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PORTSIDE  December 2011, Week 1

PORTSIDE December 2011, Week 1

Subject:

Discontent with US Grows at Climate Talks

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Discontent with US Grows at Climate Talks

COP17: Discontent with US Grows at Climate Talks

by Arthur Max

Globe & Mail (South Africa)
November 30, 2011

http://mg.co.za/article/2011-11-30-us-footdragging-on-climate-change-seen-as-obstacle

Leading American environmentalists complained to Secretary
of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday that her
negotiators at the UN climate talks risked portraying the US
as an obstacle to fighting global warming because of its
perceived foot-dragging on key issues.

Separately, European delegates and the head of the African
bloc at the 192-party talks also denounced US positions at
the talks which are seeking ways to curb the ever-expanding
emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

"Developed countries as a whole are not taking climate
change seriously as a global issue," Seyni Nafo, of Mali,
said.

"Look at the UN. We use and we welcome their leadership on
democracy, on access to markets, on human rights issues. We
would want to have the same leadership to tackle climate
change because for us in the developing world the biggest
threat, the biggest enemy, is climate change."

Discontent directed at Washington came as the UN's top
climate scientist, Rajendra Pachauri, warned the
conference's 15 000 participants that global warming is
leading to human dangers and soaring financial costs but
that containing carbon emissions will have a host of
benefits.

Although he gave no explicit deadlines, the head of the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change implied that the
world only has a few years before the earth is irreversibly
damaged by accumulations of carbon in the atmosphere.

'Running out of time'

The letter to Clinton, signed by the chief executives of 16
major non-profit groups, also stressed the urgency of
finding solutions to the world's emissions of carbon
dioxide, mainly from burning fossil fuels for energy,
industry and transportation.

"This is a critical meeting and we are rapidly running out
of time to avert the worst impacts of climate change," it
said.

It reminded Clinton of President Barack Obama's presidential
campaign pledges to move the US back into the forefront of
global cooperation on global warming.

"Three years later, America risks being viewed not as a
global leader on climate change but as a major obstacle to
progress," said the letter.

It was signed by the heads of the Environmental Defence
Fund, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defence Council
and other major environmental lobby and activist groups.

Voluntary pledges

Anger was directed at the US conditions for negotiating a
deal that would legally bind all countries to limit their
emissions and for holding up discussion on how to raise
$100-billion earmarked for poor countries to develop low
carbon economies and deal with the effects of global
warming.

Instead of a binding agreement, the US has said it favours
voluntary pledges by countries to do as much as they can to
control emissions.

At the last climate conference a year ago in Cancun, Mexico,
some 80 countries listed the actions they were taking to
reduce emissions or at least lower their rate of growth.

Jonathan Pershing, the US delegate, told reporters this week
he did not believe those pledges would change in the near
future. The US has promised to cut its emissions by 17% from
2005 levels by 2020.

Taken together, those voluntary pledges amount to about half
of what scientists say is needed to avert potential climate
disaster, said the European Union's chief negotiator, Artur
Runge-Metzger.

Unpopular issue

"Those who seem to think that it is enough for current
pledges to stay as they are up to 2020 seem to be
overlooking those facts," he said.

"The longer you wait, delaying action, the more expensive
and disruptive it will be and the greater the risk" of
missing the target set by Pachauri's IPCC after compiling
years of studies and projections.

Runge-Metzger acknowledged the US delegation may be
hamstrung by US the domestic political scene where climate
change is perceived as an unpopular issue.

"The US could set a good example but we all know the
situation of the US at home. It's very hard for the Obama
administration to move forward with climate change because
of the situation in congress."

In his briefing to the convention, Pachauri outlined the
dangers science anticipates unless carbon emissions are
curbed.

Financial burdens

Heat waves currently experienced once every 20 years will
happen every other year by the end of this century, he said.

Coastal areas and islands are threatened with inundation by
global warming, rain-reliant agriculture in Africa will
shrink by half and many species will disappear. Within a
decade, up to 250-million more people will face the stress
of scarce water.

Increasingly frequent weather disasters have imposed heavy
financial burdens with some poor countries running up 90% of
their national debt to deal with the aftermath of storms,
droughts and floods, he said.

But the Indian scientist said "many impacts can be avoided,
reduced or delayed" by reducing emissions.

To stabilise carbon concentrations in the atmosphere would
slow economic growth by 0.12% per year, he said, but those
costs would be offset by improved health, greater energy
security and more secure food supplies.

For the latest COP17 news and special features view our
special report.
http://mg.co.za/specialreport/cop17-durban-2011

___________________________________________

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