Long Haul Ahead for Climate TalksNo comments
Bonn, Germany: The outgoing head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Yvo de Boer, says he thinks the world will need more than a decade to agree effective targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Speaking at the negotiating round which is just ending here de Boer, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, offered delegates the prospect of more than ten years of tramping the endless corridors of near-identical hotels, bad sandwiches and barely-recognisable coffee.
The delegates in Bonn have talked ceaselessly about the importance of recovering the trust in the negotiating process which was so badly damaged at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen last December. Some say what this really means is that there has been no progress on the fundamental issues at stake. “During this meeting we have just been agreeing on the terms, not setting out our different positions”, said Andrea Albán, one of the Colombian delegates. There is optimism, the delegates say. But on first sight it looks as though world leaders aren’t in a hurry to seal a deal.
It looks like the bureaucrats and journalists will keep filling the pockets of airlines and hotels for a long time to come. This would be fine if the meeting was to decide the budget of the next World Cup, or the winner of an arts competition. But the issue that keeps bringing hundreds of delegates together is the planet’s path to destruction, with millions of people hungry, thirsty and facing thunderstorms and hurricanes in houses made of sticks.
Even so, business still looks to many to be more important than an unbalanced planet, where the poor get poorer every day while others refuse to change their lifestyles and excessive energy use. There hasn’t been any agreement here on technology transfer, or on how much money there will be for climate for adaptation and mitigation, or on who will manage it. The deadlock could last a long time, as de Boer thinks.
His estimate of how long the negotiations could last is worrying for a country like Colombia. It could mean the thawing of the high altitude glaciers and the continuing reduction of the moorlands, those places in the high mountains where the water that supplies most of the country’s population starts its journey.
Glacial melt will also mean sea level rise. Researchers in Colombia say a sea level rise of one metre – which scientists believe could happen by 2100 – would inundate 5,100 kms of the coast, affecting 1,500,000 people. So far the emissions reduction targets announced by 37 developed countries and 38 developing ones will achieve an estimated 13% reduction in global emissions, if they happen. But scientists have recommended a reduction of 25-40% to stop global average temperatures rising beyond 2C above their pre-industrial level. Some scientists say the world should seek to limit the rise to 1.5C, while others maintain that it is on course to reach 4C, unless there are radical changes.
Cristiana Figueres, de Boer’s successor as UNFCCC executive secretary, says the negotiators know the actual targets aren’t enough. Andrea García, another member of the Colombian delegation, thinks de Boer’s statement about there being more than a decade of negotiations ahead simply confuses the delegates. She welcomes the arrival of Figueres, who she considers more progressive than her predecessor. But Figueres herself doesn’t talk about a 10-year perspective. She told journalists she thinks it will take 20 or 30 years…