China Announces Carbon Targets

China today set out its plans for carbon reduction.  Rather than announcing absolute cuts, China has set out plans to reduce its carbon intensity.  This means that China plans to reduce the carbon emissions per unit of GDP.  This approach has been adopted so that China can continue to grow its economy, while reining back on carbon emissions rather than committing to specific cuts.  Beijing has said that the commitment, which it will offer formally at the Copenhagen Summit, is stringent and will cause special hardships in China.

Mike Rigby of The Original Carbon Company welcomed the move but sounded a note of caution, “China is the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases but we need to remember that, per capita, emissions are much lower than in, say, Europe or the USA.  The plan to lower carbon intensity is a step forward and will assist agreement at Copenhagen but high levels of economic growth in China would threaten the overall goal of capping and reducing greenhouse gases.  For an intensity target to be acceptable, I think we’d need to see some trigger for increasing the intensity reduction target were growth to exceed a set level.”

The announcement continues the stream of more positive pre-Summit indications that has flowed over the last 2 weeks after fairly gloomy assessments for success through much of the Autumn.

Obama to Attend Copenhagen

The White House today announced that President Obama is to attend the Copenhagen Summit ending months of speculation.  He will attend on 9th December but crucially is not intending to be present during the final days.

Mike Rigby of The Original Carbon Company said “While Obama’s confirmed attendance is to be welcomed, his one day visit during the early stages could be labelled ‘tokenism’.  Given that he was in any case travelling to Oslo to collect his Nobel Prize the following day it would have been something of a snub if he had flown over Copenhagen on his way there and back.”  What we need now is to see him return in the final days, particularly if we hit a logjam.”

The recent announcement of proposed carbon reductions by the US may help to move things forwards at Copenhagen.

Rigby said, “It’s absolutely crucial that we get something meaningful out of the Copenhagen Summit.  The UN has rightly described the summit as the last chance to ‘Seal the Deal’ and save the planet.  If the world’s Governments do not step up to the plate and agree a deal to replace Kyoto, the public will look at their leaders and feel misled.  If it truly is the last chance, a deal must be done.  Failure could lead to a massive loss in public confidence in the whole issue of climate change.

Developing Nations Misled Over Climate Cash

Developing nations had thought that they were in line for up to $3bn in funding from richer nations as a result of the Bonn Declaration in 2001.  It was expected that the cash would be channelled into specific UN accounts from which the developing nations could draw in order to help them adapt to climate change.  In the event, only $260m found its way into the UN accounts.  The EU, whose members made up 75% of the countries that promised to hand over the funds, claims that the money has been made available directly through bilateral deals and that it was never intended that all of the funding would be made through the dedicated UN accounts.  However, Dr Marc Pallemaerts, who drafted the Bonn Declaration, admitted that some developing nations were probably misled at the time into believing that the funds would be placed exclusively into the UN accounts.  The issue has created bad blood between rich and developing nations in advance of the Copenhagen summit.

US to Announce Carbon Target

The US will announce a carbon reduction target before the Copenhagen Summit according to a White House spokesman.  While the House of Representatives passed a bill earlier this year, it is not thought that legislation will make it through the Senate until next March, months after it is hoped a new framework will be agreed at Copenhagen.

It is expected that the reduction target will accord with the Senate legislation – a 17-20% reduction on 2005 levels by 2020.  Given that the Kyoto Protocol, and reduction commitments given by other countries since then, were pegged to 1990 emissions, the expected gesture amounts to cuts of just a few percent by comparison.  However, the move is seen as a significant step forward.  The Obama administration has maintained that it would not offer up cuts at Copenhagen without the agreement of Congress – initial assent to the Kyoto Protocol ultimately came to nothing as the necessary legislation could not be passed.

This time around, despite the lack of legislation in advance, it appears that senior Senators are being sounded out by the White House to ensure that Copenhagen commitments can be delivered through domestic legislation.

Mike Rigby of The Original Carbon Company welcomed the news as a step in the right direction.  “This provides the flagging hopes for success at the Copenhagen summit with a much needed shot in the arm.  Hopefully this gesture is an opening salvo and the US will ultimately commit to cuts closer to the scale of those offered by the EU.”

“Rainfall in Cumbria a one in a thousand year event”: UK Environment Secretary

Rainfall at Seathwaite Farm in the UK Lake District was recorded at over 370mm in the 30 hours to 0900 on 20th November 2009, in what the UK Environment Sectretary described as potentially a ‘one in a thousand years’ weather event.  He went on to say that it could be the wettest day ever recorded in the UK.  The high street in Cockermouth is now a river with up to 2.5m of water flowing down it at around 15 knots according to local witnesses.  While it is always very difficult to pin individual weather events on climate change, what is clear is that we are seeing such events on a much more frequent basis.  Robert Runcie, the Head of Flood Protection at the UK Environment Agency called the events ‘unprecedented’ and agreed that the flooding was of ‘Biblical proportions’.  And there’s more rain forecast!

UN voices link between population growth and climate change

Today, the UN released its annual State of World Population report for 2009.  This year, the UN has used the report to focus explicitly on the links between population growth and climate change.  Put simply, the the larger the world’s population, the greater the consumption of fossil fuels, the more greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere.

The headline call of the report is to provide better access to family planning for women, particularly those in developing countries.

Providing voluntary family planning, as well as education for girls, would lead to women having fewer and healthier children, slowing population growth and greenhouse gas emissions in the long run.

Slower population growth could also aid economic development and reduce poverty, which could help poor countries become more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

The United Nations Population Fund report claims that controlling population growth is crucial in combating climate change.

World on course for catastrophic 6

Fast-rising carbon emissions mean that worst-case predictions for climate change are coming true

The world is now firmly on course for the worst-case scenario in terms of climate change, with average global temperatures rising by up to 6C by the end of the century, leading scientists said yesterday. Such a rise – which would be much higher nearer the poles – would have cataclysmic and irreversible consequences for the Earth, making large parts of the planet uninhabitable and threatening the basis of human civilisation.

We are headed for it, the scientists said, because the carbon dioxide emissions from industry, transport and deforestation which are responsible for warming the atmosphere have increased dramatically since 2002, in a way which no one anticipated, and are now running at treble the annual rate of the 1990s.

This means that the most extreme scenario envisaged in the last report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, published in 2007, is now the one for which society is set, according to the 31 researchers from seven countries involved in the Global Carbon Project.


Source: The Independent, 18 November 2009