Posted under Express 153
Island Nations Adrift & New Climate Deal Unlikely
As the island nations tell the UN
General Assembly of their impending climate disaster, new fears arise that failure
to agree on a new climate deal could lead to nations committing only to
voluntary steps that are unlikely to put the brakes on climate change, risking
more extreme droughts, floods, storms and crop failures.
By David Fogarty for Reuters (2
A new plan to curb global warming risks
becoming a battleground between rich and poor nations and could struggle to get
off the ground as negotiators battle over the fate of the ailing Kyoto climate
The 1997 Kyoto Protocol covers
only emissions from rich nations that produce less than a third of mankind’s
carbon pollution and its first phase is due to expire end-2012. Poorer nations
want it extended, while many rich countries say a broader pact is needed to
include all big polluters.
Australia and Norway have
proposed negotiations on a new agreement, but say it is unrealistic to expect
that to be ready by 2013. They have set a target date two years later, in 2015.
“This is the only way ahead.
There is no other way than failure,” said a senior climate negotiator from
a developed country on the Australia-Norway proposal, who declined to be named
because of the sensitivity of the talks.
Developing nations insist Kyoto
be extended to commit rich countries to tougher carbon cuts and fiercely resist
any attempts to side-line the world’s main climate pact, meaning the
Australia-Norway plan faces a tough time .
Failure to agree on a new climate
deal could lead to nations committing only to voluntary steps that are unlikely
to put the brakes on climate change, risking more extreme droughts, floods,
storms and crop failures. It would also weaken efforts to put in place tough
policies to promote cleaner fuels and green energy.
The proposal calls on major
economies to quickly strengthen steps to curb emissions, agree on a way to
standardise actions and a system to compare and verify what everyone else is
Marathon U.N.-led climate talks
failed to meet a 2009 deadline to agree a new pact to start in 2013 and a major
conference in Durban, South Africa, in two months is under pressure to launch a
process to negotiate a new treaty.
As negotiators haggle, data show
the world is heating up, as emissions, particularly from big developing
nations, keep growing from burning more coal, oil and gas.
Scientists say floods similar to
those that left millions homeless in Pakistan last year and ravaged parts of
Australia, could become more common, along with more intense Atlantic
hurricanes and wildfires.
The United States has already
tied its yearly record for billion-dollar weather disasters and the cumulative
tab from floods, tornadoes and heat waves this year has hit $35 billion, the
National Weather Service said in mid-August.
That doesn’t include billions in
losses and disaster relief from Hurricane Irene , which struck in late August.
All this throws the spotlight on
emissions curbs by the world’s major economies and the fact that these are not
enough. When Kyoto was agreed, emissions from poorer nations were much smaller.
Now they dwarf those of rich countries.
At the least, the talks need to
restore faith that countries can do more to fight global warming.
“We need to push away from
this annual cycle of what are we going to achieve into a more realistic
timeline of when can we achieve a new agreement. My sense is that none of the
negotiators disagree with that. It’s obvious,” said the senior delegate.
The Australia-Norway proposal
will be a focus of U.N.-led climate talks in Panama this week, the last round
before the conference in Durban.
“RECIPE FOR INACTION”
The EU said it broadly supported
“It tries to take forward
the international climate negotiations into the next years, seeing how we can
build a broader climate regime,” Artur Runge-Metzger, the EU’s chief climate
negotiator, told Reuters. “We think that this seems to be a workable
He said it was crucial the Durban
meeting agrees on building a new climate framework for all countries, referring
particularly to the United States and major developing economies.
China produces about a quarter of
mankind’s greenhouse gas pollution and is the top global emitter. While the
government is taking steps such as promoting energy efficiency and vehicle fuel
standards, these are voluntary.
The proposal will prove divisive
for poorer countries.
None more so than nations most
vulnerable to climate change, such as low-lying islands that face ever rising
sea levels, flooding and shrinking fresh water supplies. They want faster
action by big polluters and feel Kyoto is the way to go.
“It basically delays real
action to address climate change and vulnerable countries aren’t going to like
it,” said Ian Fry, lead climate negotiator for the Pacific island nation
of Tuvalu, told Reuters, adding: “It’s a gift to the United States.”
India, the world’s third largest
carbon polluter, has also dug in its heels over the proposal.
“Such a plan takes the focus
away from Kyoto and redraws negotiating paradigms. Why should the developing
countries agree?” said an Indian official with knowledge of the global
negotiations, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The United States, the world’s
second-biggest polluter, never ratified Kyoto, saying the pact is flawed
because it doesn’t commit big developing economies to meet legally binding emissions
The proposal could however
benefit investors in cleaner power generation, carbon-offset projects and
“Anything which moves the
world towards more unified action increases the confidence level of
investors,” said Geoff Rousel, global head of commodities, carbon and
energy for Westpac Institutional Bank in Sydney.
“Therefore, if this plan was
to be accepted, you’d be more likely to see more confidence in capital
expenditure in energy efficiency and emissions abatement,” he said.
The United States remains
“A legal agreement has to
apply with equal legal force to at least the major developing countries so that
means China, India, Brazil and so forth,” said chief U.S. climate envoy
Todd Stern in recent remarks to the media. And that meant no “escape
hatches” or conditions on meeting those commitments, he said.
Reported by Associated Press (24 September
The Palestinians want the United
Nations to recognize a state. And the island nation of Tuvalu wants the United
Nations to act — now — to keep their state above water.
The high drama surrounding the
historic Palestinian bid for statehood has to a degree overshadowed other
issues facing the U.N. General Assembly, which Saturday heard from the leaders
of island nations where the impact of climate change is already having a
They argue that the U.N. is
moving too slowly despite many initiatives designed to reduce carbon emissions
worldwide. U.N. officials have recognized climate change as the greatest
environmental threat to the planet but efforts to slow its inexorable progress
The message Saturday from island
leaders was that there is little time left for concerted action that could
prevent their small, vulnerable countries from facing severe problems, or
worse, as sea levels rise and flooding and storm activity increases.
Tuvalu Prime Minister Willy
Telavi said his country’s very existence is at risk as he urged U.N. members to
move more quickly to limit the damage of climate change, and to come up with
real, practical plans to help the most vulnerable countries.
“For a small island
developing state like Tuvalu, climate change is no doubt a security issue which
threatens our survival,” he said, adding that time was quickly running out
for his tiny island nation, located roughly halfway between Australia and
The low-lying country, built on
nine coral atolls, is one of the most endangered Pacific Islands, but others are
also at risk as sea levels rise. It is not clear if Tuvalu, with its porous
coral base, can be saved without a tremendous financial commitment from the
international community, which may be reluctant to invest heavily in a country
with only about 12,000 residents.
The country’s leaders have faced
this reality — more than a decade ago, they asked Australia and New Zealand to
be willing to take in the Tuvalu’s residents if evacuation ultimately becomes
The problem goes well beyond the
vast Pacific region. Leaders from the Indian Ocean and Carribean also warned
Saturday of severe problems facing their regions.
Navinchandra Ramgoolam, prime
minister of the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius — larger and more
developed than Tuvalu — warned Saturday that the threat has to be addressed
more quickly if horrendous consequences are to be avoided. He said the
existence of some small island nations is at stake.
“Climate change is
real,” he said. “Air temperatures have risen. The sea level is rising
at the rate of 1.2 millimeters per year in the southwest Indian Ocean. Our
annual rainfall has decreased by 8 percent in comparison to the 1960s. Extreme
weather conditions like flooding are becoming more frequent. Without
international cooperation and concerted effort the impact of climate change
will be devastating for all our nations.”
Freundel Stuart, prime minister
of Barbados in the Caribbean, told the General Assembly that small island
nations in the Caribbean and Pacific may be destroyed if current trends are not
“The planet has now begun to
protest,” he said.
The warnings Saturday went beyond
island leaders. Sheikh Hasina, prime minister of Bangladesh, said her country
is making contingency plans because a one meter rise in sea levels because of
global warming would inundate one-fifth of the country and displace more than
30 million people.
“This would be the largest
humanitarian crisis in history,” she said.