Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Travelling

Look out world—I’ve had it! Here I am saving the planet and for what? You’re wrecking absolutely everything and what you’ve done to travel is nothing short of criminal. Nothing has degraded more spectacularly from what it once was, to what it is today.

Let’s start with check-in. Long gone is Heathrow’s welcoming British Airways First Class (or Concorde) building, and even in the states… no outdoor checking of bags. Why? Because Covid. Did they really think we were safer from airborne germs inside than out? Of course they didn’t, but like all the lies that followed… we swallowed the lie and grumbled it’s just two weeks. In addition, they kept saying things like ‘We’re all in this together’ when we most certainly are not.

The way we were.

What is actually happening, is I am paying for the people who used to check bags to sit home. And I am now taking my own bag from my driver and dragging it to the first-class counter that isn’t even first anymore. And in places where outside (open-air) bag-check exists—it’s now a new crop of untrained employees that charge a fee as they stare at their screens for an eternity. It’s unbearable. Faster now to take myself inside, and wait in the ever-growing line. Long, long gone are the days Daddy could place twenty quid in the hand of the porter who would whisk all of our bags to the mouth of the plane. I find myself echoing his sentiment—please just take my money and get on with it!

Forget the security lines… that is just pure insanity where I must take clean items and place them on filthy, germ-laden trays as the agents paw everything else with their filthy gloves. It’s always a calculated risk to ask them to change their gloves but when they unnecessarily breach something that is now contaminated, I say just throw it out.

Today however, I had a ‘salad’ problem. Salad refers to cords of any kind. I think we got this from the Germans who started calling it a ‘cord salad’ and then it became simply ‘salad’. But I didn’t have a tangle of cords, I just had the one that I’d popped in at the last minute—the extension for my MacBook. SERIOUSLY? I hear myself scream as my bag makes the little jog to the right of the conveyor belt for an additional filthy-gloved inspection. With pure evil in her eyes, the security matron claims victory holding up my cord as though she’s caught me with a brick of cocaine.

'I’m supposed to take out cords??’ I ask. More than a little annoyed.

‘Well yes, when you hide them behind chocolate.’

Bet they never had this problem.

I say nothing. If she can clearly see it’s a cord and see it’s a bar of chocolate (which by the way is not a rule!) what are we really talking about? She’s a cow and she’s loving it. Just prior to that I had the ever-fun waistband swipe. Boys don’t know this but if you wear tights, for some reason this elastic waistband baffles every security person in the land. What could it possibly be? they must gasp.

Is it so very different than the elastic-waisted pyjamas that have become such popular travel wear? Somehow this very sheer elastic is more scary than the elastic on men’s briefs and scarier still than the thick cotton waistband of those people in their cargo pants with millions of metal snaps and flapping pockets and likely clumps of disgusting laundry lint.

And for this invasion, I really MUST insist that they change their gloves. You are not thrusting that filthy and disgusting glove both into my clothes and onto my abdomen. EVEN IF you claim you just changed your gloves — which anyone can see is a lie. I don’t know why they try to get away with it. We see them standing there, complaining, patting previous people down, complaining more, touching their face and hair and belt buckles and trays and then they just look you straight in the face and lie saying—‘I just changed them!’ Except you didn’t. And for asking them to change their gloves…oh, they will make you suffer. But one is discriminated against for wearing a dress, trust me. It’s nearly every time.

Glamorous enough for you yet? Of course, my client doesn’t see this when I arrive, he just sees unflappable me, flying commercial to decrease my carbon footprint while he… well never mind what he does.

All things considered, I'd rather fly with Amelia Earhart.

But there’s another indignity. I must now purchase both a newspaper and a bottle of water, because these items are likewise gone from the planes. Remember all of those people who died from newspaper Covid? Well neither do I but apparently newspapers on the plane cause Covid. But newspapers for purchase—no Covid. So they got rid of newspapers and the PDB (pre-departure beverage) while we were all doing our part and littering the planet with empty vials of hand sanitiser and disposable gloves and masks and wipes.

I stroll past the shops… Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Burberry, Bulgari… all closed. Even the porridge bar. Only Boots and Duty-Free are safe from the dreaded Covid. The line at Boots is madness as I grab my paper and 99p water and head to the BA Lounge… one of the few that is open according to my app. But when I arrive—it too is shuttered. I scroll through my various lounge apps which only last night told me that several were open but this too is a lie. I call the Emerald Hotline and they confirm… no lounges—NONE are open. Which explains why the BA horse is lacking his seasonal wreath and the estimated walk to the gate is showing 00.

There will be no pot of tea, no fruit, no curry, no glass of champagne, no Victoria Sponge and certainly no shower for those people transiting from afar. WHY? Because everyone has used Covid as the iron-clad excuse to cut services. I was two inches from every manner of person in the security line, but in an environment where I could relax, wash my hands, and restore my health and sanity, and for which I’ve already paid…. I am blocked. I hate these people.

Safer on the floor.

I look down at the terminal of humanity happily sucking down sugar-laden coffee drinks and pastries and lowering their immune systems with each gulp and I wonder if we are too stupid to live. I pull my mask off and sit down on the floor next to horsey. Even he knows it’s cleaner on this floor where no one has walked in months than in the taped-off seats below.

Downing my morning vitamins I look at my mobile to decide how long I will stay here until I head to my gate. This has nothing to do with health, and here I am, debilitated.

We Really Might Always Have Paris

It now appears  possible, should Joe Biden win the upcoming election, that as soon as January the United States will rejoin the 2015 Paris climate agreement, which commits us to adopt the “Green New Deal” agenda (now rebranded for political purposes as “Net Zero”).

This will not be accomplished by Senate ratification, but by the ‘pen and a phone’ approach first used by President Obama to claim U.S. “ratification” of what is on its face and by its history a treaty, needing approval  by a two-thirds Senate vote. President Trump withdrew from Paris — effective on election day, by chance — without subjecting Paris to the death of a Senate vote. As such,  it can be revived this way. 

This poses a grave threat, because claiming to “re-join” the Paris climate treaty will immediately subject U.S. energy policy — and thereby its economy — to a U.N. “climate conciliation commission."

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Already developed nations' courts and politicians are, respectively, invoking the Paris climate treaty to block infrastructure development, and raise taxes.  The United Kingdom’s Court of Appeal ruled earlier this year that Heathrow Airport cannot be expanded because that would violate the U.K.’s ‘net zero’ commitment under Paris. In Ottawa, “The parliamentary budget officer says the federal carbon tax would have to rise over the coming years if the country is to meet emission-reduction targets under the Paris climate accord.”

Now we are reminded that the U.S. can also expect a forum for antagonistic nations to bring their complaints about U.S. policy and claims of non-compliance with Paris’s required “Net Zero” agenda for resolution.

I was misinformed.

Recall first that the Paris agreement as originally circulated contained a climate tribunal, or court. This was dropped after being noticed outside of polite circles. Nonetheless, U.S. compliance with the Curate’s Egg that is Paris — oh, there are some parts that aren’t legally binding — is subject to the terms of the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change [UNFCCC], ratified by the U.S. Senate on the condition that it was and would remain non-binding (which is stated nowhere in its terms, although it uses “shall” 118 times).

This brings us to a newly released (in part) memo — “Request for Authority to Sign and Join the Paris Agreement, Adopted under the [UNFCCC]” — obtained in Freedom of Information Litigation by the transparency group Energy Policy Advocates. This memo reaffirms that Paris is the result of “a 2011 negotiating mandate (the “Durban Platform”).” The Durban “mandate” was to “adopt… a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force at the twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties and for it to come into effect and be implemented from 2020."

That of course is Paris, the crushing provisions of which are found in Article 4, emission reduction promises. Art. 4.3 requires that the U.S. revisit and tighten its reduction promises every five years. That would cleverly make this the climate treaty... sorry, “accord”… to end all climate treaties. It commits the U.S. to ever greater "climate" policy restrictions, every five years, in perpetuity.

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UNFCCC declares, in Art. 14, “Settlement of Dispute”, that disputes claimed by one party against another, if not resolved, “shall be submitted, at the request of any of the parties to the dispute, to conciliation,” specifically, “[a] conciliation commission shall be created upon the request of one of the parties to the dispute.”

Expect it to play out as follows. Not China, but a proxy will assert it has a dispute with U.S. compliance with its Paris promises, and demand the creation of a conciliation commission. 

It is likely that this will be one of the small island nations that, although building airports like mad (see, e.g., Maldives) are aggressively promoting "climate" transfer payments to help them deal with their fate as a climate-change caused Atlantis.

Of course they would have to squeeze this in between dignified maneuvers like underwater cabinet meetings and hysterical, scolding speeches not to mention managing a construction boom to accommodate Western tourists.

Paris requires, and mandates the U.S. revisit and tighten Green New Deal-style policies every five years. This is among the many reasons why the Paris climate agreement is a treaty, and also why it  would never have been ratified. However, very soon, Americans may nonetheless be subject to its long-envisioned climate court.

Claims that are sure to arise, then, include that the U.S. hasn't adopted sufficiently aggressive policies to meet its first Paris promise, then that the U.S. isn't tightening its promise sufficiently as is required every five years. 

The Germans wore gray, you wore blue.

At any time a conciliation commission might be demanded to oppose the infrastructure binge that the two major party candidates for president have promised. And yes the Heathrow case showed that just one major transport-related project, say a major airport, seeking to expand, would be subjected to seemingly hare-brained — yet ultimately successful — litigation on the claim that it's incompatible with the resumed Paris commitments.

Like Paris itself, we are told, the Climate Conciliation Commission’s rulings are “non-binding” (see Airport, Heathrow). We shall see. For now, it is not open to dispute that any U.S. president who claims to “re-join” the Paris climate treaty will subject American energy and thereby economic policy to a U.N. climate “conciliation commission."

'Climate Change': Passing the Paris Parcel Back Again.

Boris Johnson received a very early Christmas present this week when the courts told him that Her Majesty’s Government could not proceed with its plan to build another runway at Heathrow Airport on the grounds that an extension would clash with its legal commitments on climate change. That may not sound like much of a gift, but the court’s ruling saved the Prime Minister from betraying a well-known personal pledge.

As the MP for a constituency in the path of Heathrow, he had told his discontented voters that he would personally lie down in front of the bulldozers rather than let the extension proceed. And though election promises are like pie-crusts, made to be broken, as Lenin remarked, voters tend to remember those promises that directly affect their personal and local interests, especially when they have been expressed with Boris’s trademark vivacity.

As a very new Prime Minister, however, he had inherited an established policy of Heathrow expansion that was supported by the Transport ministry and—moreover—in line with his wider economic policy of letting Britain rip in an orgy of borrowing and infrastructure development. He was trapped in the jaws of a dilemma.

Now, with one bound, our Boris was free.

The Court of Appeal had lain down in front of the bulldozers instead, ruling that it was illegal for HMG to approve a third runway without taking its own climate change commitments under the Paris Treaty (subsequently put into UK law) into account. Its judgment is interesting. It attributes HMG’s error as follows: “the reason why it was never done is that the secretary of state received legal advice that not only did he not have to take the Paris Agreement into account but that he was legally obliged not to take it into account at all.” In particular HMG had not issued a National Planning Statement as it is required to do.

That’s quite a mistake.

Ministers were free to appeal the judgment but decided not to do so. It’s true they have other options. They could now re-embark on the process of developing the case for Heathrow expansion by consulting with interested parties, holding hearings, and, of course, taking the Paris accords into account. But that process would add at least eighteen months to something that has already taken a decade. It would extend the uncertainty that, like the Brexit uncertainty (still quietly continuing), has so far bedeviled the plans of business and exporters. Above all, it would still not guarantee that any future Heathrow expansion plan would be approved by courts examining its fidelity to the Paris agreement.

Those are the immediate costs of saving Boris’s face. So stitch-up or cock-up? My guess is the latter because, as we shall see below, the costs of this judgment go higher and further than Heathrow.

It’s customary at this point for those who, like me, deplore the intrusion of the courts into what have hitherto been political decisions to denounce the rise of undemocratic judicial imperialism. And I shall give mild vent to these opinions lower down. But there is no avoiding the fact that in this case the courts have been invited by government and Parliament to intervene. A succession of laws have laid down that government planning and economic decisions must observe the legally-binding obligation to reduce carbon emissions consistent with holding a global temperature rise to within 1.5 degrees between now and the end of the century.

That’s the Paris agreement, but Britain had already proposed even more drastic carbon reductions in earlier domestic legislation. The Climate Change Act of 2008—passed with only five brave, honest, and intelligent MPs voting against it, among them the Cambridge science graduate, former deputy prime minister, Lord (Peter) Lilley—laid down that Britain must reduce its carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. And this target was made still more unrealistic by Theresa May’s government in 2016 when the 2050 target was raised to 100 per cent of carbon emissions.

Successive governments had kept their fingers crossed and hoped they could argue that these targets are aspirational—and, hey, we made a good faith effort but we just missed again! But if you make such targets legally binding, then both Ministers and the general public must anticipate that the courts may intervene to require their enforcement. An earlier and more deferential generation of British judges might have been more willing to accept ministerial prerogatives on such plainly political matters. But today’s judges are more interventionist than those in the past. And, after all, they can reasonably claim that they were invited to ensure that on climate change HMG would keep its word and fulfill its treaty obligations.

Accordingly, it seems that the courts—other things being equal—will now help to impose a zero-carbon policy on the British economy. As Margaretha Wewerinke-Singh, “an international public law expert at Leiden University” in the Netherlands, told the Guardian: “For the first time, a court has confirmed that the Paris agreement temperature goal has binding effect. This goal was based on overwhelming evidence about the catastrophic risk of exceeding 1.5 C of warming. Yet some have argued that the goal is aspirational only, leaving governments free to ignore it in practice.”

Her judgment seems more authoritative on the law than on science. For activists will certainly mount legal challenges to any future substantial infrastructure or energy exploration projects. The government, other public bodies, and industry will find that many of their legal arguments have been foreclosed by this judgment. All industrial projects will be slowed down; many, perhaps most, will be either abandoned or not proposed in the first place.

Heathrow itself would struggle to meet the requirements of the UK’s climate legislation even without the lawyers’ mistakes. Its third runway is estimated to likely to bring in 700 more planes a day with a consequent large rise in carbon emissions contrary to the law. But that’s true also of the policy now touted as an alternative to another Heathrow runway—namely the expansion of existing British airports, especially Birmingham, to accommodate the rise in passenger and goods traffic that is the aim of Boris’s policies of overall economic expansion and the economic “leveling up” of regions outside the South-East.

It would also prevent his other great personal infrastructure project: the HS2 super-railway between London and Birmingham in the next decade and to Scotland and the North later. Indeed, objectors would be able to kill almost any industrial project that increased carbon emissions overall from a small power-station to a massive national industrial program like HS2—kill either by direct prohibition or, more likely, from endless legal delays as in Canada over pipeline construction. When other nations from the US to China are building runways and exploring new energy sources, oblivious to the fact that a British court had outlawed such things (pace Professor Wewerinke-Singh), Britain will be suffering from a historically unique plague: a legally-binding rule of national impoverishment. Such a policy might have been devised by the European Union to make Brexit an apparent failure.

Not surprisingly, HMG is coy about the likely costs of this. Ministers have outsourced the estimates of a zero-carbon economy by 2050 to the Climate Change Committee established under the 2008 legislation which estimates a £50 billion cost for 2050. But the Committee is composed mainly of enthusiasts for climate puritanism, and its estimates have been challenged both within and outside government. An overall review of cost estimates has been made by Harry Wilkinson of the Global Policy Warming Institute which includes a warning from the then-Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, to Prime Minister Theresa May that the cost was likely to be 40 per cent higher, at £70 billion per annum—with households paying an average of £2,400 every year between now and 2050. Ministers have since gone quiet on making estimates about the costs of their policies, but Wilkinson quotes an overall estimate by Andrew Mountford that total costs would probably exceed £3 trillion when the investments needed for decarbonising transport and industry are taken into account.

Cut this estimate in half and it is still staggering!

If this policy continues unchanged, it will prove extraordinarily unpopular with the voters who have been given no warning at all that the idyllic Green future they have been promised (and which they have largely embraced) would come with such a massive bill both in money and in job losses. Only climate zealots from the parliamentary climate committee to Extinction Rebellion will be happy with the outcome—and perhaps only Extinction Rebellion, which actually wants the pre-industrial world of equality in misery that a zero-carbon planetimplies in the absence of major scientific advances such as nuclear fission on which it would be reckless to depend.

More than half of the blame for this extraordinary leap into the carbon-free unknown, however, has to be placed on the politicians—all but the gallant five MPs who rejected such dangerous extremism in 2008. Politicians of all parties in recent years have wanted to appease Green hordes—which in practice meant never seriously challenging their wildest forecasts. Their method of doing so has been to pass “aspirational” laws that mandated massive emission cuts, and even to make modest bows to the Green agenda where it was easy -- as Boris Johnson did when he ruled out “fracking” in the last Tory manifesto because a non-existent industry has few supporters, while ignoring such laws when they obstructed existing policies they considered important such as his infrastructure agenda. That way they could claim to be following environmentalist policies while putting off their actual more painful implementation until another party took power.

As Ross Kemp points out in the Spectator, moreover, this habit of exiling serious policy commitment to enforcement by the courts or semi-independent bodies like the Climate Committee has grown without anyone really thinking through the consequences: “Is the government going to be able to freeze fuel duty in the Budget? That too could be said to be inconsistent with working towards zero emissions. Then again, is Rishi Sunak going to be able to announce any spending increase? I am not a lawyer, but there doesn’t seem to me to be any reason why, say, the Taxpayers’ Alliance should not go full Gina Miller and take the Chancellor to court on the basis that he has failed to run a surplus – something which was written into George Osborne’s Charter for Budgetary Responsibility."

Boris escaped one minor trap when the court decided to declare the expansion of Heathrow illegal, but it placed him and Britain in a much more restraining one when it made his entire policy of infrastructure expansion dependent upon the approval of activist judges. To escape from that trap, he will have to repeal or amend laws that passed overwhelmingly. And that’s a bigger battle than Brexit.