September 2, 2009
The Copenhagen Climate Conference in early December risks failure because of the US inability to take more speedy and effective action for reducing its green house gas emissions.
This prevents the EU and other developed countries like Japan, Australia, Canada and Russia from taking bolder action; and it will above all offer China and emerging countries a welcome pretext for delaying any serious action for at least another 10 years.
The stakes for humanity are extremely high; it is urgent for all capitals to seriously reflect on them.
• Either the international community is content with signing a minimalist agreement, which would delay the overdue reduction of green house gas emissions far beyond 2020, as the US House of Representatives has outlined in its climate bill;
• Or it insists on the USA improving its commitments to a point that the EU, Japan and China will also be spurred to more ambitious action.
Clearly, the international community needs a wake-up call to the accelerating risks of climate change. During the remaining 100 days before the start of the Copenhagen Conference December 7th it should focus on what matters most:
• How to get the US Congress to approve a faster and deeper cut of C02 emissions than envisaged by the climate bill adopted by the House of Representatives in early July;
• How to persuade China, the single biggest emitter of C02 emissions to take convincing measures for slowing down the inexorable rise of its emissions.
Combined, these two countries account for nearly half of global C02 emissions. Without them acting effectively there is not much point for the rest of the world taking ambitious mitigation or adaptation measures. Their efforts, however sizeable, will never suffice to reduce global emissions 20 percent below 1990 levels until 2020, which, according to the scientific community, is absolutely necessary to prevent temperatures from rising beyond the two centigrade considered as the ultimate ceiling.
It is up to the EU as the only group of countries with a comprehensive and reasonably ambitious climate package in place to assume global leadership and convince President Obama and the Congress that the USA has to do much better than what has come out of Congress so far.
Specifically, the EU should insist on two critical points, one formal and the other substantive.
• Formally, the USA – like any other developed country – must adopt 1990 as the yardstick by which to measure its C02 reductions. This is imperative in the interest of global transparency and coherence!
• Secondly, the USA must commit to at least 20 percent reduction of its C02 emissions until 2020, compared to 1990, as the EU has done. The international community should not pay the price for the US refusal to join the Kyoto Protocol, under which the USA would have had to cut their emissions by at least 5 percent until 2012. It is for the USA to pay its arrears, however difficult this may be politically. Considering the huge waste of energy and its technological potential, the USA should not encounter major difficulties in bringing down their emissions 20 percent below 1990 within the next 10 years. It only requires political courage vis-à-vis powerful lobbies.
If the USA were willing to take commitments on these two salient points, it should be possible to reach a satisfactory deal in Copenhagen:
• By the EU committing to a 30 percent reduction;
• By China bringing the increase of its C02 emissions to a halt before 2030, through an ambitious overhaul of its energy sector, phasing out inefficient coal power plants and stepping up energy efficiency across the country.
• Russia, Japan, Australia and Canada committing to 20 percent reductions against 1990.
It is on these core issues that the heads of government of the main players concerned should focus during the last 100 the start of the Copenhagen Conference. Time is running out fast for Copenhagen and, more seriously, humanity.
Brussels 01.09. 09 Eberhard RheinAuthor : Eberhard Rhein