x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Climate summit in disarray

On the second day of the Copenhagen climate summit, an agreement between rich nations that would undo an equitable principle enshrined in the Kyoto protocol has provoked an angry reaction from developing countries. Kyoto recognised that those countries which have produced the majority of the greenhouse gases have the greatest responsibility for tackling the resulting climate change.

On the second day of the Copenhagen climate summit, an agreement between rich nations which would undo an equitable principle enshrined in the Kyoto protocol has provoked an angry reaction from developing countries. Kyoto recognised that those countries which have produced the majority of the greenhouse gases have the greatest responsibility for tackling the resulting climate change. The document referred to as the Danish text was leaked to The Guardian, which reported: "The UN Copenhagen climate talks are in disarray today after developing countries reacted furiously to leaked documents that show world leaders will next week be asked to sign an agreement that hands more power to rich countries and sidelines the UN's role in all future climate change negotiations. "The document is also being interpreted by developing countries as setting unequal limits on per capita carbon emissions for developed and developing countries in 2050; meaning that people in rich countries would be permitted to emit nearly twice as much under the proposals. "The so-called Danish text, a secret draft agreement worked on by a group of individuals known as 'the circle of commitment' - but understood to include the UK, US and Denmark - has only been shown to a handful of countries since it was finalised this week." In an indication of how tough the next two week's negotions will be, The Financial Times reported: "The European Union withdrew an offer to increase its greenhouse gas emissions reduction target on Monday because it said similar offers made by many nations in the past month were inadequate to prevent significant climate change... "EU states had agreed to cut their emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, compared with 1990 levels, but had also offered to increase this to a 30 per cent cut if other countries made 'comparable' proposals." Reuters reported: "China, the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter, on Tuesday accused the rich world's largest emitters of setting themselves unambitious and deceptive targets for cuts. "Senior Chinese negotiator Su Wei, after weeks of low-key diplomacy, said that number two emitter the United States had set a goal that was 'not notable', the European Union's target was 'not enough', and Japan had set impossible preconditions. "China has been pushing hard for a strong committment from developed countries at the December 7-18 climate talks in Copenhagen but the broadside was unexpected." Meanwhile, The New York Times reported on the latest findings on global warming. "Despite recent fluctuations in global temperature year to year, which fueled claims of global cooling, a sustained global warming trend shows no signs of ending, according to new analysis by the World Meteorological Organisation made public on Tuesday. "The decade of the 2000s is very likely the warmest decade in the modern record, dating back 150 years, according to a provisional summary of climate conditions near the end of 2009, the organisation said. "The period from 2000 through 2009 has been 'warmer than the 1990s, which were warmer than the 1980s and so on,' said Michel Jarraud, the secretary general of the international weather agency, speaking at a news conference at the climate talks in Copenhagen. "The international assessment largely meshes with an interim analysis by the National Climatic Data Center and Nasa in the United States, both of which independently estimate global and regional temperature and other weather trends." The Environmental News Network reported: "Research conducted by the University of Bristol, and the University of Leeds in the UK have demonstrated that our climate models may be underestimating the effects of CO2 on global temperatures. "In the long term, the Earth's temperature may be 30-50 per cent more sensitive to atmospheric carbon dioxide than has previously been estimated, reports a new study published in Nature Geoscience this week. "The results show that components of the Earth's climate system that vary over long timescales - such as land-ice and vegetation - have an important effect on this temperature sensitivity, but these factors are often neglected in current climate models." An editorial in The Times of India noted: "There are many skirmishes and sides in the [Copenhagen] conference. But the end issue is as follows: The Group-77 [of developing nations] and China want the world to stick to the commitments already made. They want the industrialised countries to cut emissions as agreed under the Kyoto protocol. In the first commitment period of the protocol, these countries identified as those having to take action first because of their historical and current contribution to global emissions had to cut by a mere 5 per cent over 1990 levels. "But instead of reducing, emissions have increased: by 14.6 per cent between 1990-2006. The issue on hand is to get these countries to commit to what science and politics say they must do to keep the world below 2 degrees C. The developing countries have demanded at least 40 per cent reduction below 1990 level from the rich world. "In addition, this group is demanding that the world agree how it will enhance the implementation of the four issues on the table: mitigation, adaptation, technology transfer and finance. They are reminding the world that at Bali, the developing countries had agreed to take on nationally appropriate actions to cut emissions at home but that these needed to be aided by finance and technology. This was the deal. But it is being reneged upon. "The reason is that the Umbrella group - known because it brings together all the rich and renegade polluters - the US, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada and sometimes, Russia, is asking for a completely different deal. They want to undermine the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is based on the distinction between the polluters who created the problem and others who need their right to development. The rich also want to scrap the Kyoto protocol, which gives them legally binding targets and forces compliance." Last week, The Guardian interviewed James Hansen, the world's pre-eminent climate scientist. "Hansen, in repeated appearances before Congress beginning in 1989, has done more than any other scientist to educate politicians about the causes of global warming and to prod them into action to avoid its most catastrophic consequences. But he is vehemently opposed to the carbon market schemes - in which permits to pollute are bought and sold - which are seen by the EU and other governments as the most efficient way to cut emissions and move to a new clean energy economy. "Hansen is also fiercely critical of Barack Obama - and even Al Gore, who won a Nobel peace prize for his efforts to get the world to act on climate change - saying politicians have failed to meet what he regards as the moral challenge of our age. "In Hansen's view, dealing with climate change allows no room for the compromises that rule the world of elected politics. 'This is analagous to the issue of slavery faced by Abraham Lincoln or the issue of Nazism faced by Winston Churchill,' he said. 'On those kind of issues you cannot compromise. You can't say let's reduce slavery, let's find a compromise and reduce it 50 per cent or reduce it 40 per cent.' "He added: 'We don't have a leader who is able to grasp it and say what is really needed. Instead we are trying to continue business as usual.'"

pwoodward@thenational.ae