Climate Talks Stall on Developed Countries’ Weak Commitments


BANGKOK, Thailand, October 7, 2009 (ENS) – The total of commitments made by developed countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions falls short of stabilizing global temperatures at a level that will avert dangerous climate change, finds a new analysis by the nonprofit World Resources Institute.

The working paper was released Tuesday as United Nations negotiations in Bangkok inch towards a new global climate deal that is supposed to pick up when the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period expires at the end of 2012. In Copenhagen in December, governments are expected to write an effective and ambitious agreement to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions and begin the reduction process.

A 10 to 24 percent reduction of global emissions below 1990 levels by 2020 would be the result if the pledges made by Australia, Belarus, Canada, the European Union, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Russia and Ukraine are totaled, the WRI report shows.

Also included is the United States’s emission reductions based on the American Clean Energy and Security Act passed by the House of Representatives in June.

This is less than the 25 to 40 percent range of emission reductions that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change advises would be necessary for stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide at 450 parts per million.

Even the 450 ppm level of carbon dioxide is associated with a 52 percent risk of overshooting the goal of limiting the average global temperature rise to two degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.

In July, both the G8 and the Major Economies Forum, representing the world’s 17 leading economies, agreed for the first time to the two degrees Celsius goal.

“Our analysis provides a preliminary picture of where the world is headed in the run-up to Copenhagen,” said Jennifer Morgan, director of WRI’s climate and energy program.

“While emission reduction commitments by these countries could have an important and potentially substantial impact, they will not be enough to meet recommendations of IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report,” said Morgan of the 2007 report issued by the Nobel Prize award-winning IPCC.

As a result, the World Resources Institute urges industrialized countries “to bring forward more ambitious pledges to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions,” Morgan said.

A separate climate progress report issued Tuesday in New York finds that if the world relies only on increasing energy efficiency, renewable energy, forest conservation and sustainable land use, 75 percent of global emissions reductions needed in 2020 could be achieved.

This analysis, done for the nonprofit United Nations Foundation by Project Catalyst, shows that increasing the rate of global energy efficiency improvement to 2.0 percent by 2015, from current rate of 1.25 percent, would reduce emissions by 12 percent below business as usual in 2020.

“A new international agreement is urgently needed to address climate change,” said UN Foundation President Timothy Wirth on a teleconference with reporters today.

“It must include emission reduction targets by developed countries, nationally appropriate mitigation actions by developing countries, financial assistance to developing countries, and technology cooperation,” said Wirth, a former U.S. senator from Colorado.

India’s Wanakbori power plant burns bituminous coal. (Photo courtesy Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Ltd)

But Wirth acknowledged that a global cap on carbon emissions is not likely to emerge from the Copenhagen climate conference. “You can’t get countries to take targets before they’re ready,” he said.

“The end product is not to get something to happen in 2012 or in 2020,” said Wirth. “We have a catastrophe coming towards us. We have to act with resolve, starting now.”

“We’ve got a major problem, we need to reduce carbon, right now,” warned Wirth. “With energy efficiency we can do this now, with renewables we can do this now, avoiding deforestation can be done now.”

“Today’s report demonstrates that very substantial progress can be made toward the emissions cuts we need over the next 10 years at very low cost,” he said, “in fact, with a net benefit to the global economy overall.”

“This is the classic ‘no regrets’ policy,” said Wirth. “This is really a package of no regrets measures we think should be part of the foundation in Copenhagen.”

In a separate push to rescue the global climate talks, Mikhail Gorbachev, the former President of the Soviet Union and founding president of Green Cross International, is leading a cross-sectoral panel of international public figures and experts to strengthen the global response to climate change.

The inaugural meeting of the panel was held in Geneva Monday night in the presence of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Task Force members include Ricardo Lagos, president of the Club of Madrid and UN special envoy on climate change; Sir David King, former UK government chief scientific adviser; Professor Mohan Munasinghe, vice chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; and Shyam Saran, special envoy of the Prime Minister of India on climate change issues, among others.

The Task Force has three goals.

  • To urge governments to maximize the opportunities Copenhagen offers for a strong and coherent climate deal
  • To “recalibrate” the international response to climate change in line with the danger posed to human security and development
  • To engage civil society in the search for appropriate and adequate solutions to the challenges of climate change, building the critical mass for a deep-rooted societal change necessary to contain and then to reverse the effects of climate change

Meanwhile, in Bangkok, negotiators are trying to hammer out the language of a draft negotiating text to be used in Copenhagen, but representatives of the developing countries complained Tuesday that developed countries are trying to kill the Kyoto Protocol.

Lumumba Di-Aping of Sudan confers with Bernaditas Muller of the Philippines during a contact group on shared vision. October 5, 2009. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)

Ambassador Lumumba Di-Aping of Sudan, chairman of the G-77 and China Group, said at a press conference, “It has become clear that the intention of developed countries is to kill the Kyoto Protocol.”

He accused the European countries and the United States of isolationist and exclusionary attitudes.

Ambassador Yu Kintai from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the press conference, “The reason why we are not making any progress is the lack of political will on the part of the Annex I countries to make progress.”

Annex I countries are those 35 developed countries that are governed by the Kyoto Protocol, which set a target in the first commitment period of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5.2 percent from 1990 levels by 2012.

“There has been a serious challenge mounted by the Annex I countries against the Kyoto Protocol,” said Yu. “Instead of focusing discussion on the Protocol’s second commitment period, we now hear statements and actions that would lead to a termination of the Kyoto Protocol and everything it represents.

“Five minutes before the end of the game, they are putting forth a new set of rules,” said Yu. “That is not a fair way of conducting negotiations.”

In response, Kim Carstensen of the global conservation group WWF said, “The frustration of developing nations is all too clear. They are tired of all the talk with little concrete actions to back them up. There is an erosion of trust that can only be fixed with strong declarations from the political leadership of the rich countries.”

Carstensen said, “We call on world leaders to gather for another summit before Copenhagen to provide clear guidance that advances the negotiations and breaks down the barriers of mistrust that are blocking progress.”

Monday in Bangkok, the Asian Peoples’ Solidarity for Climate Justice organized a march ending at the UN building that drew some 2,000 people. Police were out in force, but no violence erupted.

Demonstrators carried banners reading “Recognise Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in Climate Change Agreements,” and “No Effective Solutions to Climate Change Without Rights, Livelihood & Food. Security for the People.”

Demonstrators from the Climate Exchange in the Philippines carried a banner reading “Annex I, Pay Your Climate Debt.”

The talks in Bangkok will continue all this week. The last negotiating session before Copenhagen will be held from November 2-6 in Barcelona, Spain.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.

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