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Τετάρτη, 24 Σεπτεμβρίου 2014

World leaders urged to change course at UN climate summit as CO2 emissions climb

The largest gathering of world leaders on climate change opens at the United Nations on Tuesday amid calls for action to put the planet on course toward reversing global warming.
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Smoke emits from the chimneys of numerous brick kilns on the outskirts of New Delhi, India. Countries around the world have been missing their CO2 emissions targets. Photo: AP
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is hosting the summit of 120 leaders, the first high-level gathering since the Copenhagen conference on climate change ended in disarray in 2009.
Diplomats and climate activists see the event as crucial to building momentum ahead of the Paris conference in late 2015 that is to yield a deal on reducing greenhouse gas emissions after 2020.
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The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opens the UN Climate Summit 2014 at the United Nations in New York. Photo: AFP
But no-shows from the leaders of China, the world’s biggest polluter, and India, the number three carbon emitter, are casting a cloud over the event.
“Climate change is the defining issue of our time. Now is the time for action,” said Ban on the eve of the meeting opening at UN headquarters.
Ban is to kick off the summit alongside former US vice president and climate crusader Al Gore, Hollywood celebrity Leonardo DiCaprio, Chinese actress Li Bingbing and Rajendra Pachauri, head of the UN climate panel, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.
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A woman takes part in a march against climate change in New York on Sunday. Photo: Reuters
Leaders then take turns at the podium, from President Barack Obama representing the world’s second biggest polluter to Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga of the Pacific island-nation of Tuvalu, which faces the prospect of being wiped out by rising sea waters.
China is sending Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli while India will be represented by Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar.
Real commitments?
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Organisers estimated that some 310,000 people, including United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and former US Vice President Al Gore joined the People’s Climate March, ahead of Tuesday’s United Nations hosted summit in the city. Photo: Reuters
Despite much enthusiasm from climate activists for the summit’s potential to create impetus, some see the event as falling short of what is needed to get serious about the environment.
“Few governments will be in a position to make any real commitments,” wrote the aid agency Oxfam in an assessment of the summit’s likely outcome.
The initiatives to be unveiled by the private sector, foundations, and green groups at the summit “are helpful but few, if any, are really ground-breaking,” it added.
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Traffic moves at dusk in New Delhi, India. CO2 emissions continue to rise across the world, making it harder to halt climate change. Photo: AP
The summit is being held after marches drew hundreds of thousands of demonstrators on the streets in cities worldwide on Sunday in a show of “people power” directed at leaders reluctant to tackle global warming.
Key players from the private sector are also stepping into the fray to trumpet their commitment to greening, with Apple CEO Tim Cook announcing on Monday that the tech giant would prioritise low-carbon growth.
“Excuses for inaction have run out. The summit can be a major milestone, but only if it delivers the real world changes that we need,” said Andrew Steer, of the World Resources Institute.
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Police block environmental activists from getting closer to the US Embassy for a rally in Manila, Philippines to coincide with the UN Climate Summit in New York. Photo: AP
The summit talks are separate from the negotiations held under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which will culminate with the Paris conference in December 2015.
The United Nations is seeking to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels, but scientists say current emission trends could hike temperatures to more than twice that level by century’s end.
One recent report warned that a surge in carbon dioxide levels had pushed greenhouse gases to record highs in the atmosphere, increasing at their fastest rate in 30 years in 2013.
The 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the first international agreement to reduce emissions, has commitment periods, the last of which expired in 2012. But it has since been renewed. However, the protocol was never ratified by the United States.
Attempts to negotiate a new treaty ended in fiasco at the Copenhagen conference in 2009 and the pressure is on to avoid a repeat of that failure at the UN talks in Paris next year.
“The message from the climate summit and the message going forward to Paris is that it’s not business as usual with a little bit of green attached,” UN climate envoy Mary Robinson said in an interview.
“It’s changing course.”
Countries missing emissions targets
The International Energy Agency says on its website that “the implications” of energy consumption “are daunting. Meeting the emission goals pledged by countries under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) would still leave the world 13.7 billion tonnes of CO2 – or 60 per cent – above the level needed to remain on track for just 2ºC warming by 2035.”
Moreover, all over the planet countries are missing targets entirely.
Germany, despite a huge wind and solar initiative, has increased the use of coal, which accounted for 45 per cent of its electric power last year, according to Bloomberg News. Though it cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent from 1990 through 2012, Germany is still committed to closing down its remaining nuclear power plants and power plant emissions have started to rise.
Japan, where a tsunami led to the closure of all the country’s nuclear plants, is running far ahead of its emissions targets. The country is importing large amounts of coal, oil and liquefied natural gas. Last November, Japan acknowledged the inevitable. It set new less ambitious targets, saying that it would release 3.1 per cent more greenhouse gases in 2020 than it did in 1990, rather than the 6 per cent reduction it originally promised or the 25 per cent cut it promised in 2009, just two years before the 2011 nuclear disaster.
Canada, busy burning up fuel to mine the oil sands in Alberta, will also miss its targets. Oil sands operations accounted for 7 per cent of Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2010 – and they’re the fastest growing segment. The Canadian environment ministry, called Environment Canada, estimates that instead of hitting the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent by 2020, Canada will eek out a 3 per cent reduction. That’s impressive given the country’s rapid economic growth, but nowhere near what’s needed.
Global warming 1a LLLLEven in the United States, despite all the switching of gas for coal and fuel efficiency measures, greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly from 2012 to 2013.
And those are the advanced nations. Developing countries such as China and India and Brazil are growing quickly and pose bigger threats to the climate. China is talking about establishing a cap on carbon emissions, but meanwhile it has surpassed the United States in emissions and its CO2 emissions climbed 4.2 per cent last year. This week new research estimates that China has surpassed the European Union in per capita emissions, too.
If the widespread consensus of climate experts is anywhere near accurate, the world will need to slash carbon emissions. Instead, CO2 emissions rose 2.5 per cent and hit a record in 2013.
“We are nowhere near the commitments necessary to stay below 2°C of climate change, a level that will be already challenging to manage for most countries around the world, even for rich nations,” said Corinne Le Quéré, Director of the Tyndall Centre at University of East Anglia on the centre’s website. “Politicians meeting in New York need to think very carefully about their diminishing choices exposed by climate science.”

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