Saturday, November 17, 2007

Climate change action gets into fast lane

“Better late than never.” With that the participants heaved a sigh of relief in Valencia, Spain after a marathon 24- hour session ending November 16 as the compromise 20-page Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) document emerged to act as a manual on how to tackle global warming and set the tone for a crucial United Nations (UN) climate conference next month in Bali, Indonesia.

Officially unveiling the report in Valencia, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon pointed out that the IPCC report states that climate change is “unequivocal” and may bring “abrupt and irreversible” impacts.Fresh from a fact-finding mission to Antarctica and South America, Ban cautioned, “All humanity must assume responsibility for these treasures,” saying, “I come to you humbled after seeing some of the most precious treasures of our planet threatened by humanity’s own hand.” “Let us recognise that the effects of climate change affect us all, and that they have become so severe and so sweeping that only urgent global action will do. We are all in this together - we must work together,” Ban added.

In Brussels, the seat of the European Union, the untiring champion of the fight against climate change, it was hailed as “vital reading for decision makers,” by top EU officials. European Union Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said in a statement, “The Fourth Assessment Report is a milestone in our scientific knowledge about climate change and the grave threats global warming poses to the planet.”

Dimas said, “The report’s findings amount to a stark warning that the world must act fast to slash greenhouse gas emissions if we are to prevent climate change from reaching devastating levels. The good news is that it also shows that deep emission cuts are both technologically feasible and economically affordable.”

He added: “This synthesis report is vital reading for decisionmakers everywhere ahead of the UN climate change conference in Bali starting in just over two weeks. It fully supports the EU policy that global warming must be limited to no more than 2ºC above the pre-industrial temperature. The global community must respond to this scientific call for action by agreeing in Bali to launch negotiations on a comprehensive and ambitious new global climate agreement. Efforts will be needed by all major emitters if we are to have a chance of controlling climate change before it is too late.”

Reiterating its commitment, the European Commission listed the key elements of EU action:- To reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, that will be strengthened to 30 percent reduction in the context of a fair global agreement - A firm target to increase the use of renewable energy to 20 percent by 2020- A broad range of measures to improve energy efficiency by 20 percent by 2020- Further evolution and strengthening of the EU’s emissions trading scheme;- An ambitious limit to CO2 emissions from cars- A framework for introducing Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) in power production- Development of an effective adaptation strategy

Moreover, the United States, which has earned the wrath of climate change campaigners for not doing enough, did participate along with nearly 150 countries to nod the compromise report through after five days of haggling.

Rajendra Pachauri, an Indian scientist who heads IPCC warned that even if global emissions are curbed and the present levels of CO2 in the atmosphere stayed at the same level there would be a rise between 0.4 and 1.4 metres of the present day sea-levels simply because water expands as it warms.

“If you add to this the melting of some of the ice bodies on Earth, this gives a picture of the kinds of issue we are likely to face,” Pachauri said in post-publication comments on the report.

The synthesis report forms the final part of “Climate Change 2007”, the IPCC’s report. The other three parts were released earlier this year and covered the physical science of climate change; impacts, adaptation and vulnerability and ways to mitigate climate change.

The IPCC was awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize jointly with former US Vice-President Al Gore “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change”.

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