Climate talks begin in Bonn
Bonn, Germany (UPI) Aug 10, 2009
Delegates from nearly 190 countries are meeting in the German city of Bonn for the latest round of talks ahead of a major climate-change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December.
The Bonn meeting, held from Aug. 10-14, is the third in Germany this year, added because time is running out to find an agreement on a negotiation text for the major Copenhagen summit in December.
In Copenhagen, the world's environment ministers are expected to agree to a global climate protection deal to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out in 2012.
Delegates in Bonn are now trying to shorten a 200-page draft text with options to combat climate change into a negotiation format -- which observers say would be 30-50 pages.
The text includes suggestions for industrialized nations on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, schemes to help poorer nations adapt to climate change, incentives to share green technology expertise, strategies to stop deforestation and new climate-protection financing schemes.
The past summits have seen industrialized and developing nations disagree on the levels of carbon dioxide reductions they should commit to.
Observers hope that America's newfound commitment to climate protection will fuel diplomacy ahead of and in Copenhagen; it should be noted, however, that Europe still trumps Washington when it comes to reductions targets.
Leaders of the Group of Eight nations at their summit in Italy last month agreed to curb their emissions by 80 percent by 2050 and limit global warming to no more than a 2 degrees Celsius rise over pre-industrial times.
Developing nations have also made some impressive pledges, but each side is still calling on the other to do more.
And environmental groups say even the 2-degree limit is not ambitious enough.
Martin Kaiser from Greenpeace says an increase of 2 degrees would likely result in the disappearance of the Amazon rain forest.
Two degrees "would mean that sea levels would rise by one meter, and it would also mean that much arable land would become so dry that it would no longer be cultivable," he told Deutsche Welle.
earlier related report
"This target is internationally credible and both environmentally and economically responsible," said Climate Change Minister Nick Smith. "It is an ambitious but achievable goal."
Noting that New Zealand's gross emissions were already 24 percent above 1990 levels, Smith said the target was going to be a "big ask" for his country.
Nearly half of New Zealand's emissions come from agriculture, which Smith said is unique among developed countries.
Emission reductions would be achieved through the storage of carbon in forests and the purchase of carbon credits from other countries that have not overreached their emissions targets.
"This target carefully balances our environmental responsibilities with a realistic assessment of the economic costs. Achieving these emissions reductions will mean higher costs for consumers and businesses for petrol and electricity," Smith said.
Environmental activist group Greenpeace has called for a 40 percent cut in emissions, which is the "absolute minimum required" to avert "runaway catastrophic climate change," said the organization's spokesman, Simon Box.
New Zealand's Labor Party said the government's proposed target was not adequate to deal with the problems of global warming and would not be viewed seriously by trading partners.
"We'll lose a lot of jobs if wealthy middle-class consumers in Europe and North America decide we're not serious about climate change," Labor MP Charles Chauvel said, New Zealand's TV3 News reported. "They'll start boycotting our goods on the supermarket shelves or stop coming here as tourists."
According to a Ministry for Economic Development report last month, New Zealand's total energy emissions in 2008 were almost 4 percent higher than in 2007, mostly because of a large increase in emissions from electricity generation. Coal-based emissions also rose 37 percent in 2008, as coal-burning power stations had to compensate for a drop of hydroelectricity generation due to New Zealand's drought.
New Zealand is scheduled to present the target announced today at the U.N. climate talks, which opened in Bonn today. The Bonn meetings are the third of six negotiation sessions planned in advance of December's U.N.-backed summit in Copenhagen to draw up a new international treaty on fighting climate change. The current Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.
The New Zealand government said that its final decision on the target announced today is to be determined at the Copenhagen meetings, Business Green reported. It will formally adopt the 10 percent target if developed countries agree to a comprehensive treaty; 20 percent if developing nations also support the treaty.
China and other developing countries are opposed to compulsory emissions cuts, contending that the responsibility for solving the problem rests with the developed countries that have been longtime polluters.
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The global climate treaty slated for completion by year's end will be crippled without "strong commitments" from rich nations on slashing CO2 emissions by 2020, the UN's top climate official said Thursday. The absence of such commitments "would defeat the whole purpose of the Copenhagen agreement," Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) tol ... read more
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