Global environmental challenges
Planet sick; do the doctors care?
The UN’s climate surgery opening hours this week in Bonn, Germany, are 10am-1pm and 3pm-6pm.
Several times they’ve finished early — lack of demand?
“That’s good. Often they just go on and on. Next week it may be a bit later,” a UN spokesperson told me.
Welcome to a new round of talks to find a successor to the UN-administered Kyoto Protocol on global warming. Bonn is the second of eight meetings of 190 countries and 2,000 people or so to agree a new climate pact by December 2009.
All right, on the two-week agenda there’s also a lot of side events, lobby group huddles and so on, while delegates wake up very early to attend busy, ad hoc sessions, one told me.
But from the outside at least there’s no sense of rush – the plenary sessions are often dry presentations from government bureaucrats, re-hashing well known positions with erudite allusions to climate convention text written 16 years ago.
UN chairmen tried on Friday to steer talks towards “concrete proposals” for a new pact, to discuss in more meetings.
Some NGOs said ideas were emerging to fund efforts to prepare for global warming and cut greenhouse gas emissions which are rising several percent annually. Scientists want emissions to peak within 10 years to avoid dangerous warming.
Those ideas included a Swiss-proposed carbon tax, the UN’s shipping organisation’s suggestion for a carbon auction and Norway’s proposal to sell emissions rights to rich countries.
Nevertheless talks are slow. Last December was a more dramatic meeting — ministers struggled in Bali, Indonesia, but finally succeeded to agree to launch these post-Kyoto talks.
Why isn’t there more urgency here in Bonn, I asked a UN official. 1.) it’s not our fault, the United Nations is a facilitator, he said, 2.) some meetings are more technical than others, and 3.) you need leadership, and one country can provide that.
That was a swipe at the United States, the only industrialised country not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, and the world’s top or second biggest emitter of the planet-warming gas
carbon dioxide (after China). The United States hugely lags many countries’ ambition, for example President George W. Bush plans to halt emissions growth by 2025, while the EU says it will cut its greenhouse gases by 20 percent by 2020.
But I still have sympathy with the U.S. delegation.
Some ideas may be naive, like one from a major developing country that we compel Western entrepreneurs to sell their intellectual property rights, to speed up emissions cuts.
“The private sector is private property. I think this process could use some common sense and honesty because it’s still out of touch with the world as it is,” the U.S. delegate
told me. I could agree.
But where does that leave urgency?