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Climate summit yields no progress on CO2 targets

power-stationWorld News, source:

Despite hopes that China would unveil targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions and break the deadlock in global climate talks, President Hu Jintao told a United Nations summit that Beijing will put a “notable” brake on the country’s soaring carbon emissions.

A follow-up treaty to the Kyoto Protocol is supposed to be finalised at talks starting on 7 December in Copenhagen, but diplomats have made almost no progress towards an agreement – a point stressed repeatedly by world leaders gathering in New York yesterday (22 September).

China edges closer to a firm commitment?

His pledge was perceived as going in the right direction as China had previously rejected rich nations’ demands for measurable curbs on its emissions, arguing that economic development must come first while millions of its citizens still live in abject poverty. However, the promise disappointed those who had expected China to unveil sound targets.

“I didn’t hear new initiatives so much,” said Todd Stern, US special envoy on climate change and one of the most vocal critics of China’s emissions policy. “It depends on what the number is and he didn’t indicate the extent to which those reductions would be made.”

Nobel laureate and former US Vice-President Al Gore praised China for “impressive leadership” and said Hu’s goals pointed to more action. “They are very important and we’ve had […] indications that in the event there is dramatic progress in these negotiations, then China will be prepared to do even more,” he said.

China expects to soon be able to announce targets for planned cuts in “carbon intensity,” the amount of carbon dioxide produced for each dollar of economic output, over the decade to 2020, a senior Chinese official said on Tuesday.

“We are studying this issue and we should be able to announce a target soon,” Xie Zhenhua, China’s top environment official, told reporters.

President Hu also made clear, however, that China had high expectations of the rest of the world, repeating a long-standing request for more support in moving away from dirty growth.

Backed by India and other developing nations, China argues that rich nations emit more per person and enjoyed emissions-intensive industrialisation themselves, so they have no right to demand that others behave differently: unless they are willing to pay for it.

“Developed countries should take up their responsibility and provide new, additional, adequate and predictable financial support to developing countries,” Hu said.

US president entangled by domestic battles

US President Barack Obama, who in his speech at the UN challenged world leaders to overcome “doubts and difficulties” and reach a global accord on climate change, faces scepticism over whether he can deliver legislation in his own country. Obama said yesterday that “we cannot meet this challenge unless all the largest emitters of greenhouse gas pollution act together”.

Despite reaffirming his commitment to push his country towards low-carbon growth, he admitted progress is marred by domestic battles. Environmental groups and government officials are questioning whether Obama can win the Senate’s approval for climate-change legislation passed by the House in June.

US president and lawmakers remain entangled in a debate about overhauling the US healthcare system.

In a summary of Tuesday’s talks among world leaders, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that there was convergence on five key issues, including enhanced measures to help the most vulnerable and poorest adapt to the impact of climate change as well as setting emission reduction targets for industrialised countries.

Developing countries asked to stop bickering and act responsibly

Addressing the summit, UN General Assembly President Ali Treki, a veteran Libyan diplomat, said poor countries, which are least responsible for the problem of climate change, often suffered first and foremost from its impact.

“In sub-Saharan Africa, in the deltas of Asia or among the Pacific Islands and elsewhere, climate changes such as rising sea levels, floods, droughts, hurricanes and other changed weather patterns are threatening not only hard-won progress in the battle against poverty, but the existence of entire nations,” Treki warned.

In his speech to world leaders, President of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed struck a plaintive note by saying that his country’s fate depended on the ability of the developed nations to stop the political bickering and come to an agreement on global warming. “If things go business-as-usual, we will not live,” he said at the UN climate summit. “We will die. Our country will not exist.”

Nasheed, who is chairman of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), said the developed nations had to acknowledge their historic responsibility for global warming and accept binding emission reduction targets.

Meanwhile, the developing world had to be ready to accept binding emission reduction targets under the principle of common but differentiated responsibility, as long as rich nations provided the tools, technology and finance to reform the developing world’s economic base and pursue carbon-neutral development, he said.

Sudan’s Environment Minister Ahmad Babiker Nahar, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 (G77), said that to ensure success in Copenhagen, all parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) must be willing to set ambitious targets.


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