Copenhagen Roundup: Day 4

by | Dec 10, 2009

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Heated discussions started Dec. 9 over a legally binding treaty and deeper emissions cuts that have spilled over into day four of the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) in Copenhagen. Rifts between developing countries are also being voiced as the U.S. delivers tough talk to developing nations particularly China on emissions cuts, as the divide between rich and poor nations grow wider. The debate between rich and developing economies shows the reality of how difficult negotiations are among these more than 190 nations at the conference.

As the U.S. asks developing countries to “wrap up” their national emission reduction commitments into a global pact, India said it would not accept any internationally binding agreement and its emissions reductions were not up for “review, verification, re-negotiation or dialogue,” reports the Business Standard.

Todd Stern, U.S. special envoy on climate change, said solving future emissions growth will not be solved by giving major developing countries a pass, reports the Washington Post.

In response, China’s climate change ambassador, Yu Qingtai, said the U.S. needed to reexamine its negotiating stance, reports the Washington Post.

However, Stern has made it clear that the U.S. will join other industrialized countries in cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and giving aid to the poorest countries to help them deal with rising seas, drought and other issues as a result of global warming, reports the New York Times.

But the conflict extends well beyond just the U.S. and China. The European Union is putting the blame on developing countries for preventing a full discussion on CO2 reduction targets with all countries, reports the Wall Street Journal.

In response, China and the G77 say that developed countries are planning to break their promises of cutting emissions by 25 to 40 percent by 2020, reports The Age.

Chinese officials said Dec. 9 that industrialized countries should provide money and technology because of their responsibility for having emitted greenhouse gases in the past, reports the Wall Street Journal.

In addition to the rift between wealthy and developing nations, conflict among developing countries is being led by the Pacific Island of Tuvalu, which is proposing a new treaty that would keep the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees C, reports The Age. This is instead of 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels accepted by most nations to curb global warming.

Despite getting a groundswell of support from activists, some of the larger developing nations such as China and India as well as the Arab oil states are blocking the Tuvalu measure, causing a serious division among developing nations, reports The Age.

The debate had centered on a legal form of a new treaty which China and India believes will kill off the Kyoto Protocol that imposes legally binding cuts on rich countries and replace it with a treaty that imposes emissions cuts for all countries, according to The Age.

Yvo de Boer, the United Nations’ top climate official is supporting the view of developing countries and said Dec. 10 that negotiators should extend the 1997 Kyoto Protocol as they draft a second agreement that will include the U.S., reports Bloomberg News.

Australia, Japan and the U.S. are backing a new legally binding treaty, but not one with the cuts proposed by Tuvalu, reports The Age.

Voicing the concern of many developing countries, Luiz Alberto Figueiredo Machado, Brazil’s chief climate negotiator, said industrialized countries must commit to significant emission cuts, provide aid to developing nations to help them adapt and curb climate change, and transfer clean technology if they expect developing countries to meet climate targets as part of an international treaty, reports the Washington Post.

Australia, along with Britain , Norway and Mexico have proposed a long-term climate fund for developing countries that would raise money from carbon fees on international aviation and shipping and the auction of permits under global emissions trading schemes, which has won the approval of many aids groups, reports The Age.

A new report shows how important it is that all nations agree to emissions reductions. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, presented a special report, “The Copenhagen Diagnosis,” that concludes that climate change is occurring at a faster pace than initial projections.

The report reveals that global ice-sheets are melting at an increased rate; Arctic sea-ice is disappearing much faster, and future sea-level rise is now expected to be much higher than previously forecast. Another key finding shows that global warming continues to track early IPCC projections based on greenhouse gas increases, and without significant mitigation, global mean warming could reach as high as seven degrees C (12.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100.

Professor Ray Weiss from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography told BBC News that the data suggested not all companies were doing what they claimed in terms of reducing emissions.

The study also finds that industrial gases such as sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and carbon tetrafluoride (CF4) are the most potent greenhouse gases in the air, even greater than CO2, reports the BBC News.

As an example, cited in the article, SF6 is 23,000 times more potent, weight for weight, than CO2, and CF4 stays in the atmosphere for about 50,000 years.

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