Rhein on Energy and Climate

In less than six months the 200-odd parties of the UNFCCC will meet once again to discuss on how to cope with the earth’s most pressing challenge: halting climate change.

This time, they will get together in Qatar, a country that has the highest per capita C02 emissions and an absence of effective policies to reduce rising emissions.

The COP 17 in Durban had produced a last minute consensus, dubbed the “Durban Platform for Enhanced Action”, which provides for a binding road map to be signed by all members of the international community by 2015 and enter into force by 2020.

Connie Hedegaard, the EU Climate Commissioner, has hailed it as a breakthrough to a new phase of global climate policy, because it would end the differentiation between the few countries having ratified the Kyoto Protocol and the rest of the world without any binding commitments to reduce emissions.

It remains to be seen if all parties will stand ready in 2015 to sign up to effective commitments.

The USA, known for its aversion to internationally binding agreements, has inserted an “exit clause”; and Canada has had no scruples to renounce its Kyoto Protocol membership in December 2011!

Six months after Durban, the debate on the substance of a global roadmap has not even started. The UNFCC continues discussing procedures, the international climate fund and climate adaptation measures, while avoiding a serious debate on the measures to be taken to reduce green house gas emissions to translate whatever road map targets into action.

The Ministerial Conference in Seoul scheduled for October 21-23 will be the the first chance for political debate on substance, after disappointing official meetings in Bonn earlier the year.

There is no agreement on developed countries – USA, EU, Japan, Korea, Russia, GCC, Australia, Canada, – having to engage first in decisive action. Indulging in unacceptably high per capita emissions of 10-20 tons/annum, they account for about half of global emissions. They dispose of the technological and economic means to halve their emissions in the next 20 years if they had the political will to do so! It is only if they act that China, the world’s biggest emitter, though only 6 tons/capita, will be ready to follow.

With the exception of the EU, Australia, Norway and Switzerland there is so far little enthusiasm among the Privileged of this world to lead Humanity to a more sustainable planet. This has to change! And the EU should lead!

Unfortunately, the EU being lost in domestic technicalities about the reform of its cap-and- trade regime neglects the more important task of convincing USA, Canada, Japan, GCC, Russia and Korea to engage in a more forthcoming climate policy, by introducing a carbon tax regime, targets for the share of renewable energy in power generation, tough emission standards for transport and programmes for thermal refitting of buildings.

Without a strategic approach, including the tools for implementation, to be proposed by developed countries the Qatar Conference and the following ones will be doomed to failure as all the previous ones!

The EU has to wake up to its responsibilities and form an alliance of the willing! It has no time to lose while hoping for Obama to be reconfirmed as the next US President.

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