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Blame game hits climate change

Updated On: May 04, 2007

The UN`s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) gathered in Bangkok Monday (30 April) through Friday (4 May) to discuss and debate means of mitigating greenhouse gases over the coming decades to slow the rate of rising world temperatures, blamed primarily on the world’s growing dependency on fossil fuels.

The group is working on a report which will urge countries to deploy an array of measures - including energy-efficient technologies, a shift away from coal, and agricultural reforms - to keep world temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), thereby limiting the impact of global warming. According to two previous IPCC reports this year, unabated greenhouse gas emissions could drive global temperatures up as much as 6 degrees C by 2100. Even a 2 degree C rise could subject up to 2 billion people, mostly in the developing world, to water shortages by 2050 and threaten extinction for 20 percent to 30 percent of the world's species, the IPCC said. One of the reports concluded that global warming could increase the number of hungry in the world in 2080 by between 140 million and 1 billion by contributing to widespread droughts and flooding. Diseases such as malaria, diarrhea and dengue fever could spread as temperatures rise and weather becomes increasingly erratic, affecting the poorest of the world's poor.

The report is likely to contain a controversial recommendation for countries to shift towards nuclear energy - which emits no carbon dioxide but raises other concerns. United States is pushing the nuclear agenda.  However, environmental group, Greenpeace criticised that the nuclear power option is too costly and is an expensive and dangerous distraction from real climate solution.  Other renewable energy should be considered.

"There are a lot of technologies including biofuel, nuclear and carbon capture that are not exactly the most sustainable options," said Catherine Pearse, international climatecampaigner for the Friends of the Earth environmentalist group. "We may bereplacing one existing problem with new ones." A draft of the IPCC report features a lengthy list of possible solutions: improved energy efficiency such as hybrid vehicles, renewable sources such as solar and hydropower, cleaner-burning coal, biofuels and reforestation.

Another potentially controversial point was a report made during the meeting that methane emissions from flooded rice paddies contribute to global warming just as coal power plants, automobile and other sources. Already, the Thai Agriculture Department and the Thai Farmers Association were upset by the report, fearing that such “allegations” could hurt the country’s rice production.  How to ensure better control in rice production will be an issue likely to impact the whole of Asia since rice is the staple food of many Asian countries. 

The meeting has also been marked by differences between developed and developing countries.  A demand by ChinaIndia and Brazil for rich nations to accept that they are mainly responsible for global warming has held up progress at the talks.  China has also been the leading voice in expressing concerns about the cost for ambitious emission reduction and is apparently trying to water down every single statement relating to the cost of climate change.

Poor countries from AfricaAsia and some island nations are also demanding for more aid to cope with climate change.  They gave notice at the meeting that they are still waiting to hear how the report will address their fears of impending droughts, floods and violent storms. "Africa is a victim of climate change. It is not contributing to CO2 emissions," said Younis Al-Fenadi, the lone delegate from Libya. "The final report should include promises of assistance to Africa, money for training, planning and education." Orvin Paige, of the delegation from the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda, said he was frustrated the discussion thus far dwelled on technical issues.

In an another earlier meeting in Bali, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) assembly urged its members to recognize global warming as the 21st century's most serious and dangerous threat. Indonesia’s foreign minister Hassan Wirayuda said 15 years after the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and almost a decade after the Kyoto Protocol, nothing truly decisive had been done by developing or developed countries to combat global warming. There was a particular lack of partnerships between developed and developing countries working together toward finding an answer to global warming. Many UN and IPU meetings had resulted in much hope and vision for countries tackling these issues. But the concrete results have (not measured up) to our vision or promise -- particularly our promise of global partnerships -- which is too abstract (for us to grasp) as nation states.

Also in Bali, environmental experts have strongly urged the United States and other industrialized nations not to preach about global warming until they take real and concrete steps of their own to tackle the burgeoning problem. The U.S. has been the world's highest emitter of greenhouse gases and should take responsibility for enforcing actions to eliminate or reduce the severe impacts of global climate change, he said. The U.S. has signed the Kyoto Protocol, but has no intention of ratifying it.

Indonesia has also been fingered as a huge contributor to global warming because of its destruction of millions of hectare of forest.  According to special adviser to the Minister of Environment, Agus Purnomo, at least 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions produced by Indonesia comes from forest and peatland fires. Only 15 percent comes from the burning of fossil fuels. The first thing the government has to do is to prevent forest and peatland fires and put an end to deforestation.

Indonesia’s effort to curb deforestation was marked by the agreement between three provinces in Indonesia. The governors of Indonesia's three most forested provinces have pledged to jointly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from logging and land clearing to reduce the impact of climate change. Tropical rainforests absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, the main gas responsible for global warming. The governors of Aceh, Papua and Papua Barat provinces agreed on a policy of "environmentally friendly, sustainable economic development and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation." The agreement is also aimed at reducing poverty, protecting community rights over natural resources, stimulating employment, and attracting investment.

Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf said he will place a temporary moratorium on all logging in Aceh, where forests are being felled for timber, farming and housing.

Papua Governor Barnabas Suebu and West Papua Governor Abraham Octavian Atururis said they would revoke the licenses of companies that log their tropical forests without replanting or contributing to local communities. They vowed to accelerate local development and community forestry. Papua and Papua Barat will develop a pilot project that carries out these policies in a 500,000 hectare area. Both provinces will reallocate up to five million hectares of conversion forest for carbon trading.

Indonesia wants rich countries to pay for preserving tropical rainforests. The government has signalled its intention to push this proposal at the UN climate conference in December. About 10 percent of the world's remaining tropical forests are found in Indonesia, which is around 60 percent forested. Indonesia has already lost an estimated 72 percent of its original frontier forest, and half of what remains is threatened. Only 21 percent of Indonesia's forests are protected. Massive illegal logging is driving forest loss across Indonesia.  Greenpeace recently highlighted that Indonesia has made it to the Guiness Record of being the fastest forest destroyer destroying some 1.8 million hectares of forest each year between 2000 to 2005.  The organisation is therefore urging Indonesia to temporarily stop all logging activities to allow forest regrowth.  (3 May 2007)

Sources:

Climate change delegates hash out measures to stem rise in global temperatures (Jakarta Post, 3 May 2007)

Rice as climate culprit? Experts take aim at 'paddy gas' rising into Asian and other skies (Jakarta Post, 2 May 2007)

Climate report should offer assistance to address global warming (Jakarta Post, 3 May 2007)

Environmentalists push for renewable energy and efficiency at climate changeconference (Jakarta Post, 3 May 2007)

WHO: Fighting global warming a 'win-win' to prevent health problems, save money (Jakarta Post, 3 May 2007)

Cooperation urged in global warming fight (Jakarta Post, 2 May 2007)

Most Indonesians not aware of global warming (Jakarta Post, 1 May 2007)

U.S. told to stop climate preach (Jakarta Post, 2 May 2007)

Climate change conference opens with calls for quick action (Jakarta Post, 30 April 2007)

Solutions-focused UN climate summit kicks off in Bangkok (Antara, 30 April 2007)

US 'biggest culprit' of climate change: WWF (Straits Times, 3 May 2007)

Indonesian Governors Curb Logging to Reduce Climate Change (Environment News Service, 27 April 2007)

It's Survival of the Toughest at UN Climate Talks (Reuters, 3 May 2007)

Wrangle over cost hits climate change (Straits Times Interactive, 3 May  2007)