News / Science & Technology

Hopes for Strong 2015 Climate Deal Fade as Risks Grow

Change in average surface temperature
Change in average surface temperature
Reuters
World governments are likely to recoil from plans for an ambitious 2015 climate change deal at talks next week as concerns over economic growth at least partially eclipse scientists' warnings of rising temperatures and water levels.
 
“We are in the eye of a storm,” said Yvo de Boer, the United Nations climate chief in 2009, when a summit in Copenhagen ended without agreement. After Copenhagen, nations targeted a 2015 deal, to enter into force from 2020, with the goal of averting more floods, heat waves, droughts and rising sea levels.
 
The outline of a more modest 2015 deal, to be discussed at annual U.N. climate talks in Warsaw Nov. 11-22, is emerging. This deal will not halt a creeping rise in temperatures but might be a guide for tougher measures in later years.
 
Since 2009, scientists' warnings have become more strident and new factors have emerged, sometimes dampening the impact of their message that human activity is driving warming.
 
The U.S. shale boom helped push U.S. carbon emissions to an 18-year low last year, for instance, but it also shifted cheap coal into Europe, where it has been increasingly used in power generation.
 
Despite repeated promises to tackle the problem, developed nations have been preoccupied with spurring sluggish growth. Meanwhile, recession has itself brought about a drop in emissions from factories, power plants and cars, a phenomenon that may prove short-lived.
 
Emerging economies such as China and India, heavily reliant on cheap, high-polluting coal to end poverty, are reluctant to take the lead despite rising emissions and pollution that are choking cities.
 
“Our concern is urgency” in tackling climate change, said Marlene Moses of Nauru, chair of the Alliance of Small Island States whose members fear they will be swamped by rising sea levels. “Vague promises will no longer suffice.”
 
She wants progress when senior officials and environment ministers from almost 200 nations meet in Warsaw to discuss the 2015 deal, in addition to climate aid to poor nations and ways to compensate them for loss and damage from global warming.
 
Yet many governments, especially in Europe, are concerned that climate policies, such as generous support schemes for solar energy, push up consumer energy bills.
 
Some want to emulate the success of the United States in bringing down energy prices via shale gas - a fossil fuel that can help cut greenhouse emissions if it replaces coal, but at the same time can divert investments from even cleaner forms of energy.
 
Patchwork of pledges
 
Many Warsaw delegates say the 2015 accord looks likely to be a patchwork of national pledges for curbing greenhouse gas emissions, anchored in domestic legislation, after Copenhagen failed to agree a sweeping treaty built on international law.
 
The less ambitious model is a shift from the existing Kyoto Protocol, which was agreed to in 1997. That set a central target for emissions cuts by industrialized countries, and then shared them out among about 40 nations.
 
However, Kyoto has not worked well, partly because the United States did not join. The U.S. objected that the treaty would cost U.S. jobs and set no targets for big emerging nations. Russia, Canada and Japan have since dropped out.
 
Warsaw will be the first meeting since the U.N.'s panel of climate scientists, the main guide for government action, in September raised the probability that climate change is mainly man-made to 95 percent from 90 and said that “substantial and sustained” cuts in emissions were needed.
 
Treaty
 
A leaked draft of a second report by the panel, due in March 2014, suggests climate change will cause heat waves, droughts, disrupt crop growth, aggravate poverty and expose hundreds of millions of people to coastal floods as seas rise.
 
“Evidence is accumulating weekly, monthly as to how dangerous this will be,” said Andrew Steer, head of the World Resources Institute think-tank in Washington. Steer claims every year of delay adds $500 million to the eventual cost of fixing climate change.
 
He said that there were signs of progress, such as a plan in June by U.S. President Barack Obama to achieve a goal for cutting emissions by 2020 and the start of carbon trading in China. However, “they don't add up” to a solution, Steer added.
 
Any deal weaker than a treaty for shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energies is anathema to poor nations.
 
The 2015 deal is unlikely to include deep enough emissions cuts to achieve a U.N. goal set in 2010 of limiting temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit).
 
Temperatures have already risen by 0.8 C (1.4 F) since the Industrial Revolution, causing more heat waves, floods and rising sea levels despite a hiatus in the pace of warming at the Earth's surface so far this century.
 
A more flexible approach for 2015, as championed by the United States, raises risks that many nations will simply set themselves weak goals and hope others take up the slack.
 
However, that route may have a better chance of ratification by national parliaments. The hope is that negotiators will find a way to compare the ambition of promises and develop a mechanism to ratchet the weak ones up in coming years.

You May Like

Video Obama to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President says US will take leadership role for a global response to deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging West Africa More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid