Putting the Brakes on Climate Protection China and US Resisting Immediate Action

The negotiations over the third part of the United Nations report on climate change are expected to be particularly tough. China and the US are already trying to water down the final version, arguing that immediate action may be futile and too costly.


Could it soon be warm enough to sunbathe in the Arctic?
REUTERS

Could it soon be warm enough to sunbathe in the Arctic?

The task delegates gathered in Bangkok have set themselves is nothing less than saving the planet -- but it seems some countries are still more interested in avoiding damaging their economies.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is meeting in the Thai capital this week to agree on ways to reverse climate change before its too late. But while scientists and policy makers from around the world are working on finalizing the report, the world's two biggest polluters, the United States and China, are attempting to water it down.

The IPCC summit which began on Monday, is due to conclude with its third and final report this Friday -- and the delegates are currently engaged in tough negotiations over a draft document.

Comments submitted by both the US and China ahead of the meeting, question whether quick action now can stabilize greenhouse gas levels. Both countries say that the proposed cap on emissions is too low and would be too expensive to achieve. Beijing in particular sees the current draft document as a threat to its long-term plans for economic growth.

China is planning further rapid industrialization in the coming decades and its output of CO2 is expected to outstrip that of the US as early as this year. The Global Times, a newspaper run by China's Communist Party, accused Western politicians last week of "climate terrorism," and of trying to undermine China's quest for prosperity.

One Chinese delegate to the IPCC meeting, Lin Erda, of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, told Reuters that the country was more confident that it could adapt to hotter temperatures and drastic action was not justified. "If we say climate change … will happen after 100 days, then we still have 50 days for development," he said. China has already insisted that richer countries, with higher per capita emissions, should take the lead in dealing with the problem.

Final report to suggest solutions

Details of the draft report have already emerged: if not watered down it is expected to state that only massive investment and a radical change of policy can still prevent a climate collapse -- and that the turnaround must be achieved by 2020.

The draft report includes a number of suggestions for helping to mitigate climate change, including: increased use of bio-fuels, the cultivation of dry rice crops, hybrid cars, capturing and storing CO2 emissions from conventional power plants, and more nuclear power stations.

The earlier two parts of the IPCC report concluded that climate change is happening, man is responsible for it, and unless something is done to avert climate disaster, the consequences will be dire. It painted a doomsday scenario of temperatures rising as high as 6 degrees Celsius (11 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100, and massive negative consequences with even a 2 degree Celsius rise by 2050.

Although the report is non-binding its conclusions will play a key role in the negotiations to update the Kyoto Protocol, which will take place in December on the Indonesian island of Bali.

EU-US summit tackles climate change

Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, climate change was also one of the topics being discussed at the EU-US summit on Monday in Washington.

When German Chancellor Angela Merkel, US President George W. Bush, and the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, gathered at the White House, the talk was of progress and finding common solutions to this "urgent problem." "We know that we have to solve the problem together," said Merkel, who is also the current president of the European Union. She said the talks had been open, and showed that "we need each other." And Bush also emphasized the climate problem, saying the reduction of the dependency on oil and the development of new technologies were important aims for both Americans and Europeans.

But then Bush went on to say that any agreement between the US and EU would have limited impact without developing countries like China. "The United States could shut our economy and emit no greenhouse gases and all it would take is for China in about 18 months to produce as much as we had been producing," to make up the difference, he said.

Merkel sees things somewhat differently, believing it is up to the developed world to take the lead, otherwise, "it will be very tough to convince the others."

Nevertheless, Barroso insisted that the there had been progress and that both sides accepted that climate change was a "very serious and global threat."

smd/spiegel/ap/reuters

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