Paris (AFP) Nov 17, 2009
With less than three weeks left before the UN climate showdown in Copenhagen, hopes are pinned on the United States, which is keeping everyone guessing on when -- or if -- it will declare its hand.
A US-China summit and ministerial-level talks among 44 countries placed the spotlight Tuesday on prospects for a US offer able to end the deadlock threatening the December 7-18 talks.
For the past two years, the road towards a post-2012 climate pact has been stymied to a large degree by the US position -- firstly under George W. Bush, an unenthusiastic participant in the process, and secondly under Barack Obama, cautiously steering a climate bill through Congress.
The big question is whether the United States can put forward detailed proposals, with percentages, for curbing its massive carbon output, the second highest in the world.
In Beijing, President Obama and Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao, whose country is the planet's biggest carbon emitter, jointly declared any Copenhagen accord should "include emission reduction targets of developed countries."
Emmanuel Guerin, a climate analyst at France's Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), said the message, while vague, carried a positive tone.
Through it, Obama implicitly acknowledged "Copenhagen is not just about building a framework of rules, it's the place for announcing hard numbers," he said.
In a separate statement, Obama said the common Sino-US aim "is not a... political declaration, but rather an accord that covers all of the issues in the negotiations, and one that has immediate operational effect."
Obama's statements suggest a refreshed, if still verbal, ambition, said Alden Myer of the Washington-based Union of Concerned Scientists, attending the ministerial-level talks in Copenhagen among 44 countries.
"The president acknowledged the need to bring some kind of concrete proposals to Copenhagen both on emissions reduction and finance," he told AFP by phone.
Even so, any numbers the US brings to Copenhagen are likely to be tied to climate legislation wending its way through Congress, he stressed.
In the runup to Copenhagen, developing countries demanded that rich nations as a bloc commit to a 40-percent cut in carbon pollution by 2020 compared to a 1990 benchmark, and an 80-percent cut by 2050.
Europe has promised to unilaterally slash its CO2 output by 20 percent by 2020, and go to 30 percent if other industrialised nations follow suit. Japan has made a conditional offer of a 25-percent cut.
UN scientists say rich nations must cut emissions by 25-40 percent over the next decade to keep global average temperatures from surpassing pre-industrial levels by more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), a widely-held threshold for dangerous warming.
By comparison, the most ambitious bill, in the Senate, would commit the US to about a 20-percent drop in CO2 pollution by 2020 compared to 2005 levels, equivalent to a fall of roughly four percent over 1990.
The latest US declarations are "reassuring" and a "positive sign," said Paul Watkinson, France's top climate negotiator.
"But they are not enough. The pressure has to be kept up because what is on the table [from the US] is too weak compared to what is needed," he said.
Postponing the task of nailing down numbers until 2010, when a deal in Copenhagen would be fleshed out, would not do, said Watkinson.
earlier related report
The cabinet vowed by 2020 to cut emissions by four percent from the 2005 level, which it said was equivalent to a 30 percent reduction on the basis of a "business-as-usual" development pattern.
A government statement said the targeted cut was the biggest recommended for developing countries by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which called for reductions of between 15 and 30 percent.
"Today marks a historic meeting... we must think hard about ways to add to our national interests by reducing greenhouse gas emissions," President Lee Myung-Bak was quoted as telling the cabinet meeting.
A UN climate change summit opens in December in Copenhagen in a bid to strike a new deal to combat global warming to replace the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012.
Although a breakthrough in Copenhagen is unlikely, South Korea's move will set an example for other developing countries, Lee said.
"Our ambitious target will help enhance the country's international status and national pride," he said.
The government last week said it would focus on non-manufacturing sectors such as transport and eco-friendly buildings to meet its target.
But Knowledge Economy Minister Choi Kyung-Hwan expressed concerns over strains on businesses, according to the statement.
"The target we set today is one of the highest for all developing countries," the minister told the cabinet, noting that South Korea faces mounting competition from China and other developing countries in overseas markets.
Choi said he had been agonising between the government's policy of pursuing "low-carbon green growth" and concerns among businesses.
The burden of the cut should be distributed among business sectors to minimise impact on industrial competitiveness, he said.
The Korean Federation for Environmental Movement, however, said the target was less ambitious than expected.
"A four percent cut is too mild. We've been asking for a 25 percent cut by 2020 from the 2005 level of 598 million tons of emissions," its energy and climate director Choi Sung-Heum told AFP.
South Korea's green investment ranks as one of the highest in Asia. Earlier this year, it said it would plough 107 trillion won (93 billion dollars) into "green projects" over the next five years.
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China to become global leader in green tech: campaigners
Singapore (AFP) Nov 14, 2009
China can become the world's top exporter of "green technology" if it carries out crucial energy and ecological reforms, leading environmental campaigners said here Saturday. "For China, I am absolutely convinced that it will become the world leader in green tech," Tim Flannery, chairman of the Copenhagen Climate Council, told a business forum on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific summit. ... read more
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