Paris (AFP) March 3, 2011
A first meeting to set down the ground rules of a fund to channel hundreds of billions of dollars to poor countries exposed to climate change has been postponed until the second half of April, a UN official said on Thursday.
Representatives from 40 countries had been scheduled to meet in Mexico City on March 14 and 15 for the maiden meeting of a panel designed to breathe life into the Green Climate Fund (GCF) established last December.
A spokesman for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) told AFP by phone from Bonn that the meeting had been postponed "until the latter part of April."
In Cancun, Mexico, the 194 parties of the UNFCCC agreed to establish the GCF, which would have a board of 24 members chosen evenly from developed and developing nations.
The task of drawing up the fund's terms of reference has been entrusted to a transitional committee of 25 developing and 15 developed countries.
Important details are at stake, including the scope of a registry to record financial pledges and climate-mitigating action and whether non-governmental groups, the private sector and international organisations should be allowed to take part.
But the first meeting has been hampered by delays among Asian, Latin American and Caribbean countries over who should have a seat on the committee, the spokesman said.
"The others have made up their minds," he said.
The GCF has been one of the scant signs of progress in international climate diplomacy since the stormy Copenhagen Summit of December 2009.
It began as a unspecific promise by rich countries to provide as much as 100 billion dollars a year in climate aid by 2020.
Developing countries see the fund as a test of the sincerity of industrialised countries demanding tighter curbs on carbon pollutions by emerging giants Brazil, China, India and Indonesia.
The Cancun agreement also called for "urgent action" to cap warming to no more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, and requested a study on strengthening the commitment to 1.5 C (2.7 F).
It agreed on ways forward on fighting deforestation, a leading cause of climate change, and on monitoring nations' climate pledges.
But the talks were blighted over the fate of the Kyoto Protocol, the landmark treaty whose obligations on wealthy countries to cut emissions expires in late 2012.
These issues will be handed to the next senior-most meeting of the UNFCCC, in Durban, South Africa from November 28 to December 9.
Before then, the forum meets in Bangkok, at the level of senior officials, from April 3 to April 8, and in Bonn from June 6-17.
earlier related report
The records show that one of the most widespread and intense droughts of the last 50,000 years or more struck Africa and Southern Asia 17,000 to 16,000 years ago.
Between 18,000 and 15,000 years ago, large amounts of ice and meltwater entered the North Atlantic Ocean, causing regional cooling but also major drought in the tropics, says Paul Filmer, program director in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Earth Sciences, which funded the research along with NSF's Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences and its Division of Ocean Sciences.
"The height of this time period coincided with one of the most extreme megadroughts of the last 50,000 years in the Afro-Asian monsoon region with potentially serious consequences for the Paleolithic humans that lived there at the time," says Filmer.
The "H1 megadrought," as it's known, was one of the most severe climate trials ever faced by anatomically modern humans.
Africa's Lake Victoria, now the world's largest tropical lake, dried out, as did Lake Tana in Ethiopia, and Lake Van in Turkey.
The Nile, Congo and other major rivers shriveled, and Asian summer monsoons weakened or failed from China to the Mediterranean, meaning the monsoon season carried little or no rainwater.
What caused the megadrought remains a mystery, but its timing suggests a link to Heinrich Event 1 (or "H1"), a massive surge of icebergs and meltwater into the North Atlantic at the close of the last ice age.
Previous studies had implicated southward drift of the tropical rain belt as a localized cause, but the broad geographic coverage in this study paints a more nuanced picture.
"If southward drift were the only cause," says Stager, lead author of the Science paper, "we'd have found evidence of wetting farther south. But the megadrought hit equatorial and southeastern Africa as well, so the rain belt didn't just move--it also weakened."
Climate models have yet to simulate the full scope of the event.
The lack of a complete explanation opens the question of whether an extreme megadrought could strike again as the world warms and de-ices further.
"There's much less ice left to collapse into the North Atlantic now," Stager says, "so I'd be surprised if it could all happen again--at least on such a huge scale."
Given what such a catastrophic megadrought could do to today's most densely populated regions of the globe, Stager hopes he's right.
Stager also holds an adjunct position at the Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, Orono.
Co-authors of the paper are David Ryves of Loughborough University in the United Kingdom; Brian Chase of the Institut des Sciences de l'Evolution de Montpellier in France and the Department of Archaeology, University of Bergen, Norway; and Francesco Pausata of the Geophysical Institute, University of Bergen, Norway.
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