Saturday, December 12, 2009

Copenhagen climate summit releases draft final text

By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website, Copenhagen

Climate conference hall, Copenhagen (Image: AP)

Developing nations want rich nations to make deeper emission cuts

Rich countries are being asked to raise their pledges on tackling climate change under a draft text of a possible final deal at the Copenhagen summit.

Documents prepared by the summit's chairmen call on developed nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25-45% from 1990 levels by 2020.

Analyses suggest that current pledges add up to about 18%.

The document leaves open the exact target for limiting temperature rise, amid disputes between various blocs.

Small island states and poorer nations of Africa and Latin America have called for the document to endorse the target of keeping the temperature rise since pre-industrial times below 1.5C (2.7F).

This is below the figure of 2C (3.6F), which was endorsed by the G8 and major developing economies in July, and implies the need for drastic emission cuts.

An analysis by the UK Met Office, released at this meeting, showed that meeting 1.5C would be "almost impossible" to meet without implementing measures to take carbon dioxide out of the air.

The temperature figures are listed as alternatives in the draft documents.

Work in progress

The texts are a long way short of constituting a final outcome document, as they leave open some of the most difficult points of the negotiations so far, including the legal form of any new agreement.

Gordon Brown (left) and Nicolas Sarkozy (Getty Images)

A pledge by EU leaders could boost chances of a deal in Copenhagen

EU makes 7bn euro climate pledge

However, in a major concession to developing countries, it spells out that pledges for further reductions for developed countries inside the Kyoto Protocol - all except the US - will be managed under the protocol.

Developed countries would prefer an entirely new agreement.

The draft also leaves open the scale of financing to assist developing countries to curb emissions growth and to protect themselves against climate impacts.

Developing countries are demanding far more than richer countries currently believe is necessary, and are likely to demand a lot more clarity on the issue.

Small island states are particularly concerned about the need for firm, predictable adaptation funding.

They also want any final agreement to set a target year for when global emissions should peak and begin to fall - a concept that is presently absent from the draft.

At a European Council meeting in Brussels, EU leaders have agreed to pay 7.2bn euros ($10.6bn; £6.5bn) over the next three years to help developing nations adapt to climate change - a figure described by delegates from small island states and the Least Developed Countries bloc (LDCs) as "inadequate".

The temperature target is the biggest unresolved item in the texts.

But controversy is also likely over proposals to allow money from the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) to be used for nuclear power.

CDM funds are raised through levies on carbon trading, and are designed to help lower emissions at the lowest possible cost while assisting economic development in poor countries.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Day 4 at Copenhagen: Small Countries Revolt

Source: Aaron Weiner, UN Dispatch

Date:December 10, 2009

The prospects for a unified front between developed and developing nations in combating climate change further broke down today, as more than half of the world's countries -- mostly smaller nations, including those most threatened by the effects of global warming -- pledged not to sign any accord that allows global temperatures to rise by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. (Abhishek's got more on that)

The target currently espoused by the world's leading economies is 2 degrees. Reducing that figure by half a degree could require an additional investment of $10.5 trillion by 2030 to stabilize carbon in the atmosphere at 350 parts per million, lower than the current level of 387.

The pledge to limit an emissions increase to 1.5 degrees was announced by the 43-member Alliance of Small Island States (Aosis), following a similar move by the tiny island nation of Tuvalu yesterday, and backed by other developing nations. But it's highly unlikely that the world's leading emitters will commit to the kind of reductions that would enable a 1.5-degree target. Even the push to contain temperature increases to 2 degrees faces an uphill battle.

Meanwhile, the European Union, whose emissions targets have come under criticism, scrambled to come up with a game plan for the upcoming days of the conference, when key decisions will be made. The central issues for the EU are how sharply to curb greenhouse gas emissions and how much money to give poorer nations so they can cope with the effects of climate change.

The latter issue received additional attention today when George Soros unveiled a new proposal today that he says would free up $100 billion without adding to the donor countries' deficits. “Developed countries’ governments are laboring under the misapprehension that funding has to come from their national budgets, but that is not the case—they have it already,” Soros said. “It is lying idle in their reserves accounts and in the vaults of the International Monetary Fund.”

The climate conference itself is again facing criticism, this time for its own contribution to carbon emissions. According to The New York Times, the conference will generate 40,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

But some good news for environmentalists came out of the United States today, when a tripartisan group of senators unveiled their framework for a domestic climate bill. Their move could lend more legitimacy to President Obama's pledges, which some fear will be undermined by a recalcitrant Congress. Need a reminder of just how important the United States is to global emissions levels? Look no further than this map.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Copenhagen summit urged to take climate change action

Source:BBC News

7th December, 2009

Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen has described the UN climate summit in Copenhagen as an "opportunity the world cannot afford to miss".

Opening the two-week conference in the Danish capital, he told delegates from 192 countries a "strong and ambitious climate change agreement" was needed.

About 100 leaders are to attend the meeting, which aims to strike a deal on major cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

The UN says an unprecedented number of countries have promised emissions cuts. But on the first day of the summit, divisions were evident between various blocs, with small island states indicating they would not accept anything less than a legally binding deal including deep cuts in emissions.

In July, the G8 bloc of industrialised countries and some major developing countries adopted a target of keeping the global average temperature rise since pre-industrial times to 2C.However, small island states think this would cause serious climate impacts from rising sea levels, and have been arguing for a lower target of 1.5C. A number of African nations also back the lower target.

BBC environment correspondent Richard Black say it is possible that the G77/China bloc will endorse the lower target. He says this would raise a huge obstacle, because none of the industrialised countries have put forward emission cuts in the range that would be required to meet a 1.5C target.

The African Union has threatened to walk out of the talks if industrialised countries do not agree to help poor states pay for the transition to cleaner economies.

The main areas for discussion at Copenhagen include:

  • Targets to curb greenhouse gas emissions, in particular by developed countries
  • Financial support for mitigation of and adaptation to climate change by developing countries
  • A carbon trading scheme aimed at ending the destruction of the world's forests by 2030.

Any agreement made at Copenhagen is intended to supplant the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which expires in 2012. World leaders who have pledged to attend include US President Barack Obama, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

'Immediate action'

In his opening remarks, the Danish prime minister told delegates that the world was looking to the conference to safeguard humanity.

"By the end, we must be able to deliver back to the world what was granted us here today: hope for a better future," Mr Rasmussen said.

UN climate convention head Yvo de Boer said the time had come to deliver cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. "The time for formal statements is over. The time for re-stating well-known positions is past," he told delegates."Copenhagen will only be a success if it delivers significant and immediate action."

Connie Hedegaard, conference president and Denmark's former climate minister, said: "This is our chance. If we miss it, it could take years before we got a new and better one. If we ever do."

On the same day that the Copenhagen summit opened, a US government agency declared that greenhouse gases posed a risk to human health.The ruling by the Environmental Protection Agency on the dangers of greenhouse gases allows it to issue rules to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, even if the US Congress fails to pass suitable legislation.

Climate legislation passed narrowly in the House of Representatives in June, but the bill has been delayed in the Senate. Meanwhile, a new poll commissioned by the BBC suggests that public concern over climate change is growing across the world.

In the survey, by Globescan, 64% of people questioned said that they considered global warming a very serious problem - up 20% from a 1998 poll.

To stress the importance of the summit, 56 newspapers in 45 countries published the same editorial on Monday, warning that climate change will "ravage our planet" unless action is agreed, the London-based Guardian reported.

The editorial - published in 20 languages - was thrashed out by editors ahead of the Copenhagen talks, the newspaper said. "At the deal's heart must be a settlement between the rich world and the developing world," the editorial says.

Environmental activists are planning to hold protests in Copenhagen and around the world on 12 December to encourage delegates to reach the strongest possible deal.