The United States and a coalition of the world’s island nations and least developed countries are placing growing pressure on swiftly developing countries — most notably China — to commit to firm CO2 emissions reductions targets at the Copenhagen summit. As the U.S.’s chief climate negotiator, Todd Stern, told reporters there’s “no way” to solve the global warming problem “by giving the major developing countries a pass,” poor states and island nations proposed that all countries sign an agreement with legally binding CO2 reductions targets. China rejected that idea.
The Alliance of Small Island States — composed of 43 nations highly vulnerable to global warming and sea level rise — was joined by 48 of the world’s poorest countries in proposing that the Copenhagen summit set a goal of holding global temperature increases to 1.5 C (2.7 F) above pre-industrial levels. But as the small nations were making that plea, the UK’s Met Office said that given rapidly rising concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere, meeting a 1.5 C goal was virtually impossible and that holding global temperature increases to 2 C (3.6 F) will be difficult, even in the highly unlikely event that global greenhouse gas emissions peak in 2020.
On Wednesday, Stern took a harder line with China and major developing nations, eliciting a sharp response from the Chinese. Speaking with reporters, Stern said that with 97 percent of the growth in greenhouse gas emissions between now and 2030 expected to come from China, India, Brazil, and other booming developing economies, these nations must make firm commitments to reduce their output of CO2.
“If you care about the science — and we do — there’s no way to solve this problem by giving major developing countries a pass,” Stern said. “We’re not talking about the same kind of need for actions from the vast majority of developing countries. But the major ones, it’s going to be absolutely essential.
“China — I’m not being critical — has an extraordinarily successful economy… But emissions are emissions,” Stern said. “You’ve just got to do the math. It’s not a matter of politics or morality or anything else. It’s just math. And you cannot get the kind of reductions you need globally if China is not a major player in this. That’s the reality.”
Chinese diplomats struck back, with the nation’s climate change ambassador, You Sei, suggesting that the U.S. needed to rethink its stance. “What they should do is some deep soul-searching,” he told reporters. Another Chinese diplomat belittled America’s proposed reductions in greenhouse gases and said that the U.S.’s role as the largest cumulative emitter of greenhouse gases is an important factor in negotiations. “The historical responsibility of developing nations is actually low,” said Su Wei, a climate change negotiator.
As diplomats exchanged words over the responsibilities of the industrialized versus the developing world, U.S. financier George Soros identified a potential way in which rich nations could transfer tens of billions of dollars to poor nations to cope with rising sea levels and other problems associated with global warming. Speaking to reporters in Copenhagen, Soros told reporters that a proposal by wealthy nations to spend $10 billion a year to help the poor adapt to climate change was “not sufficient” and that tension over such aid “could actually wreck the conference.”
The billionaire suggested that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) use $100 billion of its funds — money set aside to assure liquidity in the global financial system — and make a one-time infusion into the climate change fund. The money, part of an arcane financial mechanism known as “special drawing rights,” would make it “possible to substantially increase the amount available to fight global warming in the developing world.” But Soros noted a major hurdle to his proposal – the U.S. exerts major control over the IMF and Congress would have to approve the funding plan.
As the conference entered its fourth day, a report by 100 of Europe’s leading marine scientists was released to the press, with the researchers warning that the Earth’s oceans are becoming acidic at a faster rate than at any time in the last 55 million years.
The report said that the seas were absorbing high levels of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as a result of human activity and that the acidity of the oceans has increased 30 percent since the Industrial Revolution. The study, an exhaustive review of existing scientific research into ocean acidification, said that coral reefs, some mollusks and the algae and plankton that are essential to the marine food web will be “severely affected” by 2050 because of the acidification problem.
Article appearing courtesy of Yale Environment 360
[photo credit: New America Foundation]