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CLIMATE SCIENCE
Climate talks resume amid warnings of looming calamity
by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) Nov 24, 2012


Britain delays emissions cut decision to 2016
London (AFP) Nov 23, 2012 - The British government's long-awaited legislation that aims to secure investment in low-carbon energy will not include a target to cut emissions by 2030, according to details released on Friday.

After months of wrangling, the coalition government of Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats reached agreement late on Thursday on an Energy Bill to be published next week.

In a compromise, the coalition partners have agreed to delay until 2016 a decision about cutting emissions from the power sector by 2030, but the decision was heavily criticised by environmental campaigners.

The negotiations have been characterised as a battleground between finance minister George Osborne, who favours energy generated by gas-powered power stations and the Lib Dems, who want clean energy sources such as renewables and nuclear.

Osborne believes the use of gas will keep bills down, while the Lib Dems -- the junior partners in the coalition -- want gas phased out of the energy system.

An estimated 110 billion (136 million euros, $175 million) is needed in the next decade to renew Britain's ageing electricity infrastructure, with much earmarked for low-carbon power sources such as wind farms to cut emissions.

Ministers agreed that 7.6 billion can go towards securing low-carbon electricity in 2020, up from 2.35 billion this year, but consumers were warned they will see their energy bills rise to pay for it.

The main opposition Labour party said the decision to delay the setting of an emissions target was a "humiliating failure" for the government, while green groups said it left Britain over-reliant on gas at a time when prices were rising.

Energy minister Ed Davey, a Lib Dem, insisted it was "a durable agreement across the coalition against which companies can invest and support jobs and our economic recovery".

"The decisions we've reached are true to the coalition agreement. They mean we can introduce the Energy Bill next week and have essential electricity market reforms up and running by 2014 as planned," he said.

However, Friends of the Earth's executive director Andy Atkins said the agreement was "the final nail in the coffin of Cameron's pledge to lead the greenest government ever.

He added: "This decision motivated by outdated ideology will help keep the nation hooked on increasingly expensive gas, drive away green jobs and investment and jeopardise UK climate goals."

Nearly 200 nations gather in Doha from Monday for a new round of climate talks as a rush of reports warn extreme weather events like superstorm Sandy may become commonplace if mitigation efforts fail.

Negotiators will converge in the Qatari capital for two weeks under the UN banner to review commitments to cutting climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions.

Ramping up the pressure, expert reports warned in recent days that existing mitigation pledges are not nearly enough to limit warming to a manageable 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 deg Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial levels.

"A faster response to climate change is necessary and possible," UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said ahead of the talks.

"Doha must make sure the response is accelerated."

The UN Environmental Programme said this week the goal of keeping planet warming in check has moved further out of reach and the world was headed for an average 3-5 deg C temperature rise this century barring urgent action.

And the World Bank said a planet that is four degrees warmer would see coastal areas inundated and small islands washed away, food production slashed, species eradicated, more frequent heat waves and high-intensity cyclones, and diseases spread to new areas.

"Time is clearly not on our side," Marlene Moses, chairwoman of the Alliance of Small Island States told AFP.

Topping the agenda in Doha is the launch of a followup commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, the world's only binding pact for curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

Delegates must also set out a work plan for arriving in the next 36 months at a new, global climate deal that must enter into force by 2020.

Negotiators will be under pressure to raise pre-2020 emission reduction targets, and rich nations to come up with funding for the developing world's mitigation actions.

The planet has witnessed record-breaking temperatures in the past decade and frequent natural disasters that some blame on climate change -- recently superstorm Sandy which ravaged Haiti and the US east coast.

Yet countries disagree on several issues, including the duration of a "second commitment period" for the Kyoto Protocol, which binds about 40 rich nations and the EU to an average five percent greenhouse gas reduction from 1990-levels.

That commitment runs out on December 31.

The EU, Australia and some small Kyoto parties have said they would take on commitments in a followup period, but New Zealand, Canada, Japan and Russia will not.

Small island countries under the most imminent threat of warming-induced sea level rises, demand a five-year followup period, believing this will better reflect the urgency.

The EU and others want an eight-year period flowing over into the 2020 deal.

Poor countries also want rich states to raise their pledges to curb warming gases, including the EU from 20 from 30 percent.

"The biggest historical emitters have a responsibility to do more, much more, than they have to date," said Moses.

The developed world has already agreed to boost funding for the developing world's climate plans to a level of $100 billion a year from 2020 -- up from a total $30 billion over the period 2010-2012.

But no numbers have been decided for the interim, nor is it clear where the new money will come from.

"If no agreement is achieved in Doha, we will enter 2013... with no support to help many developing coutries in reducing their emissions," said Wael Hmaidan, director of the NGO Climate Action Network.f

Delegates will be joined by more than 100 government ministers for the final four days of talks, notorious for dragging out way past their programmed close as negotiators hold out to the last in a poker-like standoff.

"Doha... will send important signals about whether the world can still manage to keep warming within tolerable limits, or if we are headed for severe climate chaos," said Kelly Rigg, executive director of the Global Campaign for Climate Actions.

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