Copenhagen Climate Treaty
COPENHAGEN, Denmark—The road to the climate-change summit for the next two weeks has been filled with tension—including the cyberheat generated by hacked e-mail messages that cast scientists as manipulators of data to push the alarm button on global warming, and the fears that the international climate-change negotiations will not yet produce a comprehensive and binding treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol.
Starting December 7, governments from 192 countries, including the Philippines, are attempting to conclude a new global political agreement to prevent the global threat of climate change and to face the challenges of climate disasters together while keeping the issue above politics.
The 15th climate-change conference in the Danish capital had been planned to lead to a new global climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, and for the past year, several run-up meetings have been held across the globe.
Although it was signed in 1997, the protocol has not been quite effective. The United States signed the protocol but refused to honor it. China and India have not promised to cut the emission of CO2, methane or other greenhouse gases.
The Kyoto Protocol cannot be described as an effective global mechanism controlling greenhouse emissions, even though European countries are honoring it. Russia signed the protocol and ratified it in 2005, but has not enforced it.
The agreement to be reached in Copenhagen should determine the ceiling of the global warming and ways to ensure compliance with it. The 124 countries that signed the Kyoto Protocol and adhered to its provisions have agreed that the ceiling should not exceed 2 degrees by 2050.
The United Nation’s climate chief, Yvo de Boer, told the BusinessMirror that concrete results must be achieved at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which he described as a “historic turning point.”
“It is heartening that the world is more united than ever before to combat climate change. But this unity must translate into concrete actions,” de Boer stressed.
An agreement in Copenhagen must comprise three points, he said. First, “it must record, in black and white, individual targets of industrialized countries to reduce emissions,” a list that must include the United States. Second, an agreement must provide clarity on the scope and extent of engagement by developing countries, especially major developing economies. Third, Copenhagen must deliver clarity on short- and long-term financing to support developing countries on mitigation and adaptation.
To De Boer’s mind, rich countries must put at least $10 billion on the table to kick-start immediate action. They must also list what each country would provide and how funds would be raised to deliver very large, stable and predictable financing in the future without having to constantly renegotiate commitments every few years.
“If the lungs of the world collapse, the rest will die,” he warned, pointing to strong support for action on the pressing need for international cooperation to preserve and sustain forests. “Governments must also agree on a tight deadline to finalize all parts of that agreement into a legal treaty. Long-drawn-out processes were no longer acceptable. For all those reasons, Copenhagen would be a turning point where talking about action would stop and action would begin. We need a last push, and this can be done.”
There is no time to lose, and the stakes are too high for political self-interest, De Boer said.
RP steps up climate efforts
The Philippines, like many developing nations, has expressed fresh urgency about the need to address climate change and refashion the country’s energy economy. The climate- change summit here has been considered by the Philippine government as “a very important event for the country’s future.”
President Arroyo has said the country will position itself as “victims, not a culprit of climate change” during the negotiations, pointing out that the country has been frequently visited by devastating typhoons each year.
Agriculture Undersecretary for Planning Segredo Serrano, a member of the Philippine delegation, earlier said the country will push for enhanced action on adaptation, as well as funding mechanisms that will support the necessary adaptation actions in developing countries and institutional arrangements that will coordinate and channel such support together with technology transfer and capacity building.
In October, Mrs. Arroyo signed into law Republic Act 9729, the Philippine Climate Change Act of 2009, which creates a powerful body to formulate and implement plans for the country to better prepare for and respond to natural disasters. The law also aims to attract foreign financing for the energy sector, and adaptation and risk-reduction projects. The new law is another step for the country to prevent climate disaster, besides the establishment of the Climate Change Commission that will set up, monitor and coordinate action plans for climate-change mitigation and adaptation.
Despite deep differences among nations, expectations remain high for a meeting that carries important weight not just for the environment but for a broad range of international issues, including trade, security, economic development, energy production, technology sharing and the survival of some vulnerable island nations, such as the Philippines.
According to a briefing guide to the climate-change summit published last month by the International Institute for Environment and Development, there are a number of key battlegrounds at the meeting.
First is the division between nations and the United States, which wants a quite different international framework. Rich countries like the US have concluded that it is more useful to take incremental but important steps toward a global agreement rather than to try to jam through a treaty that is either too weak to address the problem or too onerous to be ratified and enforced.
Another major battle is between developed and developing nations. The former have the greatest responsibility for causing climate change because of their combined current and historical greenhouse-gas emissions. They also have the highest emissions per person today, and greater financial and technological means to address the problem. But some developing nations like China and India now have very large and growing emissions, and developed nations want them to share the burden of mitigation.
Developing countries insist they must deal with immediate poverty reduction and social issues and should be assisted with mitigation actions, as they did not cause climate change and have fewer resources to deal with it. Many are unilaterally acting to cut emissions in ways that are consistent with development priorities. Increasingly vocal in calling for urgent action from all major emitters are the countries with the lowest emissions and yet are the most vulnerable to impacts—the Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States.
By contrast, oil-producing countries appear to be stalling the negotiations and seeking less ambitious actions.
Among the chief barriers to a comprehensive deal is the US’ inability to enact its climate-change bill that sets binding targets on greenhouse-gas emissions. Without such a commitment, other nations are loath to make their own pledges.
There is a general agreement among international negotiators that parties will agree to continue discussions next year, and perhaps set a deadline for reaching a final agreement by midyear or December 2010 at the latest.
As De Boer has been pointing out, the climate-change summit must answer four key questions. How much will developed countries commit to reducing their emissions? What are major developing countries willing to do to limit theirs? Where will the money and technological support come from to help developing nations reduce emissions and adapt to climate change? And how will that money be managed?
E-mail scandal cast cloud over Copenhagen
A month before the scheduled climate-change summit, news broke about e-mails stolen from the climate unit of the University of East Anglia (UEA) in England, stoking debate over whether some scientists have overstated the case for man-made climate change.
The release of thousands of e-mails and documents threatens to expose some of the biggest scientific names in the global-warming debate to serious charges of fraud, unethical attacks on colleagues, censorship of opposing viewpoints, and possible criminal destruction and withholding of evidence.
In one leaked e-mail, the research center’s director, Phil Jones, writes to colleagues about graphs showing climate statistics over the last millennium. He alludes to a technique used by a fellow scientist to “hide the decline” in recent global temperatures. Some evidence appears to show a halt in a rise of global temperatures from about 1960, but is contradicted by other evidence which appears to show a rise in temperatures is continuing.
The CRU is one of the world’s leading global-warming data hubs, providing much of the number-crunching to global policymakers on climate change.
According to Britain’s Ed Miliband, the climate change secretary, the revelations may have an impact on the Copenhagen talks on a new global- emissions reduction pact, but stressed that the issue should not be allowed to distract people from the key message about climate change.
“We need maximum transparency about all the data but it’s also very, very important to say one chain of emails, potentially misrepresented, does not undo the global science,” said Miliband.
In a statement released by the university, Prof. Edward Acton, vice chancellor, said, “The reputation and integrity of UEA is of the upmost importance to us all. We want these allegations about CRU to be examined fully and independently. “
Jones, one of the central figures in the controversy over hacked e-mails, announced on Tuesday that he is stepping down while the university investigates the incident.
The price tag
Global warming comes with a big price tag for every country in the world. Many economic models have attempted to capture the costs of climate change.
According to the Natural Resource Defense Council, damage in the order of a few percentage points of GDP each year would be a serious impact for any country, even a relatively rich one like the United States.
“The sad irony is that while richer countries like the US are responsible for much greater per person greenhouse-gas emissions, many of the poorest countries around the world will experience damages that are much larger as a percentage of their national output,” the report said. “For countries that have fewer resources with which to fend off the consequences of climate change, the impacts will be devastating.”
Especially in the Philippines and other Asian countries, droughts, floods, wildfires and hurricanes have already caused multibillion-dollar losses. These extreme weather events will likely become more frequent and more devastating as the climate continues to change. Tourism, agriculture, and other weather-dependent industries will be hit especially hard, but no one will be exempt. Household budgets as well as business balance sheets will feel the impact of higher energy and water costs.
The price tag for a new climate-change agreement will be a staggering $100 billion a year by 2020, many economists estimate. That money is needed to assist the poorest countries in coping with the consequences of global warming.
Based on the calculations of the International Energy Agency for 2005 to 2030, 75 percent of the growth in energy demand will come from the developing world. Many developing countries have made it clear that they will not sign a treaty unless they get money to help them adapt to a changing climate. But to date, there is no concrete strategy to raise such huge sums. There is not even agreement about which nations should pay or in what proportion.
At the UN summit meeting in New York on climate change and at the G-20 meetings in Pittsburgh in September, national leaders, including US President Barack Obama and President Hu Jintao of China, stressed the urgency of combating climate change. But they offered no new proposals for financing and put no new cash on the table.
Also in September, the European Union (EU) offered a plan in which industrialized nations and economically more advanced developing countries would provide $33 billion to $74 billion a year to help poor countries adapt, with the EU’s share placed at from $3 billion to $22 billion.
“Curbing global-warming pollution will require a substantial investment, but the cost of doing nothing will be far greater,” said British Economist Lord Nicholas Stern. “Immediate action can save lives, avoid trillions of dollars of economic damage, and put us on a path to solving one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century.”
Stern, however, noted that there is still time to avoid the worst impacts of climate change if all sectors act now and act internationally.
“Governments, businesses and individuals all need to work together to respond to the challenge. Strong, deliberate policy choices by governments are essential to motivate change. But the task is urgent. Delaying action, even by a decade or two, will take us into dangerous territory. We must not let this window of opportunity close,” he said.
A defining moment for world leaders
UN General-Secretary Ban Ki-moon has warned of “catastrophic consequences” unless a new international agreement on greenhouse- gas emissions is reached.
He called on governments to “seal the deal in the name of humankind” through a “renewed multilateralism, a compassionate multilateralism.”
The secretary-general said the threat of climate change was made worse because of other era-defining crises. “We are living through an age of multiple crisis,” he said. “Fuel, flu and food, and most seriously, financial. Each is something not seen for years, even for generations. But now they are hitting us all at once.”
De Boer added that the climate-change summit will be a turning point in the fight to prevent climate disaster.
“Governments must agree on a tight deadline to finalize all parts of that agreement into a legal treaty,” he said. “Long-drawn-out processes were no longer acceptable. For all those reasons, Copenhagen would be a turning point where talking about action would stop and action would begin. We need a last push, and this can be done.”
He said it was important to remember that the Copenhagen process was about “fundamentally changing the direction of world economic growth.”
“World leaders would do that at the speed with which they felt comfortable. Yet, that assessment was based on the political will demonstrated by those leaders, and on their desire to use the current economic crisis as a stimulus to change direction,” De Boer stressed.