Wednesday, 3 March 2010

After Copenhagen

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So after the frustration felt by most observers and many political leaders what happens next after the Copenhagen Accord?

Given the tiny, vocal minority of deniers of climate change seizing on the minor mistakes in publications and the recent decision of the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Yvo de Boer, to resign from 1st July 2010 has heightened the fear that progress will grind to a snail’s pace in the coming months.

It takes some concentration and perseverance to understand the UN jargon of climate change on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change website , with terms such as CDM, AWG-KP, REDD, AWG-LCA, and EGTT bandied around. That’s before I stumbled across another page of terms just for ‘Co-operation and Support.

Perhaps simplifying the jargon and using plain English (or French, or German, or Japanese or Russian) may assist with the wider public engaging with the process? It would help to provide backbone to politicians wavering under the recent onslaught of the deniers. Repeating the clear, scientific evidence for climate change is essential to taking on those who believe in conspiracy theories and endless sniping from the sidelines.

Most people are concerned and most agree that human intervention has impacted upon the changes to our climate. However, unless there is real engagement and better education of the issues with the wider public, we will continue to have scorn poured on global warming when snow storms engulf Washington.

As Yvo de Boer, stated in his speech on 2nd March 2010 at the conference on ‘Further Action against Climate Change’ in Tokyo:-

 “Copenhagen concluded with an outcome that responded only partially to the high expectations for the conference. While disappointing to some, Copenhagen was nonetheless a crucial event in the negotiating process because:
1. It raised climate change policy to where it belongs: the highest political level;
2. It significantly advanced the negotiations on the infrastructure needed for well-functioning, global climate change cooperation, including improvements to the Kyoto Protocol.s CDM;
3. Significant progress was made in narrowing down options and clarifying choices that need to be made on key issues in the negotiations;
4. Lastly, COP15 produced the Copenhagen Accord, which is a clear letter of political intent to constrain carbon and respond to climate change, both in the short and in the long term. “

These claims by de Boer whilst being true are diplomatic speak for masking the failure and now picking up the pieces and trying to move forward. Forty countries have so far submitted plans of how they intend to meet the 2020 targets.

Furthermore, it remains unresolved how $100 billion dollars will be pieced together to fund the structural changes needed to hit carbon targets. Since 85% of that investment must come from the private sector strong leadership is needed to persuade stakeholders such as businesses, to stop paying lip service to climate change and find solutions. There are some excellent champions for eco solutions but the vast majority see carbon emissions as something to give a nod to and then carry on before. There is a crying need for cutting edge, white heat, technological solutions with Governments providing the framework through research and development and financial incentives.

The latest United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change newsletter for March 2010 admits that The need for ambitious global action to reduce emissions and implement immediate action to combat climate change is as pressing as it ever was.” 

A little publicised link on the UNFCCC website sets out what needs to be done to mitigate against climate change:-

Measures -- heavily dependent on teamwork and political will -- can slow the rate of global warming and help the world cope with the climate shifts that occur.
Reducing emissions. Burning oil and coal more efficiently, switching to renewable forms of energy, such as solar and wind power, and developing new technologies for industry and transport can attack the problem at the source.
Expanding forests. Trees remove carbon dioxide, the dominant greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere. The more we have, the better. But deforestation -- the current trend -- liberates additional carbon and makes global warming worse.
Changing lifestyles and rules. The cultures and habits of millions of people -- essentially, whether they waste energy or use it efficiently -- have a major impact on climate change. So do government policies and regulations.
Coping. Steps have to be taken -- and the sooner the better -- to limit damage from consequences of global warming that are now inevitable.
Accomplishments to date. . . and problems. A side effect of the painful economic transition in Eastern Europe was a slight fall in greenhouse-gas emissions among the world's major economies between 1990 and 2000. But making more sustained progress will require overcoming a number of obstacles.

The next round of negotiations (AWG-KP and AWG-LCA) are in Berlin, Germany scheduled for 9th to 11th April. Hence, with less than six weeks to go there is a real need and opportunity for political leaders to set out reforms and changes that will galvanise consensus and most importantly progress.

As things stand we will create a 3oC rise in average temperature this century. There is an increased risk of extinction among 20-30% of plant and animal species, if the global temperature increase exceeds 1.5 – 2.5 °C with 250 million people in Africa facing water shortages. There will be increased flooding for those millions of people living in the Asian megadeltas and crop yields in tropical areas decreasing. In short more human devastation, more hunger and thirst and the demise of millions of species of plants and animals.

I sponsor a small boy in Malawi and I fear for his future on his doorstep in one of the world’s poorest nations being affected by climate change. But I fear for my own children living in a wealthy developed nation and yet facing an uncertain global future. 

The planet’s climate is changing and changing fast. Action needs to replace the dithering and excuses.
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  1. Top post Paul.

    "It is an uncomfortable fact that the ability to sustain life and civilisation as we have collectively enjoyed, or endured, it since the ascent of mankind depends on today’s generation of politicians." - Peter Ainsworth MP.

  2. And the evidence grows!


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