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CLIMATE SCIENCE
Rich nations alone can't halt global warming: report
by Staff Writers
Doha (AFP) Dec 04, 2012


Ministers, heads of state gather for climate grand finale
Doha (AFP) Dec 4, 2012 - About 100 ministers and a handful of heads of state gathered in Doha on Tuesday for the final, high-level stretch of UN climate talks marked by bickering over cash and commitments needed to curb greenhouse gases.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to address the gathering of more than 11,000 participants around 1200 GMT, and is expected to urge countries to put aside differences for the sake of the planet's future.

Even as the alarm was again raised about the dangerous trajectory of Earth-warming gas emissions, observers say the nearly 200 nations at the talks remain far apart on issues vital for unlocking a global deal on climate change.

Poor countries insist that Western nations sign up to deeper, more urgent cuts in carbon emissions and commit to a new funding package from 2013 to help them cope with worsening drought, flood, storms and rising seas.

Resolution of both questions by the meeting's end on Friday should smooth the way to a new, universal treaty that must be signed by 2015 and enter into force in 2020 to roll back global warming.

The UN goal is to limit warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 deg Fahrenheit) at which scientists hope we can escape the worst climate change effects.

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres expressed "frustration" Monday at the pace of progress, as some delegates began to voice fears of deadlock ahead of the ministers' arrival for the final, political push.

Five heads of state and government were scheduled to address Tuesday's plenary meeting -- from Gabon, Mauritania, Samoa, Ethiopia and Swaziland.

The Doha talks are meant to finalise a second period of the Kyoto Protocol, the world's only binding pact on curbing greenhouse gas emissions, but delegates disagree on its timeframe and country targets.

The first leg of the protocol bound about 40 rich nations and the EU to curbing emissions but excludes the two biggest polluters -- the US, which refused to ratify it, and China which was left out because it is a developing country.

Another area of disagreement is money.

Developed nations are being asked to show how they intend to meet a promise to raise funding for poor nations' climate mitigation plans to $100 billion per year by 2020 -- up from a total $30 billion in 2010-2012.

The developing world says it needs a total of $60 billion from now to 2015 -- but so far no commitments have been made.

A study warned Sunday that Earth could be on track for warming above five degrees Celsius (nine degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100 -- at least double the 2C (3.6 F) limit targeted by the UN.

And on Tuesday, an economists' report said even an impossible zero-percent pollution target for the developed world by 2030 won't stop calamitous climate change, and poor nations too must do their part.

Poor nations must make haste to curb greenhouse gas emissions as even an impossible zero-percent pollution target for the developed world by 2030 won't stop calamitous climate change, a report warned Tuesday.

Co-authored by former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern, the document said that while rich countries are responsible for the bulk of Earth-warming gas emissions since the industrial age, the world could not afford to play the blame-game.

All countries, rich and poor, were moving "recklessly slow" on reducing emissions, said the report issued on the sidelines of UN climate talks in Doha, Qatar.

"There is a deep inequity in that rich countries grew wealthy on high-carbon growth, and poor countries will be hit particularly hard by climate change," it said.

"Recognition of that inequity must play a strong part in building international collaboration, but must not be allowed to block progress: that would be the most inequitable of all outcomes".

The latest round of notoriously tough UN climate talks has seen negotiators bickering in Doha over cash and commitments needed to curb greenhouse gas emissions even as the alarm is being raised anew about the perils the planet faces.

Poor countries insist that Western nations sign up to deeper, more urgent cuts and commit to a new funding package from 2013 to help them cope with worsening drought, flood, storms and rising seas.

The UN goal is to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 deg Fahrenheit) -- a level at which scientists believe we may yet avoid the worst effects of climate change.

The paper published by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy is the latest to suggest this target will be hard to reach.

"At best, global emissions will plateau at around 50 billion tonnes of carbon-dioxide-equivalent per year over the coming decades, with a strong possibility they will go much higher.

"The scale of the risks from these levels of emissions is immense, with likely changes in climate way beyond the experience of modern civilisation."

But there is also a ray of hope, the report said -- accelerating the pace of change towards a low-carbon, resource-efficient economy is still feasible.

For a reasonable chance at making the 2C target, greenhouse gas emissions must fall from about 50 billion tonnes per year now to less than 35 billion tonnes in 2030.

Yet on current patterns, developing countries would probably spew out 37-38 billion tonnes in 2030 compared to rich country emissions of about 11-14 billion tonnes -- about two thirds of the total.

In 1990, the baseline from which the UN has set emission cuts for about 40 rich nations and the European Union, developing nations' contribution was only about one third.

China has since 1990 become the world's biggest emitter of CO2, while India moved ahead of Russia in 2011 to become the world's fourth-biggest polluter, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Neither China nor India, due to their developing nation status, has binding emissions curb targets under the Kyoto Protocol -- nor has the world's second biggest carbon spewer, the United States, which refused to ratify it.

"The arithmetic for a 2C emissions path is stark: stronger action will be required from developing countries, even if developed countries reduce their emissions to zero by 2030," said the report.

It urged closer cooperation, with developing nations setting their own sustainable development agendas, supported by rich countries with know-how, technology and finance.

In 2006, economist Stern authored one of the most influential reports in the history of climate change -- warning it could cost the world at least five percent of gross domestic product (GDP) each year.

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