Rich nations must lead global warming battle: World Bank
Washington (AFP) Sept 15, 2009
The World Bank on Tuesday called on rich countries to step up the battle against global warming, saying their assistance is essential to help developing countries reduce their carbon footprints.
Developing countries can shift to lower-carbon paths while promoting development and reducing poverty, but this depends on financial and technical assistance from high-income countries, the World Bank said in a report released ahead of the December international conference on climate change in Copenhagen.
"The countries of the world must act now, act together and act differently on climate change," said World Bank president Robert Zoellick.
"Developing countries are disproportionately affected by climate change -- a crisis that is not of their making and for which they are the least prepared. For that reason, an equitable deal in Copenhagen is vitally important," he said.
The report, "World Development Report 2010: Development and Climate Change," says that advanced countries, which produced most of the greenhouse gas emissions of the past, must act quickly to reduce their carbon footprints and boost development of alternative energy sources to help tackle the problem of climate change.
If developed countries act now, a "climate-smart" world is feasible and the costs to achieve it "will be high but still manageable," the Washington-based development lender said.
"A key way to do this is by ramping up funding for mitigation in developing countries, where most future growth in emissions will occur," it said.
earlier related report
Negotiations under the UN flag are tasked with delivering a treaty in Copenhagen in December to curb the heat-trapping emissions that drive global warming and help poor countries most threatened by drought, flood and rising sea levels.
But for months the process has been deadlocked by rifts between rich and developing countries over how to divvy up the task of slashing greenhouse gases and who should pay for it.
The more than 190 nations at the table cannot agree on the treaty's geometry or even on a procedure for drafting the text.
Pressure is mounting for a breakthrough in what has been dubbed "Climate Week," which kicks off in Washington on Thursday and Friday with a ministerial-level gathering of the world's 17 largest carbon polluters.
Next Tuesday, UN chief Ban Ki-moon will host a climate summit in New York, to be followed by a two-day G20 summit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on September 24-25.
In the corridors, bilateral talks and haggling among blocs of nations will help shape the Copenhagen denouement.
"This is a critical moment for the climate change debate," said US Senator John Kerry, who is fighting to push ambitious domestic energy and climate legislation through the Senate.
"What happens now in September is going to lay a lot of the foundation for what is achievable in December," he told journalists by phone on Tuesday.
"The situation is a little desperate, and time is slipping through our fingers," Brazilian Environment Minister Carlos Minc told AFP in an interview.
"If we want an agreement in Copenhagen, we need to make real progress here and now."
Green groups concur.
"This is a unique opportunity to show political will and face up to global warming," said Kim Carstensen, head of the WWF's global climate initiative.
"Without new, powerful political impetus at the meetings in September, the climate negotiations could be doomed."
The major stumbling blocks are emissions and money.
Poor and emerging economies say the United States, Japan and the European Union (EU) are historically responsible for today's global warming.
Rich countries acknowledge that charge but say the problem of climate change will only be resolved if China, India and Brazil -- the big polluters of tomorrow -- take on firm, if lesser, commitments too.
Concretely, developing nations are demanding that wealthy ones commit to cutting carbon pollution by least 40 percent before 2020. An 80-strong bloc of small island states and the world's least developed nations have set the bar even higher, at 45 percent.
That is a far cry from the offers of the table, even from the EU, which has unilaterally vowed to slash emissions by 20 percent by 2020 compared with 1990 levels.
The US's 2020 targets remain modest by comparison: legislation wending its way through Congress would trim CO2 output by about four percent off the same 1990 benchmark.
The one silver lining is Japan, whose incoming government has leapfrogged to the head of the club of rich nations by offering to cut CO2 pollution by 25 percent, if others follow suit.
A UN panel of climate scientists have said developed nations must cut emissions by 25-to-40 percent by 2020, and by at least 80 percent by 2050, to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels.
On finance, the gap is even larger.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) calculates that, by 2020, the cost of mitigating and adapting to climate change will soar to 200 billion dollars and 100 billion dollars per year. Some estimates are even higher.
But even the modest down payment called for by the UNFCCC of 10 billion dollars has caused wealthy nations -- coping with stalled economies and concerned about the money will be managed -- to balk.
Much of the focus will be on the two biggest emitters of CO2, the United States and China, whose leaders are expected to stake out their positions at the special UN summit.
"The crucial question is this," said Kerry. "Can we forge a partnership that can act boldly enough to prevent a climate catastrophe?"
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