Another summit on climate change

Nearly 100 world leaders accepted UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s invitation to participate in UN Climate  Summit on Climate Change in New York on 22 September to mobilize political will and strengthen momentum for a fair, effective, and ambitious climate deal in Copenhagen this December.

The UN summit not have been the spectacular breakthrough in the international climate negotiations many had hoped for, but still gives reasons to for some cheers: the summit threw together the leaders of rich and poor countries, big polluters and nations most vulnerable to climate change. “The time for doubt has passed,” as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in his opening address.  He sees the world’s response to global warming as something that, “will define us, our era, and ultimately the global legacy we leave for future generations”small_flower.gif

Very much appreciated was President Hu’s decision to come and speak. He showed the country’s increasing determination to take leadership on fighting climate change. It was in fact the first time in 40 years that a Chinese President has attended the UN General Assembly. But while the summit heard that China will increase efforts to improve energy efficiency and cut its CO2 emissions, President Hu Jintao gave no details about the measures.

It was agreed that China’s proposals were helpful but Beijing needed to provide figures. US Presidnet Obama also said numbers were needed. BBC reporter Matt McGrath says that much of the debate about tackling global warming revolves around the idea of absolute cuts in emissions of carbon. Mr. Al Gore still praised China’s “impressive leadership”.

Once again developing countries like India and China feel that this emphasis is unfair, because richer countries have had the benefits of fossil fuel use for many decades, and are now demanding that growing nations stop using them with no obvious alternatives in place. Again there was emphasis on rich nations pledging to support developing and emerging economies more with the shift to the use of renewable energy sources and to more efficiency.Wind Energy

China’s position that developed nations needed to do more than developing nations to fight climate change because they were historically more responsible for the problem. It’s time to talk big money there. The developed world must follow the call of those like UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown in helping to finance that process of transition. His proposal for $100 billion annually in new investments is the minimum to be hoped for to be declared..

US President Obama acknowledged in his passionate speech that the US had been slow to act, but promised a “new era” of promoting clean energy and reducing carbon pollution. The new Japanese Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama, pledged to reduce emissions by 25% by 2020 compared to the 1990 level.


Two things were generally agreed on:

  • That atmospheric carbon dioxide levels safe for our planet is 350 parts per million  (it stands at 386 ppm today).
  • Transition to a low-carbon economic system will only happen if all countries co-operate; commitment from every developed and developing country is required.

It is therefore essential that each nation shifts its economic development towards a low carbon model, one that can sustain the economy and the ecology of the planet. It is clear the world cannot support the continuation of “business as usual”. The dilemma is how to foster economic growth without worsening our climate.

The UN summit in itself caused a huge carbon footprint (about 450 tons). Of course the single largest factor in the calculation was the amount of emissions generated by air travel for all the delegations. But following Ban Ki-moon call two years ago turn the entire U.N. system  carbon neutral has been followed: the offset was achieved by directing funding to a power project in rural India.

Hopes are that leaders not only pay lip-service to the struggle against climate change, but decide on serious steps and real commitments in Copenhagen. Of course we will be there and keep you informed …

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