UN climate deal draft could curb US emissions and poor nations’ growth

11.6.2010 (Guardian)

Draft text from UN proposes that rich countries cut emissions up to 40% but requires
poor countries to ‘peak’ emissions by 2020

by John Vidal

A new blueprint for a global climate agreement would force the United States
to massively reduce its greenhouse gas emissions but could also limit developing
countries’ attempts to grow their economies, diplomats at the resumed
global climate change talks said today.


A new draft negotiating text, prepared by the UN secretariat at the close of two weeks of official talks in Bonn, proposes that rich countries
cut their emissions between 25-40% by 2020. The draft follows submissions to the
UN by more than 185 countries.


It also outlines a goal of cutting global emissions by “at least 50-85% from
1990 levels by 2050″. Rich countries specifically would have to cut at least 50-95%
from 1990 levels by 2050”.


The new targets are more ambitious than those proposed at the Copenhagen climate summit last December but have done little to appease developing countries.   Most are still bitter that pledges from rich countries pledges to cut emissions
have been nowhere near enough to avoid catastrophic
climate change.


The new draft text is also guaranteed to infuriate the US, which has so far only pledged to cut its emissions 17% by 2020 on 2005 emission
levels – far less than European Union countries who have committed themselves
to 20% cuts by 2020 and a 30% cut if other countries show similar ambition.   “If
this text were to be adopted, then the US would find it particularly difficult.  
It means they would have to do very much more,” said one European diplomat.


No explicit mention is made in the text’s 22 pages of the controversial Copenhagen
accord, the disputed deal that inflamed many poor countries in December but was
backed strongly by the US and Britain. However, many elements of it are included
in the new text.


Developing countries said today they were dismayed that the proposed text states
that all countries should “peak” their emissions in 2020.   This would force them
to move rapidly away from fossil fuels in just a few years, something which they
say is impossible to do given their limited finances and need to improve the lives
of their people.


“Peak emissions” was one of the most hotly disputed areas in the Copenhagen summit
where China, India and others complained that rich countries were trying to force
them to arrest their economic development, effectively handing economic advantage
to the US and industrialised countries.


European diplomats professed surprise at the inclusion of the peak emissions
reference, even suggesting that a typographical mistake had been made. “This is
extraordinary,” said one diplomat. “It has no chance of being accepted.”


Yvo de Boer, outgoing UN climate chief, admitted the new text had “shortcomings”.
 “It’s not a final document. This is an opportunity for countries to express their
views. Elements of the accord are now fully integrated into the new text. The
language is finding its way into the negotiating process.”


He added: “Action to reduce emissions is essential. Industrialised countries’
pledges fall well short . More stringent action cannot be postponed.”


There was little in the new wording that suggested that rich countries would
try to hold temperature rises to 1.5C, as more than half the world’s countries
are seeking.


As diplomats pored over the 22-page text which must now be formally commented
on by all countries and will then be amended by the UN before becoming a possible
final negotiating text in August
, the consensus among poor countries was that it was deeply biased against them.


“They have watered down key parts of the text. It has glossed over the preferences
of the poorest, least developed countries. It is deeply biased against them”,
said Qumrul Choudhury, lead negotiator for the group of least developed countries.


Martin Khor, director of the Geneva-based South Centre, an international think tank for developing countries, said the text was a step
backwards. He said that the rich countries’ 80-95% proposed cut would lock in
a “grossly unfair” carbon budget, effectively blocking out the carbon space of
developing countries.


In addition, he said that the new text implied “the effective end” of the Kyoto
protocol, the only international treaty which legally commits rich countries to
cut emissions.


“This is an unravelling of the climate regime. It is more imbalanced against
developing countries’ interests than the old text and has many new negative pointsm,”
he said.


“This is a one-sided text. We need something that reflects everybody. It is not
a base of negotiations,” said Pablo Solon, Bolivia’s ambassador to the UN.


“The elements of the Copenhagen accord are all there, but not by name. [The problem
is] that developed countries have so far shown no signs that they will increase
their targets or provide new money,” said Kaisa Kosonen, a Finnish diplomat.


“The US government has stonewalled every attempt to achieve a breakthrough that
would secure measures to prevent climate catastrophe,” said Friends of the Earth
climate campaigner Asad Rehman.


“The American position undermines the whole integrity of the UN framework for
tackling climate change, and risks a weak climate agreement with voluntary pledges
– leaving little or no chance of averting dangerous global warming,” he said.


“Big moves are necessary to get these negotiations back on track. The glaring
lack of political will from the richest countries has become a signature for these
talks,” said Oxfam policy adviser Antonio Hill.


Governments now have just two weeks of full negotiating time left before a final
summit in Cancun, Mexico in November.



see also


Confidence in climate science remains strong, poll shows

Survey shows 71% of Britons are concerned about climate, despite hacked emails,
failure at Copenhagen and cold weather

11.6.2010 (Guardian)

Climate science’s winter of discontent has not made a large impact on the British
public’s attitudes to global warming, according to poll of over 1,800 people.

The poll, by researchers at the University of Cardiff, showed a small drop in
public acceptance of
climate change but not the major falls that some observers had predicted after a series of media controversies over the actions of climate scientists, combined with the failure of the Copenhagen
summit and the record-breaking cold temperatures.

“By no means has there been a collapse in confidence in climate science,” said
Professor Nick Pidgeon, who led the study. “If I was in policy circles I would
not be complacent, but reassured that it has not been as serious as many thought
it would be.”

The survey showed that almost three-quarters (71%) of Britons are concerned about
climate change. Some 78% think the climate is changing, which is down from 91%
who said it was in a similar poll in 2005. Pidgeon said there were a number of
possible explanations for the decline, including the economic crisis. “There is
a theory that there is a finite pool of worry that anyone has.”

The poll, carried out with Ipsos Mori, surveyed 1,822 people across England,
Scotland and Wales. It took place from January to March this year, following the
high-profile release of emails from climate scientists at the University of East Anglia, which critics claimed showed collusion and
conspiracy among researchers, and the
discovery of a mistake in the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Green campaigners
said the controversy of the UEA emails had set back efforts to tackle global warming
by 20 years, while media commentators blamed it as the issue fell down the political
agenda post-Copenhagen.

Pidgeon said it was difficult to examine the reasons for people’s attitudes in
quantitative surveys such as this. But he said unpublished work from a series
of parallel focus groups with people in Bristol showed that many thought the media
had exaggerated the seriousness of the email scandal. The most likely effect of
the release of the emails would have been to reinforce people’s existing attitudes
to the issue, he said.

The poll showed that most people (71%) remain fairly or very concerned about
climate change, compared to 82% in 2005. Some 40% said that the seriousness of
climate change is exaggerated, while 42% disagreed. Just 20% thought there was
serious disagreement among scientists about whether climate change is caused by
humans, despite efforts by climate sceptics to undermine the consensus that greenhouse
gas emissions drive global warming. Some 70% of people said it was their responsibility
to act on climate change, while 63% thought they could change their behaviour
to help. More than two-thirds (68%) said they would vote in favour of spending
taxpayers money on British projects to tackle climate change.

The poll also examined people’s attitudes to nuclear power and found it had become
slightly more acceptable to the public, in particular as part of efforts to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions. But there was still “no ringing endorsement” for expanding
nuclear, Pidgeon said.

The results come as a similar survey in the US shows that public concern about global warming is on the rise. The research,
from experts at Yale and George Mason universities, showed that belief among the
US public that global warming is happening has risen 4% since January, to 61%.
Those who accept it is caused by human activity rose 3% to 50%. And the number
of US citizens who said that the issue is personally important to them rose 5%,
to 63%.

“The stabilisation and slight rebound in public opinion is occurring amid signs
the economy is starting to recover, along with consumer confidence, and as memories
of unusual snowstorms and scientific scandals recede,” said Anthony Leiserowitz,
director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. “The BP oil disaster
is also reminding the public of the dark side of dependence on fossil fuels, which
may be increasing support for clean energy policies.”