UN calls for urgency on climate, says Doha deal to delight no one
The world economic slowdown has taken the spotlight off global warming and no big nations at the Nov. 26-Dec. 7 talks in Qatar have announced new measures to slow rising temperatures and help avert projected floods, droughts, heatwaves and rising seas.
"My call here is for all of us to act impatiently," Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, told a news conference when asked about the low expectations for Doha.
She urged everyone from the public to business leaders to put pressure on governments. "I don’t see perhaps as much public interest, support for governments to take on more ambitious and more courageous decisions," she said.
Doha is seeking to agree measures including a symbolic extension of the U.N.'s existing Kyoto Protocol, which binds rich nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions until end-2012.
"Ultimately (governments) do have to reach a politically balanced package (in Doha) with which no one will be delighted ... fully recognising that what comes out of Doha is not at the level of ambition that we need," she said.
Keeping Kyoto alive would be a step towards a global deal that is meant to be agreed in 2015 and start up in 2020. It would bind all nations to curb greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels in power plants, factories and cars.
Figueres said governments were aware of a need for urgent action but that they also had to reconcile national interests, from OPEC nations worried about a shift from oil, to small island states who want radical action to slow rising sea levels.
"That is where we have a gap," she said of thousands of delegates meeting in a cavernous conference centre in Qatar which has a giant metal sculpture of a spider as a centrepiece.
A deal on climate change is hard because it "affects all sectors of the economy. It affects all parts of society," said Artur Runge-Metzger, head of the European Commission delegation.
But he said advances had been made in the past decade; many nations have set targets for cuts in emissions for 2020.
The problem for Kyoto is that Russia, Japan and Canada have pulled out, meaning that Kyoto backers are down to a core led by the European Union and Australia that account for less than 15 percent of world emissions.
They, and developing nations led by China and India, see Kyoto as a valuable model and a sign that the rich who have emitted most greenhouse gases since the Industrial Revolution are willing to lead towards a new global pact.
The drop-outs say it is meaningless to extend Kyoto when big emerging countries have no curbs on rising emissions. The United States never ratified Kyoto, for similar reasons.
Figueres said that governments were working for a deal in Doha. "All governments remain committed to doing the hard work that needs to be done by the end of next week," she said.
Earlier on Friday, a scientific scorecard rated major nations' policies as inadequate to limit temperature rises to an agreed ceiling of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) above pre-industrial times.
The Climate Action Tracker report said a toughening of policies was still possible to keep below the ceiling, widely seen as a threshold to dangerous changes.
Major emitters China, the United States, the European Union and Russia all got "inadequate" ratings for their plans to help limit global warming. It said all of them were on target to achieve their pledges, except the United States.
Adding up all national pledges and taking account of rising emissions, the world was headed for a warming of about 3.3 degrees Celsius (6F), it said.
By Alister Doyle - firstname.lastname@example.org