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Climate Change

Bali talks


Bali talks

The UN secretary general and governments yesterday hailed a deal to start negotiations to adopt a new climate pact, but environmental groups said the agreement lacked teeth.

The deal binds the United States and China to greenhouse gas goals for the first time and a two-year agenda aims to lead to the adoption in Copenhagen in 2009 of a tougher, wider pact to succeed the Kyoto Protocol after 2012.

“This is the defining moment for me and my mandate as secretary general,” UN chief Ban Ki-moon said after the meeting in Bali.

“All the 188 countries have recognised that this is the defining agenda for all humanity, for all planet Earth.”

Environmental groups said the agreement lacked substance after the European Union abandoned wording urging rich countries to step up the fight against climate change.

Under US pressure, and to help get horse-trading started, the deal dodged the goal of halving emissions by 2050 or of embracing a commitment by industrialised economies to slash their emissions by 2020.

But delegates gave the US an ovation after the world’s top greenhouse gas emitter abruptly dropped last-minute opposition to Indian demands to soften developing nation commitments to a new pact.

“We now have one of the broadest negotiating agendas ever on climate change,” said James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Developing nations welcomed the deal.

“Here in Bali we reached a consensus, global consensus for all countries,” said Hassan Wirayuda, Indonesia’s foreign minister.

“No single country was excluded, in a very inclusive process … we hope it will provide not only a good basis but also the momentum in the coming years.”

Canada backed the US view that developing countries had not offered enough. “One hundred and ninety countries are represented here; 38 of them agreed to take on national binding targets today, we’ve just got to work on some of the other 150,” John Baird, Canada’s environment minister, said.

The EU said it was satisfied with the deal, seeing as key the inclusion of Kyoto outsider, the United States.

“It was exactly what we wanted, we are indeed very pleased,” said the EU chief negotiator, Humberto Rosa.

The EU climbdown on targets was the chief disappointment of environmentalists, who had wanted goals matching what scientists say is most needed to limit rising temperatures.

“The Bush administration has unscrupulously taken a monkey wrench to the level of action on climate change that the science demands,” said Gerd Leipold, director of Greenpeace International.

David Doniger, climate policy director at the US Natural Resources Defence Council, said he was astounded at how the US behaved.

“They were completely isolated and it just shows how much the world wants a new face from the US on global warming.”

Elliot Diringer, director of international strategies at the US environmental group, the Pew Centre on Global Climate Change, said the Bali deal was “the best possible under the circumstances”.

But, he cautioned: “We shouldn’t fool ourselves about how extraordinarily hard it’s going to be to meet that goal.”

Additional reporting by Bloomberg, Agence France-Presse

Key points

  • Greenhouse gas emissions
    It recognises that “deep cuts” in global emissions will be required. It references scientific reports that suggest a range of cuts between 25 per cent and 40 per cent by 2020, but prescribes no such targets itself.
  • Deadline
    Negotiations for the next climate accord should last for two years and conclude in 2009 in order to allow enough time to implement it at the end of 2012. Four major climate meetings will take place next year.
  • Rich and poor
    Negotiators should consider binding reductions of emissions by industrialised countries. Developing nations should consider controlling the growth of their emissions. Richer countries should work to transfer climate-friendly technology to poorer nations.
  • Adjusting to climate change
    Negotiators should look at supporting urgent steps to help poorer countries adapt to inevitable effects of global warming, such as building sea walls to guard against rising oceans.
  • Deforestation
    Negotiators should consider incentives for reducing deforestation in developing countries, many of which want compensation for preserving their forest “sinks”.

HSBC Climate Partnership Programme Launched in China

December 05, 2007

A climate change programme for China was launched in Beijing today by HSBC, the world’s first carbon neutral bank, together with four global environmental organisations – The °Climate Group, Earthwatch Institute, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) and Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF). The climate change programme in China forms part of the HSBC Climate Partnership – a five year US$100 million programme to respond to the urgent threat of climate change worldwide with the same four partners – launched in May 2007.

Through its partners HSBC will reinforce the Chinese government’s efforts in energy conservation and emission reduction, working together with research institutions, businesses and individuals to combat the impact of climate change on forests, freshwater, cities and people. Based on an investment of US$21.7 million, the HSBC Climate Partnership China programme expects to achieve the following results in China by 2011…

See the full story here: HSBC Climate Partnership Programme Launched in China

World must fix climate within 10 years: UN

Unless the international community agrees to cut carbon emissions by half over the next generation, climate change is likely to cause large-scale human and economic setbacks and irreversible ecological catastrophes, a United Nations report says on Tuesday.

The UN Human Development Report issues one of the strongest warnings yet of the lasting impact of climate change on living standards and a strong call for urgent collective action.

“We could be on the verge of seeing human development reverse for the first time in 30 years,” Kevin Watkins, lead author of the report, told reporters.

The report, to be presented in Brasilia on Tuesday, sets targets and a road map to reduce carbon emissions before a UN climate summit next month in Bali, Indonesia.

Emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere help trap heat and lead to global warming.

“The message for Bali is the world cannot afford to wait, it has less than a decade to change course,” said Mr Watkins, a senior research fellow at Britain’s Oxford University.

Dangerous climate change will be unavoidable if in the next 15 years emissions follow the same trend as the past 15 years, the report says.

To avoid catastrophic impact, the rise in global temperature must be limited to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius). But carbon emissions from cars, power plants and deforestation in Brazil, Indonesia and elsewhere, are twice the level needed to meet that target, the UN authors say.

Climate change threatens to condemn millions of people to poverty, the UNDP says. Climate disasters between 2000 and 2004 affected 262 million people, 98 per cent of them in the developing world. The poor are often forced to sell productive assets or save on food, health, and education, creating “life-long cycles of disadvantage.”

A temperature rise of between 5.4 and 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (3 and 4 degrees Celsius) would displace 340 million people through flooding, droughts would diminish farm output, and retreating glaciers would cut off drinking water from as many as 1.8 billion people, the report says.

In Kenya, children 5 or younger are 50 per cent more likely to be malnourished if they were born during a drought year, affecting their life-long health and productivity.

Countries have the technical ability and financial resources but lack the political will to act, the report says. It singles out the United States and Australia as the only major western economies not to sign the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement signed by 172 countries to reduce emissions. It expires in 2012.

Ethiopia emits 0.1 tonnes of carbon dioxide per capita, compared to 20 tonnes in Canada. US per capita emissions are over 15 times those of India’s.

The world needs to spend 1.6 per cent of global economic output annually through 2030 to stabilise the carbon stock and meet the 3.6-degree Fahrenheit temperature target. Rich countries, the biggest carbon emitters, should lead the way and cut emissions at least 30 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050. Developing nations should cut emissions 20 per cent by 2050, the UNDP says.

“When people in an American city turn on their air-conditioning or people in Europe drive their cars, their actions have consequences … linking them to rural communities in Bangladesh, farmers in Ethiopia and slum dwellers in Haiti,” the report says.

The UNDP recommends a series of measures including improved energy efficiency for appliances and cars, taxes or caps on emissions, and the ability to trade allowances to emit more. It said an experimental technology to store carbon emissions underground was promising for the coal industry, and suggested technology transfer to coal-dependent developing countries like China.

An international fund should invest between US$25 billion and US$50 billion (HK$195-390 billion) annually in low-carbon energy in developing countries.

Asked whether the report was alarmist, Mr Watkins said it was based on science and evidence: “I defy anybody to speak to the victims of droughts and floods, like we did, and challenge our conclusions on the long-term impact of climate disasters.”