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CLIMATE SCIENCE
Clock is ticking fast, UN climate talks told
by Staff Writers
Doha (AFP) Nov 26, 2012


Turn to gas to fight climate change, Qatar says at UN talks
Doha (AFP) Nov 26, 2012 - Qatar on Monday shrugged off criticism of its record-busting carbon emissions and instead extolled the virtues of its key export, natural gas, as it opened a major UN conference on climate change.

At the start of the annual UN talks, Qatar's deputy prime minister Abdullah Bin Hamad al-Attiyah sought to deflect attention from his country's reputation as the world's biggest per-capita emitter of greenhouse gases.

A key issue at the 12-day meeting in Doha will be to review countries' emissions targets to see if they align with the campaign to combat climate change.

As a result, some observers say the Gulf state of Qatar, as one of the planet's biggest producers of fossil fuels, is unsuitable to chair the conference.

"We should not concentrate on the 'per capita', we should concentrate on the amount... from each country, individually what they produce, because it goes to the air, open space," Attiya told journalists.

He said that "even countries that produce coal" had in the past hosted the UN talks, and sought to portray gas as a safer, more energy-efficient alternative.

"Gas is the right choice to reduce emissions," said Attiyah, a former energy minister who is also president of the talks under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Qatar is the world's fourth biggest natural gas exporter, according to the CIA world factbook.

The International Energy Agency says that in 2009, 20 percent of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fuel combustion came from natural gas, after 43 percent from coal and 37 percent from oil.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, due to be extended in Doha, about 40 rich nations and the EU agreed to binding targets for reducing Earth-warming emissions by five percent on average from 2008-2012.

Developing countries were not given targets under that deal, but several have pledged voluntary caps.

Qatar is not among them and Attiyah doused expectations that it may do so as a symbolic gesture. One hundred percent of Qatar's electricity is derived from fossil fuels.

"We have a target in how to reduce our emissions very dramatically," he said, without giving any numbers.

"We have a lot of projects, we invest a lot of money (in technological research and development)... We are the country to do all the efforts. We don't do it only to show we are good boys, we do it for our nation, our country."

Nearly 200 nations launched a fresh round of United Nations climate talks in Doha on Monday amid urgent appeals to scale up the fight against Earth-warming greenhouse-gas emissions.

"Time is running out," UN climate chief Christiana Figueres told a press conference.

"The door is closing fast on us because the pace and the scale of action is simply not yet where it must be."

The runup to the 12-day conference -- the annual climax to negotiations on climate change -- coincided with a welter of warnings that violent events like superstorm Sandy will become commonplace if mitigation efforts fail.

Experts said pledges to mitigate greenhouse gas pledges are not enough to limit warming to the UN goal of two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

This is the level at which scientists believe we may be spared the worst effects of climate change.

"This is a historic conference of crucial importance," said Qatar's conference president, Abdullah al-Attiya. "We must work seriously in the next two weeks... be flexible and not dwell (on) marginal matters."

Topping the talks under the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the future of the Kyoto Protocol, the world's only binding pact for curbing carbon emissions.

The protocol, whose first commitment period runs out on December 31, commits about 40 rich nations and the EU to an average five percent greenhouse gas reduction from 1990 levels.

Critics say the accord is badly flawed as it does not include the United States and China, the world's biggest emitters, in the binding targets.

Nations disagree on how long the next Kyoto commitment period should last and the scope of its carbon pledges.

The EU, Australia and some small Kyoto parties, representing about 15 percent of total global emissions, have said they would take on commitments in a second period, but New Zealand, Canada, Japan and Russia will not.

"In Doha, governments must agree to the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol and close the loopholes that could give countries a free pass to pollute for years," urged Greenpeace's Martin Kaiser.

"At the end of a year that has seen the impacts of climate change devastate homes and families around the world, the need for action is obvious and urgent."

Also crucial in Doha is for delegates to draft a work plan for arriving in the next 36 months at a global climate deal that must enter into force in 2020 and will apply to all countries.

Negotiators, to be joined in the last four days by cabinet ministers from more than 100 nations, will be under pressure to raise pre-2020 emission reduction targets.

The European Union was "ready" to raise its emission cut target from 20 to 30 percent by 2020, but only "if other developed economies will also" aim higher, the European Commission's chief climate negotiator Artur Runge-Metzger told reporters.

But Jonathan Pershing of the United States said he did "not anticipate" his country shifting its own 2020 target of a 17-percent reduction from 2005 levels.

Another focus of the talks: rich nations will be expected to come up with funding for the developing world's mitigation actions.

According to Oxfam, "developing countries are heading towards a climate 'fiscal cliff' without any certainty about how they will be supported to adapt to climate change after 2012 draws to a close."

For its part, a grouping of African countries, poor nations and small island states most at risk of climate change-induced sea level rise said failure in Doha would be "a setback from which we may never recover".

Last week, the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) said the world was heading for a 3-5 Celsius (5.4-9 Fahrenheit) rise this century barring urgent action.

The World Bank said a planet that is 4 Celsius (7.2 Fahrenheit) warmer would see coastal areas inundated and small islands washed away, food production slashed, species eradicated, more frequent heat waves and high-intensity cyclones, and diseases spread to new areas.

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CLIMATE SCIENCE
Climate talks resume amid warnings of looming calamity
Paris (AFP) Nov 24, 2012
Nearly 200 nations gather in Doha from Monday for a new round of climate talks as a rush of reports warn extreme weather events like superstorm Sandy may become commonplace if mitigation efforts fail. Negotiators will converge in the Qatari capital for two weeks under the UN banner to review commitments to cutting climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions. Ramping up the pressure, expert ... read more


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