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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment 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.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid