Richest Countries Must Cut Emissions Fast and Deep

From Inter Press Service, Nov. 5, 2007

By Imelda Abano

NEW DELHI, Nov 5 (IPS) – The world’s richest countries must drastically reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to mitigate climate change impacts, says the lead author of a United Nations report, due for release later this month, that focuses on impacts of global warming on the developing world.

To have a realistic chance of avoiding dangerous climate change, rich countries need to make cuts of at least 80 percent by 2050, said Kevin Watkins, an author of the UN’s Human Development Report 2007, during a climate change workshop for Asian journalists in the Indian capital, last week.

The report, entitled “Fighting climate change: Human solidarity in a divided world,’’ will be released a week before the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia from Dec. 3 – 14.

Establishing a framework or roadmap for future emission-cutting strategies is a goal of the Bali summit. The report, Watkins said, could become the rallying point for a fairer emission cut regime.

“Rich countries need to demonstrate leadership by making deep, early cuts. They need to put in place a framework for finance and technology transfer, providing developing countries with the resources they need to make a low carbon transition,” Watkins said.

He, however, warned that even the deepest cuts in emissions today will not prevent temperatures rising for at least another three decades. While the rich world has the capabilities to protect citizens from the consequences, vulnerable populations in the developing world have to cope with their own meager resources.

“The window of opportunity for avoiding dangerous climate change is closing fast. It is a serious issue that must be tackled with a sense of urgency. Because it is a global problem with global causes and effects, it demands a global response with countries acting on the basis of their historic responsibility and capabilities,” he said, adding that India and China should also undertake hard targets to take deep cuts.

Developing countries like India and China are emerging as major emitters but the Kyoto Protocol does not extend mandatory reduction targets for GHG emissions to these two countries. The Kyoto Protocol required industrialised countries to cut their output of six GHGs by about five percent from their 1990 levels by 2012.

While the HDR 2007 emphasises that both mitigation and adaptation need to be addressed in order to truly fight climate change and the threat it poses to humanity, Watkins warned that increased exposure to droughts, floods, storms and climatic uncertainties will reinforce the poverty trap affecting 2.6 billion people who are the most vulnerable.

” World leaders need to get real about the consequences of climate change. We urgently need stringent mitigation. If you delay action, the human cost will be enormous,” Watkins said.

Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — which shared the 2007 Nobel peace prize with former United States vice-president Al Gore — supported the UN HRD report saying that the world’s richest countries must do more to help the poorest nations curb GHG emissions. Established by the World Meteorological Organisation and the United Nations Environment Programme, to investigate global warming and its consequences for Earth, the IPCC has become an influential body in climate change negotiations.

Pachauri said climate change has an enormous impact on a range of sectors — health, agriculture, access to water — so clearly the poorest societies will have a difficult time. IPCC scientists predict that severe weather conditions will become more and more common over the next century, posing a particular threat for poor countries without the money and materials to cope with events such as floods, storms and droughts.

Pachauri said the cost to global economy in 2030 will be less than three percent if concentration of GHG is to be stabilised at a level that would limit increase in temperature to 2 – 2.4 degrees centigrade. He said that while sea level rose by 17 cm during the 20th century, predications for the end of this century indicate a further rise of between 18 – 59 cm.

“The wealthiest countries should make the biggest efforts to cut GHGs gases as rapidly as possible,” Pachauri said adding that China and India likewise have to find a new development path for GHG emission limits. ‘’If we emulate the path that has been established by developed countries, it will be at our peril. ‘’We need leaders who can change’ the current development model.’’

Pachauri said India is drafting a climate change strategy ahead of the Bali summit. In the strategy, they will examine other renewable sources and other alternative strategies to increase energy efficiency that will not impede economic growth.

Earlier this year, China released its climate change strategy to mitigate its GHG emissions as well as its plans to support adaptation to the impacts it is likely to face from changing climate.

Pachauri, however, said that mitigation is going to be essential because adaptation alone is not expected to cope with all the projected effects of climate change.

He suggested that a mix of strategies be undertaken by all governments that includes further research on climate science, impacts, adaptation and mitigation; and technological development particularly in the fields of energy supply and infrastructure.

“The stability of human society could be destructed if we allow these impacts of climate change to continue unabated and emissions of GHGs remain unmitigated,” Pachauri said.

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