As Climate Talks Begin, America is “Not Bringing a Lot to the Table”
Other key stories below: Global Warming 2° C Target “No Longer Attainable”; Can Carbon for the Price of Pizza Save the Planet?
A new round of United Nations climate talks is getting under way in Durban, South Africa, Monday. And domestic struggles here in the United States are hampering the global talks….
That’s putting a crimp on the 20-year-long struggle to develop a meaningful climate treaty.
There was a glimmer of hope at a U.N. meeting two years ago in Copenhagen. Nations weren’t going for a binding treaty, but some pledged to take serious action anyway.
President Obama stood before the tense meeting and promised that the United States would do its part.
“Almost all the major economies have put forward legitimate targets, significant targets, ambitious targets,” he said. “And I’m confident that America will fulfill the commitments that we have made, cutting our emissions in the range of 17 percent by 2020 and in the range of 80 percent by 2050, in line with final legislation.”
Ambitious targets, indeed, but the last phrase, “in line with final legislation” ended up being a killer caveat.
The promise to cut emissions was contingent on Congress passing an aggressive cap-and-trade bill. But that 2,000-page bill went into the trash instead of onto the president’s desk. The Great Recession briefly achieved what Congress didn’t — national emissions fell for a short time. But no longer.
“Starting in 2010 it looks like we’re starting to see an uptick again, and you would expect to see emissions continuing to increase in a business-as-usual case out to 2020,” says Kevin Kennedy at the World Resources Institute….
“Nowhere else in the world do you see a political debate about whether climate science is real, whether or not the climate is actually changing,” Kennedy says. “That political climate makes it very difficult to move forward in a comprehensive way. And that is something we need to address in this country.”
… Alden Meyer at the Union of Concerned Scientists says the weak actions domestically mean the U.S. doesn’t have much leverage in the international talks.
“The U.S. is not able to show its partners how we are going to meet the 17 percent reduction President Obama committed to,” Meyer says. Also we are struggling to come up with our fair share of the financing for developing nation action on technology, on adaptation, on preserving forests. So we’re not bringing a lot to the table.”
Climatologists have recently issued a warning over global weather patterns, stating that the world will experience more severe storms, droughts and flooding and that they attribute this to increased man-made global warming. Durban should be a wake-up call for the world to listen and act.
So far the news ahead of the Durban conference has been depressing. Global recession is taking precedence and many of the industrialised countries are reluctant to commit to the financial programmes necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
We have been told that a positive and substantial outcome is unlikely, but Greens believe it is essential that a package is negotiated that allows a global agreement to be forthcoming for the post-2012, second commitment period.
From 28 November to 9 December this year, the global community will converge in Durban for yet another round of negotiations to work out a deal to stabilise the climate system and assure vulnerable communities of a promising future.
Munich Re reckons hopes of a successful conclusion to the world climate summit, which starts today in Durban, South Africa, are “extremely slim”.
Progress may be achieved in the second negotiating track, i.e. adaptation aid for the countries worst hit by climate change.
However, after the collapse of negotiations in Copenhagen two years’ ago, global warming issues would appear to be doomed to further failure in Durban, meaning the Kyoto Protocol will expire with no follow-up agreement.
Munich Re argues that the 2°C target that scientists consider the maximum for containing global warming within manageable limits is virtually no longer attainable.
The firm has been analysing climate change for nearly forty years and its database of natural catastrophes worldwide shows the number of registered loss occurrences from extreme weather increasing almost threefold since 1980.
The number of flood loss events has gone up by a factor of more than three and the number of windstorm natural catastrophes has more than doubled.
Climate negotiators meeting in South Africa this week face fresh worries over saving the planet from global warming now that a tonne of carbon trades at the price of a pizza.
A European steel plant producing a tonne of steel pays as little as $12 for the resulting carbon emissions, spelling trouble for Europe’s carbon emissions trading scheme, the world’s largest.
At those prices, there is little incentive for industry to lower its carbon output, meaning one of Europe’s major tools in fighting climate change is broken.
Analysts say carbon prices would need to return to 2008 levels in order start making a difference. “Given current commodities prices, we would need 20 euros a tonne to achieve a significant emissions reduction,” said Per Lekander, an analyst at UBS.
“I look at the price in the morning and don’t want to get out of bed,” said a London-based emissions trader.
London is the EU carbon market’s hub, with traders, brokers, power generators and project originators responsible for the bulk of trade.
Diplomats from some developing countries may “occupy” the UN climate negotiations that begin on Monday in Durban by staging sit-ins and boycotts over the lack of urgency in the talks.
The move follows a call by the former president of Costa Rica for vulnerable countries to refuse to leave the talks until “substantial” progress has been made.
“I have called on all vulnerable countries to ‘occupy’ Durban. We need an expression of solidarity by the delegations of those countries that are most affected by climate change, who go from one meeting to the next without getting responses on the issues that need to be dealt with,” said José María Figueres.
“We went to Copenhagen [in 2009] with the illusion we could reach an equitable agreement. We went to Cancún [in 2009] where we saw slight but not sufficient progress. Frustration is now deep and building. Now we hear that we will need more conferences. Sometime we have to get serious. We should be going to Durban with the firm conviction that we do not come back until we have made substantial advances.”
As the full cost of the Fukushima nuclear accident continues to climb—Japanese officials now peg it at $64 billion or more—nuclear power’s future is literally headed south. Developed countries are slowing or shuttering their nuclear-power programs, while states to their south, in the world’s hotspots (think the Middle East and Far East), are pushing to build reactors of their own. Normally, this would lead to even more of a focus on nuclear safety and nonproliferation. Yet, given how nuclear-reactor sales have imploded in the world’s advanced economies, both these points have been trumped by nuclear supplier states’ desires to corner what reactor markets remain.
Certainly, nuclear sales opportunities are far less flush than they once were.
This spring, Germany permanently shut down eight of its reactors and pledged to shutter the rest by 2022. Shortly thereafter, the Italians voted overwhelmingly to keep their country nonnuclear. Switzerland and Spain followed suit, banning the construction of any new reactors. Then Japan’s prime minster killed his country’s plans to expand its reactor fleet, pledging to reduce Japan’s reliance on nuclear power dramatically. Taiwan’s president did the same. Now Mexico is sidelining construction of 10 reactors in favor of developing natural-gas-fired plants, and Belgium is toying with phasing its nuclear plants out, perhaps as early as 2015.