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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Srebrenica Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs