Environment News Service (ENS)

Building Consensus to Keep the Earth Cool After 2012

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Source: Environment News Service (ENS)

VIENNA, Austria, August 28, 2007 (ENS) - Climate change talks that opened Monday have drawn 1,000 people from over 150 governments, business and industry, environmental organizations and research institutions to Vienna. The delegates are seeking to build the political will to limit global warming ahead of an international climate summit set for December in Indonesia that will determine what happens after the Kyoto Protocol expires at the end of 2012.

'The Vienna Climate Change Talks present an opportunity to measure the temperature of the climate change process - whether or not the political community is willing to advance a comprehensive agenda on a future climate change regime post-2012 in Bali,' said the top UN climate official, Yvo de Boer.

De Boer is executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, the international treaty within which the Kyoto Protocol operates.

Meeting with journalists on Sunday, de Boer said the scientific community has already indicated the catastrophic consequences if the world does not act quickly.

The Kyoto Protocol, the current global framework for reducing the emission of greenhouse gases responsible for global warming, is seen as merely a first step because does not include many major emitters such as the United States, China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa.

Today, the Vienna meeting is discussing a new UN report that examines the financial aspects of climate change over the next 25 years. The report takes into account the need to limit global temperature rise to 2°C, the level at which scientists say the worst effects of global warming may be averted.

The financial report says that by 2030 additional investments of up to US$210 billion a year will be needed to return greenhouse gas emissions to the current level.

The study analyzed both existing and potential investment and financial flows needed to develop an international response to climate change. It found that the additional amount of investment and financial flows in 2030 will amount to between 1.1 and 1.7 percent of global investment.

Josef Pröll, Austria’s federal minister for agriculture, forestry, environment and water management, host of the five-day meeting, told delegates that climate change is a 'huge challenge' that must be addressed at the global level and through an integrated approach.

'Each year without mitigation measures is a year which drives the human and financial cost of adaptation steeply upwards,' Pröll said.

Climate change is already a 'harsh reality,' he said, urging that negotiations on a post-2012 climate agreement should be launched this year.

He reiterated the European Union's willingness to cut emissions by 30 percent by 2020 provided that other industrialized countries also make commitments and economically advanced developing countries contribute adequately.

Meanwhile, developing countries are worried because the major economies are so slow to act.

Maria Madalena Brito Neves, agriculture and environment minister of Cape Verde, a small island nation off Africa's west coast, warned that climate change could undo economic progress for her country and other small island states.

'Climate change can potentially offset all the gains made in achieving the Millennium Development Goals,' she said, referring to a series of targets to slash a host of social ills by 2015. 'Small island developing states are particularly affected.'

From the United States, Harlan Watson outlined President George W. Bush's plan to hold a series of conferences with major economies leading to an agreement on a new post-Kyoto framework by 2008 and contribute to global agreement under the UNFCCC in 2009.

'Let the cash flow,' said the nongovernmental groups of the Climate Action Network attending the Vienna conference in the daily newsletter 'ECO' they are publishing here.

The groups say they are looking forward to today’s dialogue on the investments needed for climate change mitigation and adaptation, noting that it is 'the first discussion on this urgent topic in the UNFCCC.'

They say that the appearance of financial numbers on the negotiating tables is a sign that 'the climate debate is now mature.'

After studying the report, they groups say they are 'happy' to see that the key findings are very close to their own conclusions - 'that the investments needed for mitigation and adaptation are large compared to the funding currently available under the Convention and the Protocol, but tiny in relation to estimated global GDP and global investment in 2030.'

The groups note that total investments in new physical assets are projected to 'triple between 2000 and 2030,' providing a 'window of opportunity for redirecting major financial flows into climate-friendly technologies.'

Their criticism of the UNFCCC Secretariat's report is that 'it fails to emphasize that the shift away from the business-as-usual path to a clean, efficient and safe energy future is not about additional costs, but about saving money, species and human lives.'

Last month, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed that countries must agree to a successor pact to the Kyoto Protocol to be ready for ratification in 2009 - three years before the protocol expires to allow them to make it law in time for a seamless transition.

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