UN climate talks in Germany!

UN climate talks in Germany!

-Dr. Abdul Ruff

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The goal of any climate talk is a deal that will save Earth’s climate from potentially catastrophic damage by heat-trapping fossil-fuel gases. UN climate talks resumed in Bonn, Germany on 01 June, tasked with sculpting a historic deal on greenhouse gases due to be sealed in Paris little more than six months from now. The 10-day conference was opened by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who will steer the Paris talks. Topping the agenda is how to trim a sprawling draft text into something manageable. At present, the document is an 80-page compendium of national viewpoints, some of which overlap while others are in clear conflict.

The aim is to present an agreement which will save the Earth’s climate from damage by heat-trapping fossil fuel gases. The accord would commit the member states to restrict emissions and help poorer countries which are threatened by drought, flood and rising seas.

A report presented to a UN climate conference in Germany warns that global warming limit of 2 degrees Celsius is not safe enough and proposes a new target of 1.5 degrees. Many developing nations favour setting a ceiling of 1.5°C above pre-industrial times, arguing that their economies are vulnerable to impacts such as storms, floods, droughts and sea level rise. Collin Beck, representing the Solomon Islands, said scientists should do more to examine ways to set up a defence line against 1.5°C.

A study presented at United Nations climate talks being held in Germany on June 02 said harmful impacts of global warming such as heat waves and sea level rise are mounting and shows a need for a \”radical transition\” to a greener economy. Damage is growing even though average temperatures have risen only 0.85 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times, less than half the 2°C set as a maximum acceptable rise by almost 200 nations.

The report, based on talks between experts and governments, was presented the sidelines of June 1 to 11 talks on the Paris accord, taking place in Bonn, Germany.

All present at the unveiling of the report said government promises so far for curbs on greenhouse gas emissions were too weak to stay below the 2°C goal. The report also concluded that the 2°C goal was too often wrongly viewed as an acceptable maximum, a ‘guardrail’ up to which climate change would be manageable. Limiting global warming to below 2°C necessitates a radical transition … not merely a fine tuning of current trends,\” according to the report.

The accord sought would be a binding deal for more than 190 countries, to apply from 2020. Such a transition would mean deep cuts in greenhouse gases, shifting from fossil fuels such as coal and oil to renewable energies such as wind, hydro and solar power. But impacts of climate change, such as damage to coral reefs or the melting of Greenland’s ice that is raising sea levels, showed risks were already increasing. Thomas Stocker, a senior Swiss scientist from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the climate science advisory body to the UN, said governments faced tough choices in managing the risks of warming. \”The elephant in the room is what we can do to change the trend in emissions,\” he told delegates.

The draft text focuses on the need to limit global warming to a maximum of two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above temperatures from pre-industrial times. But some countries want to set intermediate goals and only 38 countries – including the United States, the European Union, Russia and Canada – have pledged curbs on emissions. Liz Gallagher of campaign group E3G said: \”It’s not about just one plan, it’s a conversation that’s taking place across governments, across civil society, that says ‘what’s the vision for our country in 2050, what do we want to look like?’ The G7 summit being held in Bavaria on June 7-8 may also have a bearing on the UN talks.

The draft text coalesces around the need to limit warming to a maximum of two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial times. But beyond this, there are many areas of potential discord. They include whether to set intermediate goals in emissions reductions and stage regular meetings to press countries to deep their efforts, thus ensuring the planet is kept on the path towards 2 C. On current emissions trends, say scientists, the planet is on track for possibly 4.8 C of warming this century alone.

Taking effect from 2020, it would commit the world community to roll back the emissions and help poor countries threatened by worsening drought, flood and rising seas. But the process remains scarred by memories of the last time the UN tried to forge an ambitious climate deal. That occasion was in 2009, when a summit in the Danish capital nearly became a fiasco. Leaders jetted in, expecting to bless a new treaty and instead found utter deadlock.

So far only 38 UN parties have made pledges to a roster of emissions curbs designed to be the Paris deal’s big brake on carbon. They include the United States, the European Union, Russia and Canada, but so far not Japan, Australia, Brazil, India or China, the world’s No. 1 emitter. Despite this, many observers say they expect these major players to make their submissions in the coming weeks or months. \”I think we are finding that a lot of the countries are just finding it’s taking a bit more time than they were going to do originally,\” said Liz Gallagher of campaign group E3G. Climate talk is a conversation that’s taking place across governments, across civil society, which says ‘what’s the vision for our country in 2050?

The meeting will continue progress on addressing the most effective ways to raise climate action before 2020, which is when the new agreement would come into effect. Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change said a group of stakeholders committing to long term emission reduction targets or ambitious investments in renewable energies is emerging almost daily—building confidence and a sense of ‘can do’ among nations as we enter the final six months of 2015\”.

The implementation of UN climate talks depends heavily on the support of the world’s 7 largest economies. The G7 summit, taking place in Bavaria on June 7-8, may also have a bearing on the UN climate talks. Rich countries are under pressure to explain how they will implement their promise of mustering $100 billion (92 billion euros) a year in climate finance by 2020. The world’s leading industrialized nations gave their backing to a new global deal on climate change in 2015 after promises from the United States at the start of the week galvanized flagging momentum. It said the G7 nations — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — remained committed to low-carbon economies and limiting temperature rises to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the limit scientists say can prevent the most devastating effects of climate change.

The United States’ plan to cut emissions from power plants by 30 per cent by 2030 prompted the European Union into a defence of its own record. China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, also gave a hint that it would set some kind of cap on its emissions. In a communiqué after summit talks in Brussels, the G7 leaders affirmed their \”strong determination\” to adopt a new global deal in 2015 that is \”ambitious, inclusive and reflects changing global circumstances\”. The communiqué also committed nations to announcing national contributions to reducing emissions by the first quarter of next year, ahead of a Paris conference on deciding a global deal in December 2015.

At the same time, the G7 offered the EU support with its efforts to make its energy supplies more secure, promising to \”complement the efforts of the European Commission to develop emergency energy plans for winter 2014-2015\”. In Europe, the quest for energy security in the face of threats from Russia that it could disrupt supplies of gas pumped through Ukraine, has knocked the climate debate down the agenda. But European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, in an address at the start of the G7 summit, said the issues went \”hand in hand\”.

Many EU nations say domestic, renewable sources, such as solar and wind, can reduce the need for fossil fuel imports from nations such as Russia. Of the G7 nations, Japan and Canada have pulled out of the Kyoto process on tackling climate change. The United States signed but did not ratify the original treaty.

Connie Hedegaard, the EU climate commissioner, said the EU was still in the vanguard and would \”substantially over-achieve\” its targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, delivering more than its promised 20 per cent cut compared with 1990 levels. \”None of them wants to be perceived as the laggard, which is a good thing,\” Alden Meyer, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said on the sidelines of preparatory talks for the 2015 deal in Bonn this week.

In addition to the plan to cut power sector CO2 emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 from 2005 levels, the United States has an existing national goal, set in 2009, to cut overall greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020. This target is equivalent to 3.5 per cent below 1990 levels — the UN benchmark year — after a sharp rise in emissions in the 1990s. Following on from its 2020 goal, the EU is trying to reach agreement on 2030 targets. In January, the EU executive put forward the idea of a 40 per cent emissions cut by 2030 and in March EU leaders gave themselves until October to agree on the target.

The world’s richest countries, deciding on all global issues, announced their strong determination to sign up to a global deal on greenhouse gas emissions at the climate negotiations.

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