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Cut GhGs or Face Extreme Events - Scientists

by Imelda Abano

NUSA DUA, Bali - Scientists attending a major United Nations conference on climate change on this Indonesian resort island warn that unless greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions are contained extreme geo-climatic events are only expectable.

Some 200 climatologists and scientific experts gathered for the 11-day conference, that began Monday under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), have issued a 'Bali Declaration' that urges negotiators from 180 nations to agree to reduce GhG emissions to 50 percent of 1990 levels by the year 2050.

Global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other GhGs need to decline over the next 10-15 years if heat waves, droughts, floods and storms are not to intensify, said the scientists in the declaration sponsored by the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

At risk, the declaration issued Thursday said, are coastal settlements, urban conglomerations and ecosystems with several plant and animal species facing serious danger of extinction in a business-as-usual scenario.

One of the signatories, Prof. Richard Sommerville of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, San Diego, United States, told IPS: "Climate change is real and there is no time to lose. All nations have the responsibility to act now before Kyoto (Protocol) expires in 2012.''

Sommerville said the scientists' group had no suggestions to offer at the Bali negotiations beyond what was contained in the declaration, the thrust of which was that the outcome of this conference should work to stop and reverse global warming.

"Climate science continues to say that environmental changes are occurring faster than even the best climate models have projected. Negotiations, here in Bali, must start the process of reaching a new global agreement that sets strong binding targets and includes the vast majority of the nations of the world," Sommerville stressed.

"Urgent international action must be taken in Bali considering the extreme weather-related disasters events are already happening in developing as well as industrialised countries," Sommerville added.

Environmental activists that IPS spoke with said they hoped Bali will deliver a general agreement to cut emissions substantially by 2050.

"We urge all governments to support negotiations on a post-Kyoto agreement for a stronger climate regime to further reduce their emissions by 80 percent by 2050," said Ramon Faustino Sales, convenor of the Philippines Network on Climate Change (PNCC), an alliance of non-government organisations (NGOs) that deals with advocacy on climate change and sustainable development issues.

UNFCCC executive secretary Yvo de Boer said he is optimistic that the Bali summit leaders would produce a mechanism to establish new commitment to the Kyoto agreement. "Parties need to create the 'tool box' that can reduce emissions cost-effectively and enable economic growth. The final step of the two-year negotiating process will be to define targets and the type of legal instruments that is needed to make the new international deal work," he told reporters.

De Boer expected the conference to make a proposed adaptation fund operational, "so that perhaps in as little as a year, real resources for adaptation can begin to flow to developing countries''. 'The fund is expected to finance climate change projects ranging from building sea walls to guard against surging oceans and improved water supply to drought-hit areas to training in new agricultural techniques.

The adaptation fund is based on a two percent levy on the Kyoto Protocol's clean development mechanism (CDM) projects. By 2012, when the protocol comes to an end, the fund could grow to around 300 million US dollars per year.

Drawing upwards of 10,000 participants, the conference covers four core issues; ways to reach a consensus on climate adaptation, mitigation to curb sources of GhG emissions, transfer of technology from developed to developing countries and a financing scheme to curb the impacts of climate change.

In order to encourage processes, host Indonesia has set up meetings for trade ministers on Dec. 8-9 and finance ministers on Dec. 10-11, before environment ministers hold a wrap up session on Dec.12-14.

Its best possible outcome would be a 'Bali Roadmap,' an action plan for an agreement by 2009 that would include more countries making commitments to cut emissions and broaden the scope of the Kyoto Protocol to include emissions from deforestation, said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, chairwoman of the U.N. Working Group on Indigenous People.

And the worst possible outcome? That, according to Hans Verolme, climate change director with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) -- which is pushing 30 percent reduction target by 2020 -- would include the negotiations coming up with yet another ''vague statement acknowledging the problem, but offering no concrete plan''.

© 2007 Inter Press Service

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