Sunday, October 4, 2009

Copenhagen agreement in doubt

By Environment reporter Sarah Clarke for AM
ABC News Online, 5 October 2009
Download the recent UNEP report here -
There are growing fears a new global climate agreement will not be reached in Copenhagen in December.
Two months before world leaders meet in the Danish capital to thrash out a new climate deal, rich and poor nations are already discussing their differences.
Delegations from more than 180 countries are meeting in Bangkok, trying to agree on the wording of a key document that will help reduce the planet's carbon pollution.
But the executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, Achim Steiner, says the document is being watered down.
"Bangkok really is our second last chance to begin to tie down some of the key elements of an agreement that has to come out in Copenhagen," he said.
"There is a negotiating text which at the moment is far too long, has far too many brackets, and really what Bangkok is meant to provide us with is the political impetus for a breakthrough leading up to Copenhagen."
He says there are two main stalling points.
"One is, can the industrialised world make clear commitments in terms of emissions reduction that are sufficient to address the findings of the scientists and the intergovernmental panel on climate change," he said.
"And that means emissions reductions somewhere around 20 to 40 per cent of CO2 emissions today.
"Also, the aim to stabilise the growth of emissions somewhere between the next eight to 10 years which is really where we have to go if we want to stay below the two degrees Centigrade warming scenario.
"The second area is how can developing countries become part of a global partnership, because even if Europe ceases to emit carbon dioxide tomorrow, we would still be moving forward with global warming."
He says industrialised countries are also struggling with their targets, particularly the United States, so the agreement has to involve all countries.
But he says those that have the greatest legacy, in terms of carbon emissions in the air, have to lead.
"That leadership at the moment seems to be not yet forthcoming, which in turn is making developing countries say, 'Well if you are not willing to take these steps, then please do not ask us to make major changes in our economies right now because we have to follow you'," he said.
Mr Steiner says it is interesting that Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and US President Barack Obama, who are committed to addressing climate change, are struggling in terms of their domestic political agenda.
"I think we saw Prime Minister Rudd, we saw President Obama in New York at the climate change summit clearly indicating that this is not a matter of having to be convinced," he said.
"It is rather a matter of the political challenges in their respective countries and I think here it is really the public that now becomes the factor X because if the public is willing to support its government in moving forward, then these targets can absolutely be announced and also negotiated towards in Copenhagen.
"But I think the bottom line is unless we see industrialised countries coming forward with more credible targets, we will probably struggle to have an agreement, with 190 nations, emerge out of Copenhagen in December."

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