The Cost of Climate Change: US Position Threatens Disaster
December 10, 2011 Stephen Leahy / Inter Press Service & Al Jazeera & Bill McKibben /CommonDreams
The US is the key stumbling block to progress toward a global climate pact, say many of the 193 nations attending the UN climate conference in Durban. "The US position leads us to three or four degrees Celsius of warming, which will be devastating for the poor of the world," warns a delegate from Oxfam International. Meanwhile, the Global Carbon Project reports the world's carbon emissions have grown dramatically -- up 5.9% between 2009 and 2010.
Kyoto Protocol on Life Support Stephen Leahy / Inter Press Service
DURBAN, South Africa (December 6, 2011) -- The United States has become the major stumbling block to progress at the mid point of negotiations over a new international climate regime say civil society and many of the 193 nations attending the United Nations climate change conference here in Durban.
"The US position leads us to three or four degrees Celsius of warming, which will be devastating for the poor of the world," said Celine Charveriat of Oxfam International.
"They are proposing a 10-year time out with no new targets to lower emissions until after 2020," Charveriat said.
At COP 15 in Copenhagen the US committed to reducing its emissions 17 percent from 2005 by 2020. This is far short of what is widely agreed as necessary: cuts in fossil fuel emissions 25 to 40 percent below those in 1990 by US and all developed nations.
Scientists have repeatedly warned that global emissions must peak by mid-decade and then decline every year thereafter. But US negotiator Jon Pershing said their Copenhagen emission reduction pledge is sufficient until 2020.
"There is a huge failure of ambition. Nothing here will keep us out of catastrophic climate change," said Jim Leape, Director General of the World Wide Fund for Nature International. The US has already suffered record- breaking losses due to severe weather this year with only 0.8 degrees Celsius of warming, Leape said.
"If they (US) won't moderate this stance they should step aside," Leape. That sentiment was echoed by Greenpeace's Kumi Naidoo who also said: "Delegates must listen to the people not to certain corporate interests."
The Obama White House is betraying the American people, as well as the municipalities and companies in the US who are taking serious action to reduce their emissions, Naidoo said.
Pa Ousman Jaru of The Gambia, a delegate representing the Least Developed Countries block, also asked the US to step aside and stop blocking progress for the rest of the final week.
Jaru reiterated the developing world's commitment to a second phase of the Kyoto Protocol after the first one expires in 2012. Under the Kyoto Protocol all industrialised nations, with the exception of the US, are legally bound to reduce emissions five percent from 1990 levels.
Canada's emissions are close to 30 percent higher than in 1990 and said they will not participate in a second phase. Japan and Russia will also not participate leaving the Kyoto Protocol to regulate only about quarter of current global emissions.
There had been expectations that the Kyoto Protocol would die here in Durban but United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change climate chief Christiana Figueres said it would live on.
Nadioo agreed that the Kyoto Protocol would live but it would be on "life support for the next two years" of additional negotiations.
Jaru said that the other "track" of negotiations to regulate and reduce the remaining 75 percent is vitally important and must result in ambitious reductions. That is the track the US is reluctant to participate in beyond its Copenhagen commitments because China, the world's largest carbon emitter, refused to agree to binding reductions for itself.
Now, for the first time China said it will agree, a move that Figueres called "very positive". She said it was part of the progress being made in Durban, which she expected to escalate with the arrival of ministers for the high level negotiations beginning Tuesday.
Another major issue includes the establishment of a Green Climate Fund, which is to scale up to 100 billion dollars a year in funding to help developing countries adapt to climate change. That is bogged down in how to set up and structure the fund. The more difficult issue of where the money is going to come from is on the back burner.
There was progress on talks to reduce deforestation, a major source of emissions. The U.N. programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD+) negotiation focused on thorny details of how to verify reductions with progress expected by end of the week. Decisions on financing for REDD+ have been postponed until COP 18 in Qatar next year.
Counting the Cost: The Real Cost of Climate Change Carbon trading is supposed to cap the
amount of emissions made by companies,
but is it a waste of money? Al Jazeera
DURBAN, South Africa (December 3, 2011) -- As environment experts meet at a UN summit on climate change in Durban to come up with the elusive 'binding agreement' on reducing carbon emissions, Counting the Cost looks at the real costs of climate change:
How much money is being spent, what is not being spent and what is being spent smartly? And do spending habits make a difference while the search for a Kyoto Protocol replacement goes on?
Carbon trading is supposed to cap the amount of emissions made by companies, but could it be a huge waste of money? How can low-lying small islands protect themselves from rising sea levels?
And we look at alternatives -- examples from Pakistan and Japan in how climate change is challenged in small but effective ways.
Counting the Cost can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Friday: 2230; Saturday: 0930; Sunday: 0330; Monday: 1630. The Most Important News Story of the Day/Millennium Bill McKibben /CommonDreams
(December 5, 2011) -- The most important piece of news yesterday, this week, this month, and this year was a new set of statistics released yesterday by the Global Carbon Project. It showed that carbon emissions from our planet had increased 5.9 percent between 2009 and 2010.
In fact, it was arguably among the most important pieces of data in the last, oh, three centuries, since according to the New York Times it represented "almost certainly the largest absolute jump in any year since the Industrial Revolution."
What it means, in climate terms, is that we've all but lost the battle to reduce the damage from global warming. The planet has already warmed about a degree Celsius; it's clearly going to go well past two degrees. It means, in political terms, that the fossil fuel industry has delayed effective action for the 12 years since the Kyoto treaty was signed. It means, in diplomatic terms, that the endless talks underway in Durban should be more important than ever -- they should be the focus of a planetary population desperate to figure out how it's going to survive the century.
But instead, almost no one is paying attention to the proceedings, at least on this continent. One of our political parties has decided that global warming is a hoax -- it's two leading candidates are busily apologizing for anything they said in the past that might possibly have been construed as backing, you know, science. President Obama hasn't yet spoken on the Durban talks, and informed international observers like Joss Garman are beginning to despair that he ever will.
Who are the 99%? In this country, they're those of us who aren't making any of these deadly decisions. In this world, they're the vast majority of people who didn't contribute to those soaring emissions. In this biosphere they're every other species now living on a disorienting earth.
You think OWS is radical? You think 350.org was radical for helping organize mass civil disobedience in DC in August against the Keystone Pipeline? We're not radical. Radicals work for oil companies. The CEO of Exxon gets up every morning and goes to work changing the chemical composition of the atmosphere. No one has ever done anything as radical as that, not in all of human history. And he and his ilk spend heavily on campaigns to make sure no one stops them -- the US Chamber of Commerce gave more money than the DNC and the RNC last cycle, and 94% of it went to climate deniers.
Corporate power has occupied the atmosphere. 2011 showed we could fight back. 2012 would be a good year to step up the pressure. Because this time next year the Global Carbon Project will release another number. And I'm betting it will be grim.
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