UN climate talks complicated by economic downturn

December 1st, 2008 - 3:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Poznan (Poland), Dec 1 (DPA) A UN climate conference opens Monday with the world economic crisis casting a dark shadow over plans for a new
deal to combat global warming within a year.As negotiators from some 190 countries gathered in Poznan, Poland, talks were further complicated by a dispute within the European Union (EU) over how to distribute fresh cuts in emissions that scientists say are warming the Earth.

The two-week conference is meant to put rich and poorer countries on track for an agreement that leaders can approve in December 2009 in Denmark, replacing the Kyoto Protocol, which covered only
developed nations and expires in 2012.

Yvo de Boer, the UN’s top climate official, urged delegates to send a “strong political signal.” He appealed to countries not to use this year’s financial crisis and global economic downturn as excuses to stick with “cheap and dirty” technologies.

How rich nations can provide clean technology and financing to help poor and emerging countries lower their emissions - mainly carbon dioxide created when fossil fuels are burned - will be a
crucial topic at the talks.

China, which by some calculations has overtaken the United States as the biggest greenhouse-gas emitter, says that developed countries must take the lead in cutting emissions.

But the United States is unlikely to join any binding cuts unless fast-growing economies like China and India are included in the deal.
The US never ratified the 1997 treaty signed in Kyoto, Japan, in part because it failed to set limits for big developing nations.

Since the November 4 US elections, president-elect Barack Obama has cheered environmentalists and many governments with his pledges to re-engage Washington in climate negotiations.

In an effort to speed progress, delegates at Poznan will work off a complete draft treaty text for the first time since the latest round of talks began a year ago. Cabinet-level officials are due on Dec 11-12 to add political muscle to the talks.

The EU, seeking to spur action by the rest of the world, has pledged to cut its carbon-dioxide emissions to at least 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, regardless of whether other powers follow
suit.

But the 27-nation bloc is split over its own plans to fight climate, with Italy and ex-communist nations in Eastern Europe balking at details of an EU plan to auction pollution permits, which they say will make energy too expensive.

Many other European leaders as well as Obama point out that promoting environmental technology and measures such as auctioning of emissions rights - something already under way in Europe - can help
pay for the costs of curbing global warming.

The latest UN data show that greenhouse-gas emissions rose between 2000 and 2006, with emerging nations leading the way.

In a landmark series of reports last year, a UN blue-ribbon panel of scientists concluded that the world faces an average temperature rise of about three degrees Celsius this century if emissions continue to rise at the current pace.

If that happens, climate changes will likely be more dramatic than in the 20th century, the panel said.

Global warming is already blamed for shrinking polar icecaps and an increase in tropical storms. Scientists say that other likely effects include increased water shortages in Africa, rising sea
levels that threaten low-lying islands and coastal areas and shrinking crop yields in tropical areas.

In all scenarios, poor people are expected to bear the brunt of climate change.

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