Global environmental challenges
What hope for U.N. climate talks in Poland?
This week the U.N. leads a new round of global climate talks, in its 14th meeting since the world signed up to the convention on climate change in 1992.
It’s all about replacing the Kyoto Protocol with a more ambitious climate deal from 2013. Kyoto is widely regarded as toothless, but so could be its successor. (For a story, click here)
After all, fighting climate change isn’t easy – it involves limiting emissions of greenhouse gases which are a by-product of everyday essentials from energy to food, from burning fossil fuels and making fertiliser, for example.
But where does that leave Kyoto – a multilateral process which requires unanimity for every decision?
Oxford University’s energy expert Dieter Helm last week compared the entire emissions-cutting effort of Kyoto from its base year 1990 to 2012 to the increase in emissions from aviation alone over the same period.
At the moment Kyoto excludes the United States, which didn’t ratify the pact, and all developing countries, including China and India. And it gave too much emissions headroom in its target for Russia.
So the pact has had no binding effect on four of the world’s top five emitters.
Now 190 countries are meeting in Poznan, Poland, to try and lay the foundations of a new agreement next year on a sharper treaty. What chance have they got?
While Barack Obama could follow Europe with cuts in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, the problem is more about changing energy use in developing countries, which they’re worried will curb their economic growth, too.
If you believe U.N. climate scientists, global greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2015 to avoid dangerous global warming.
There’s no chance of that on current trends, most scientists and economists say, given that emissions from top carbon bad boy China are rising by about 10 percent a year.
Is it time to shelve the Kyoto process and hand over to a centralised agency, to dish out tough climate medicine?
Or is the climate problem over-blown? Perhaps the world should wait for a new energy breakthrough, like nuclear fusion…