4 on page 21 of the 31-page final agreement. US government lawyers had found, it was said to their horror, that they had unwittingly approved a vital word which could make the difference between rich countries being legally obliged to cut emissions rather than just having to try to: “shall” rather than “should”.

Here is global law firm Norton Rose Fulbright on the significance of the two words:

This article requires developed countries to undertake economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets but developing countries to only “continue to enhance” their mitigation efforts. In the draft that was presented for adoption there were two critical words – “shall” and “should”. The expression “shall” applied to the developed countries’ obligation and the word “should” applied to the developing countries’ obligation.

There was a crisis.

According to some, it had always been intended that both rich and poor countries should have the same obligation, namely “should”, not “shall”. This was of huge importance to the US especially, which, it said, would have had difficulty signing up to any legally binding obligation to implement its reduction target.

One reporter, at the time, Lisa Friedman, of Climate Wiresaid that when “the Americans spotted the ‘shall’, word began to spread that the United States had a problem.” It was the Obama-appointed chief U.S. negotiator, Todd Stern, who noticed the word, called it “a clerical error,” and demanded that it be replaced by the legally empty “should.” It wasn’t the French Government that raised the objection and gutted the text, but, instead, Obama’s negotiator, who did this gutting of the text.

In other words: the U.S., which had contributed far more to creating climate-change than had any other single country, and which had reaped the vast economic benefits from all of that fossil-fuels burning, was demanding that the poor countries, which were only beginning to industrialize, must be obligated just as much as the U.S. would be obligated, to reduce fossil-fuels-burning, or else the U.S. wouldn’t sign the Agreement — and neither would its allies, such as France.

In order to understand Obama’s motive in this, one must understand his motive in a certain key phrase that he used throughout his Presidency but which was downplayed by the press and therefore never attracted the public’s attention as it should have done.

Barack Obama repeatedly referred to the United States as being the only indispensable nation — that all others are “dispensable” — such as when President Obama addressed America’s future military leaders, at West Point, on 28 May 2014, by telling them:

The United States is and remains the one indispensable nation. That has been true for the century passed and it will be true for the century to come. … Russia’s aggression toward former Soviet states unnerves capitals in Europe, while China’s economic rise and military reach worries its neighbors. From Brazil to India, rising middle classes compete with us, and governments seek a greater say in global forums. … It will be your generation’s task to respond to this new world.

He was telling the military that America’s economic competition, against the BRICS nations, is a key matter for America’s military, and not only for America’s private corporations; that U.S. taxpayers fund America’s military at least partially in order to impose the wills and extend the wealth of the stockholders in America’s corporations abroad; and that the countries against which America is in economic competition are “dispensable” but America “is and remains the one indispensable nation.” This, supposedly, also authorizes America’s weapons and troops to fight against countries whose “governments seek a greater say in global forums.” In other words: Stop the growing economies from growing faster than America’s. There is another name for the American Government’s supremacist ideology. This term is “fascism.”

It is natural that a person who wants to keep America on top by all means including by keeping down the nations that are rising would be viscerally opposed to the original draft’s application of “should” to the poor countries while applying “shall” to the rich ones — especially to the one nation (America) that alone had contributed more than a quarter of all of the greenhouse gases that have been added to the global atmosphere since the year 1850 — the effective start of the industrial revolution.

So, Obama’s representatives demanded that the word “should” would apply not only to the poor countries (as in the original draft) but to the rich countries, including the U.S. — and Obama got his way, at the very close of the conference, in order to have the PR benefit of seeming, to the gullible throughout the world, to be in favor of halting global warming. It was pure PR (for Obama, and also for leaders of the other highly-developed countries; and, thus, global warming won’t be affected, at all, by the Paris Climate Agreement, nor by the other, similarly insincere, mouthings by billionaire-financed ‘environmentalist’ ‘charities’. It is all theater.

However, this does not mean that there is no possible way that humans might be able to  halt and to undo the catastrophic harm and terminal danger that we have perpetrated upon the biosphere. There might be such a way, but it has nothing to do with any international agreements, and it also has nothing directly to do with suppressing the consumption of fossil fuels, but it is instead entirely focused upon outlawing the purchase of investments in fossil-fuels-extraction corporations such as ExxonMobil.

The way to stop global warming (if it still can be stopped) is to ban purchases of stocks and of bonds — i.e., of all forms of investment securities (corporate shares and even loans being made to the corporation) — of enterprises that extract from the ground (land or else underwater) fossil fuels: coal, oil, and/or gas.

For examples: in 2017, the world’s largest fossil-fuels extractors were, in order: 1. Saudi Aramco (Saudi Arabia billionaires); 2. Chevron (U.S. billionaires); 3. Gazprom (Russia billionaires); 4. ExxonMobil (U.S. billionaires); 5. National Iranian Oil Co. (Iran billionaires); 6. BP (UK billionaires); 7. Shell (Netherlands billionaires); 8. Coal India (India billionaires); 9. PEMEX (Mexico billionaires); 10. Petroleos de Venezuela (Venezuela billionaires); 11. PetroChina/CNPC (China billionaires); and 12. Peabody Energy (U.S. billionaires). (NOTE: U.S. billionaires, allied with Saudi, UK, Netherlands, and India, billionaires, are trying to absorb, into their team, Russia, Iran, Mexico, Venezuela, and China, each of which latter nations had actually nationalized their fossil fuels, so that those nations’ Government, instead of any billionaires, would own those assets, in the name of all of the given nation’s residents. Though Russia ended its side of the Cold War in 1991, the U.S.-and-allied side of the Cold War secretly continued, and continues, today. Consequently, the U.S.-led team failed to achieve total conquest of the Russia-led team, and is now increasingly trying to do that: achieve total global hegemony, so that the entire world will be controlled only by U.S.-and-allied billionaires. This explains a lot of today’s international relations.)  All fossil-fuels extractors compete ferociously, as producers of a basic global commodity, but the proposal that is being made here will affect all of them and all countries, even if it is done by only one country.

It needs to be outlawed (in some major country, perhaps even just one) in order to save our planet. Here’s how and why doing that in even just a single country might save the planet (this is a bit long and complicated, but avoiding global catastrophe is worth the trouble, so, you might find it worth your while to read this):

These companies exist in order to discover, extract, refine, and market, fossil fuels, in order for these fuels to be burned — but those activities are killing this planet. Buying stock in, and lending money to, these firms doesn’t purchase their products, but it does incentivize all phases of these firms’ operations, including the discovery of yet more fields of oil, gas, and coal, to add yet more to their existing fossil-fuel reserves, all of which are discovered in order to be burned. Unless these companies’ stock-values are driven down to near zero and also no investor will be lending to them, all such operations will continue, and the Earth will therefore surely die from the resulting over-accumulation of global-warming gases, and increasing build-up of heat (the “greenhouse-effect”), from that burning.

To purchase stock in a fossil-fuel extractor — such as ExxonMobil or BP — or to buy their bonds or otherwise lend to them, is to invest in or fund that corporation’s employment of fossil-fuel explorers to discover new sources of oil, gas, or coal, to drill, and ultimately burn. Such newly discovered reserves are excess inventories that must never be burnt if this planet is to avoid becoming uninhabitable. But these firms nonetheless continue to employ people to find additional new places to drill, above and beyond the ones that they already own — which existing inventories are already so enormous as to vastly exceed what can be burnt without destroying the Earth many times over. To buy the stock in such corporations (or else lend to them) is consequently to fund the killing of our planet. It’s to fund an enormous crime, and should be treated as such. To invest in these companies should be treated as a massive crime.

The only people who will suffer from outlawing the purchase of stock in, and lending to, fossil-fuel extractors, are individuals who are already invested in those corporations. Since we’ve already got vastly excessive known reserves of fossil fuels, discovering yet more such reserves is nothing else than the biggest imaginable crime against all future-existing people, who can’t defend themselves against these activities that are being done today. Only our government, today, can possibly protect future people, and it will be to blame if it fails to do so. The single most effective way it can do this, its supreme obligation, is to criminalize the purchase of stock in fossil-fuels extractors, and to bar loans to them. Here’s why (and please follow this closely now):

The IMF says that “To limit the increase in global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius — the more conservative of the goals agreed to by governments at the 2015 climate change talks in Paris — more than two-thirds of current known reserves, let alone those yet to be discovered (see Table 1), must remain in the ground (IEA 2012). Obviously, then, what the oil and gas and coal companies are doing by continuing exploration is utterly idiotic from an economic standpoint — it’s adding yet more to what already are called “unburnable reserves.” Thus, waiting yet longer for a technological breakthrough, such as fossil-fuels corporations have always promised will happen but nobody has ever actually delivered (and such as is exemplified here), is doomed, because if and when such a real breakthrough would occur, we’d already be too late, and the uncontrollably spiraling and accelerating feedback-loops would already be out of control even if they weren’t uncontrollable back then. We’d simply be racing, then, to catch up with — and to get ahead of — an even faster rise in global temperatures than existed at that previous time. Things get exponentially worse with each and every year of delay. Consequently, something sudden, sharp, and decisive, must happen immediately, and it can happen only by a fundamental change becoming instituted in our laws, not in our technology. The solution, if  it comes, will come from government, and not even possibly come from industry (technological breakthroughs). For governments to instead wait, and to hope for a “technological breakthrough,” is simply for our planet to die. It’s to doom this planet. It’s to abandon the government’s obligation to the future (its supreme obligation). The reason why is that what’s difficult to achieve now (preventing the murder of our planet), will soon be impossible to achieve.

On 13 November 2019, the International Energy Agency reported that “the momentum behind clean energy is insufficient to offset the effects of an expanding global economy and growing population,” and “The world urgently needs to put a laser-like focus on bringing down global emissions. This calls for a grand coalition encompassing governments, investors, companies and everyone else who is committed to tackling climate change.” Obviously, we are all heading the world straight to catastrophe. Drastic action is needed, and it must happen now — not in some indefinite future. But the IEA was wrong to endorse “calls for a grand coalition encompassing governments, investors, companies and everyone else,” which is the gradual approach, which is doomed to fail. And it also requires agreement, which might not come, and compromises, which might make the result ineffective.

I have reached out to Carbon Tracker, the organization that encourages investors to disinvest from fossil fuels. Their leader, Mark Campanale, declined my request for them to endorse my proposal. He endorses instead “a new fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty supported by movements calling to leave fossil fuels in the ground.” When I responded that it’s vastly more difficult, for states (individual governments) to mutually pass, into their respective nation’s laws, a treaty amongst themselves (since it requires unanimity amongst all of them instituting into each one of their legal systems exactly that same law), than it is for any state ON ITS OWN to institute a law (such as I propose), he still wasn’t interested. I asked him why he wasn’t. He said “I’ve chosen a different strategy for my organization.” I answered: “All that I am seeking from you is an ENDORSEMENT. I am not asking you to change your ‘strategy’ (even if you really ought to ADD this new strategy to your existing one).” He replied simply by terminating communication with me and saying, without explanation, “We don’t always agree.”

Here is that “treaty supported by movements calling to leave fossil fuels in the ground”. As you can see there, it was posted in 2012, and as of now (nine years later) it has been signed by 8 individuals, no nations (and not even by any organizations). Mark Campanale isn’t among these 8.

Carbon Tracker is secretive of the identities, and size of donations, of its donors, but its website does make clear that it’s a UK organization that has designed itself so as to be as beneficial for tax-write-offs to U.S. billionaire donors as possible, and “Our UK organisation has an Equivalency Determination (‘ED’) which allows it to be recognised by the IRS as a 501(c)3 US Public Charity.  We have held the ED since February 2016 and is maintained annually by NGO Source on behalf of our major US donors.” In short: it’s part of the U.S.-led team of billionaires. Perhaps this organization’s actual function is that (since the nations that have nationalized their fossil fuels haven’t yet been able to be taken over as outright colonies or vassal-states controlled by the U.S.-led group) the residents inside those outside countries will be paying the price (in reduced Government-services, etc.) from a gradual transition to a ‘reduced carbon’ world. (Everybody but those billionaires will be paying the price.) This mythical aim, of a ‘reduced-carbon’ ‘transition’, would then be a veiled means of gradually impoverishing the residents in those nations, until, ultimately, those people there will support a coup, which will place U.S.-and-allied billionaires in charge of their Government (such as happened in Ukraine in 2014). This appears to be their policy regarding Venezuela, Iran, and several other countries. If it is additionally influencing the ‘transition to a low-carbon economy’, then it’s actually blocking the needed change in this case (which isn’t, at all, change that’s of the gradual type, but is, instead, necessarily decisive, and sudden, if it is to happen at all). However, Carbon Tracker is hardly unique in being controlled by U.S.-and-allied billionaires, and there are, also, many other ways to employ the gradual approach — an approach which is doomed to fail on this matter. A few other of these delaying-tactics will also be discussed here.

Some environmental organizations recommend instead improving labelling laws and informing consumers on how they can cut their energy-usages (such as here), but even if that works, such changes, in consumers’ behaviors, are no more effective against climate-change than would be their using buckets to lower the ocean-level in order to prevent it from overflowing and flooding the land. What’s actually needed is a huge jolt to the system itself, immediately. Only systemic thinking can solve such a problem.

Making such a change — outlawing the purchase of stock in, and prohibiting loans to, fossil-fuel extractors — would impact enormously the stock-prices of all fossil fuels corporations throughout the world, even if it’s done only in this country. It would quickly force all of the fossil-fuel extractors to eliminate their exploration teams and to increase their dividend payouts, just in order to be able to be “the last man standing” when they do all go out of business — which then would occur fairly soon. Also: it would cause non-fossil-energy stock-prices to soar, and this influx of cash into renewable-energy investing would cause their R&D also to soar, which would increasingly reduce costs of the energy they supply. It would transform the world, fairly quickly, and very systematically. And all of this would happen without taxpayers needing to pay tens or hundreds of trillions of dollars, or for governments to sign onto any new treaties. And if additional nations copy that first one, then the crash in market-values of all fossil-fuels corporations will be even faster, and even steeper.

As regards existing bonds and other debt-obligations from fossil-fuels extractors, each such corporation would need to establish its own policies regarding whether or not, and if so then how, to honor those obligations, since there would no longer be a market for them. Ending the market would not be equivalent to ending the obligations. The law would nullify the obligations, but the corporation’s opting to fulfill those obligations wouldn’t be illegal — it would merely be optional.

Would this solve the global-warming problem? It would merely transfer, from carbon-extracting corporations’ R&D, into non-carbon-energy R&D, which is the pre-requisite to do for solving the global-warming problem, if the world hasn’t already passed beyond the point-of-no-return heading into global-burnout. If it’s not done, then, every year that goes by, in which not even a single country will pass into law this ban against selling any stock or bond of any fossil-fuels-extracting company, will not only bring us closer to passing beyond the point-of-no-return, but it will be expediting that terminal global burnout.

Thus far, the billionaires have been fully in control; and the ones who favor continuing the carbon-extraction era have been contesting against the ones who favor finding a replacement for it; and, so, the fate of future generations has been 100% dependent upon what today’s billionaires want, which on both of its sides — the liberal, and the conservative, side — has been excluding the needs of future generations, who have no democratic participation in this investment-decision, because they have no votes in it, at all, not even in countries that claim to be democracies. In effect, then, all of the leading countries — the economically advanced countries — are actually extremist free-market supremacist, capitalist, otherwise called “fascist,” regardless of whether the conservative type, like Hitler’s nation was, or the liberal type, like America is.

The law that is proposed here is socialistic, because it recognizes that extremist capitalism (even of Obama’s liberal type) is heading this planet toward global catastrophe and must therefore be stopped and replaced. The problem can’t be solved merely by ‘the free market’. Whereas the conservative billionaires say that the problem doesn’t exist, the liberal billionaires demand that the problem be ‘solved’ by policies that require no sacrifices (other than nicey-nicey words) on their part and that demonstrably don’t work.


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse’s latest book, AMERICA’S EMPIRE OF EVIL: Hitler’s Posthumous Victory, and Why the Social Sciences Need to Change, is about how America took over the world after World War II in order to enslave it to U.S.-and-allied billionaires. Their cartels extract the world’s wealth by control of not only their ‘news’ media but the social ‘sciences’ — duping the public.

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