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UN climate talks: On track for Paris 2015?

19 Jun UN climate talks: On track for Paris 2015?

The recent climate talks in Bonn gave a renewed sense of hope for a global, legally binding agreement to be brokered by the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris.

This optimism is bolstered by recent indications by the United States and China of a willingness to cap greenhouse gas emissions, striking a positive chord that could rally both developed and emerging economies to commit to overall emission limits. More than 60 of the 185 countries present at the Bonn climate talks (representing a third of the world’s governments) have pledged to switch from fossil fuels to clean energy.

However, experts remain unconvinced that this is sufficient. The plan to cut US power plant emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels does not go far enough. Also, it is premature to celebrate the mere suggestion that the Chinese may start using emission caps – a suggestion that was subsequently played down by Chinese officials.

Climate funding is crucial to the global climate deal. In 2009, disagreement on the financing required for a global climate deal at the G20 meetings foreshadowed the eventual failure to reach a deal at the 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

It is therefore unnerving that Australia, host of this year’s G20 meetings, has decided to leave climate change off the agenda altogether. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he wants to focus on global economic growth and not “clutter up the G20 agenda” with issues like climate change.

The US and the European Union have urged Abbott to reconsider. In today’s crisis of irreversible climate change, talk about economic growth must also responsibly address the impact of climate change. The science is compelling – US President Barack Obama recently likened climate change denial to insisting that the moon is made of cheese. The global community needs to take every opportunity to work towards a new climate deal due by 2015.

Even if Australia’s move does not stop leaders like Obama from broaching the climate issue at the G20 meetings, the absence of climate change in the final communiqué would hurt the G20’s reputation as a leading global economic governance forum.

More importantly, Australia’s behaviour could further encourage petro-states like Saudi Arabia and Canada to rally opposition to global efforts to reduce carbon emissions at global climate negotiations. This could stymie the collective political will that is so desperately needed for a global climate deal to happen by 2015.

Photo: UN Climate Talks, Wikimedia Commons 


UN climate talks close on upbeat note [DW, 15 June 2014]

Chinese hints, US emission cuts fall far short of climate cure [Reuters, 11 June 2014]

Chinese official plays down emission cut expectations [Reuters, 9 June 2014]

Climate change “off the G20 agenda” as Australia prepares to abolish carbon price [Guardian, 5 June 2014]