AS WORLD leaders launch marathon negotiations on Monday on how to fight global warming, all eyes are on China and India, the biggest contributors to the problem.
Coal burning power plants belch pollutants into the air in China, contributing to global warming that experts said has destroyed bnions of dollars in crops. In India, melting Himalayan glaciers cause floods, while raising a more daunting long-term prospect: the drying up of life-sustaining rivers.
The two economic giants are becoming increasingly aware of the effects of rising temperatures. Both said they will not sign any climate change treaty that would slow the pace of their development. Meanwhile, the US, which has pumped more carbon into the atmosphere over time than any other country, said it wn continue to oppose mandatory reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, especially if China and India refuse to budge.
The positions of those three countries are pivotal as delegates from 190 nations begin gathering this week on Indonesia’s resort island of Bali to discuss a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol, the climate change agreement that expires in 2012. The goal of the December 3-14 meeting is to head off a scientific forecast of catastrophic droughts and floods, collapsing ice sheets and vanishing coastlines.
"We need everyone to play the game," said Fatih Birol, chief economist at the Paris-based International Energy Agency If current trends continue, the US, China and India would account for more than half the world’s carbon emissions by 2015, he added. "Without the big three on board we have no chance whatsoever to fix the climate change problem. Delegates from 190 nations will attend what has been billed as one of the largest environmental conferences ever, bringing more than 10,000 people to the Indonesian resort island of Bali, from Hollywood stars and Nobel laureates to fishermen and drought-stricken farmers.
They wn attempt to agree on a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. Among the most contentious issues will be whether emission cuts should be mandatory or voluntary and how to help the world’s poorest countries adapt to a worsening climate. "There is a very clear signal from the scientific community that we need to act … we have to turn the trend of global emissions in the next 10 to 15 years," Yvo de Boer, general secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said. "The political answer has to come now."
The nearly two-week meeting comes after a Nobel Prize-winning UN network of scientists issued a historic report that concluded that the level of carbon and other heat-trapping "greenhouse gas" emissions must stabilize by 2015 and decline from there. The solutions are within reach, they said, from investing in renewable energy to improving energy efficiency But without action, temperatures wn rise, resulting in droughts, severe weather; dying species and other consequences, they said. "It is already affecting the livelihoods of people we work with," said Dr Charles Ehrhart, Climate Change Coordinator for CARE International, citing con- cerns over food security and access to water It is contributing to tensions within and between communities.
" The Kyoto pact signed one decade ago required 36 industrial nations to reduce carbon dioxide and – other heat-trapping gasses emitted by power plants and other industrial. agricultural and transportation sources. It set relatively small target reduct ions averaging 5 per cent below 1990 levels by 2012.
A new agreement must be concluded within two years to Rive countries time to ratify it anti to ensure a smooth. uninterrupted transition. But rnuch of what will happen behind closed doors in Hali will revolve around nuances, with debates over words like commitment" versus mandatory " Anyone who expects the meeting to result in specifc targets or long-term solutions will leave flisappointed," sairl de Boon It is just not fbasible." Inclustrialized nations, which have pumped the lions share of greenhouses gases into the atmosphere to date, should take the lead in reducing emissions. he said. So far the United States, the No. 1 offender says it will refine any deal that calls for mandatory reductions.
Since developing countries are just beginning to grow their economies, it’s not reasonable at this stage to ask them to reduce their emissions,’ do How said, referring partly to China and India, which ovoose any measures that wiH imoinee on efforts to lift their people from poverty
Risks and solutions Findings of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change about the risks of global Warming
OBSERVED CHANGES "Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level."
CAUSES OF CHANGE "Increase in temperatures is due to the observed increase in groonhouse gas concentrations"from human activities. Annual groonhouse gas emissions from human activities have rison by 70 per cent since 1970.
PROJECTED CHANGES Temperatures likely to rise by between 1.1 and 6.4 Coisius and sea levels by between 18 cm and 59 cm this century. Africa, the Arctic, small islands and Asian megadeltas are likely to be affected by climate change.
FIVE REASONS FOR CONCERN Risks to unique and throatened systems, such as mountain ecosystems, coral reefs and small islands.
Risks of extreme weather events, such as floods, droughts and heatwaves.
The poor and the olderly are likely to be hit hardest. The poor in Africa and Asia, may face greater risks of desertification or floods.
There is evidence since 2001 that any benefits of warming would be at lower tomperatures than previously forecast and that damages from larger temperature rises would be bigger.
Risks, such as rising sea lovels over centuries contributions to sea level rise from Antarctica and Greeniand could be larger than projected by ice shoot models.
SOLUTIONS/COSTS Governments have a wide range of tools – higher taxes on emissions, regulations, tradcable permits and research. An offective carbon price could help cuts.
Emissions of greenhouse gases would have to peak by 2015 to limit global temperature rises to 2.0 to 2.4 CCisius over pre-industrial times, the strictost goal assessed.
KYOTO PROTOCOL It is a pact agreed by governments at a 1997 UN conference in Kyoto, Japan, to reduce groonhouse gases emitted by developed countries to at least 5 per cent below 1990 levels by 2008-12. A total of 174 nations have ratified the pact.
IS IT BINDING Kyoto has legal force from Feb 16, 2005. It represents 61.6 per cent of developed nations’ total emissions. The US, the world’s biggest source of emissions, came out against the pact in 2001, reckoning it would be too expensive and wrongly omits developing nations from a first round of targets to 2012.