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Calls for Climate Action as Kenya Prepares to Host Global Meet
Published on Thursday, November 2, 2006 by
Calls for Climate Action as Kenya Prepares to Host Global Meet
by Haider Rizvi

UNITED NATIONS - Calls for tougher action on global warming are intensifying as policy makers embark for Kenya, where weeklong talks on climate change are due to start Monday.

From British Prime Minister Tony Blair to former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern, top UN climate change official Yvo de Boer and numerous international pressure groups, demand for further cuts in greenhouse gas emissions is on the rise.

As study after study has validated concerns about the threat posed by global warming to human health, economies, and natural resources, many people seem to be increasingly convinced that industrialized countries need not only to make good on existing commitments to cut emissions, but also to take new initiatives to address climate change.

The British government added to the pressure Monday, when it released a major study concluding that the world's economy and population faced dire consequences if governments fail to take urgent measures to curb global warming.

''Whilst there is much more we need to understand, both in science and economics, we know enough now to be clear about the magnitude of the risk, the timetable for action, and how to act effectively,'' said Stern, who led the 700-page study entitled The Economics of Climate Change.

Regarding possible risks posed by the danger of global warming, Stern and his colleagues said that floods from rising sea levels could displace some 100 million people and lead to the extinction of 40 percent of wildlife species.

The Stern warning came on the same day as the UN secretariat for the Framework Convention on Climate Change, also known as Kyoto Protocol, released its own report saying that despite efforts to abide by treaty obligations, industrialized countries were falling behind on agreed targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

De Boer and his colleagues at the secretariat termed this a worrying trend and, in their report, said that eastern and central European countries in particular had increased emissions by 4.1 percent between 2000 and 2004.

''This means that industrialized countries will have to intensify their efforts to implement strong policies which reduce greenhouse emissions,'' de Boer said in a statement.

The treaty on climate change requires 35 industrialized countries and the European Community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

However, that does not apply to the United States, even though it happens to be the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. The administration of President George W. Bush stands opposed to the treaty, saying that climate change science needs more research and that the pact also exempts emerging industrial powerhouses China and India.

Among major industrialized nations, the United States and Australia--the world's largest exporter of coal, a leading source of emissions--remain the only holdouts against the pact.

Given the high stakes involved--scientists warn that the world has fewer than 10 years to stabilize its climate--some observers here say the negotiations in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, on the Kyoto treaty's future are likely to prove tough and crucial.

The talks' location is significant. Many look upon Africa as the continent most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Some studies have suggested that Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya, Africa's symbolic and tallest mountains, could lose their ice cover in 25-50 years if global emissions are not held in check.

Researchers have said that a mere 2-3 degree increase in temperature could lead to a 30-40 percent decline in crop yields across Africa. This, in a continent where small-scale farming produces most of the food and 70 percent of jobs.

Climate change already is having serious impacts on peoples' lives across Africa and is set to get much worse unless urgent action is taken, according to Friends of the Earth (FOE).

The environmental pressure group cited a separate study, carried out by a UK-based coalition of development groups, which found that nearly one-third of sub-Saharan Africans are undernourished, compared with 17 percent of people in all developing countries.

Researchers said they feared that possible disasters as a result of climate change would pose new threats to food security on the continent.

''There must be a greater commitment to the needs of the most vulnerable countries, which are already bearing the brunt of climate change,'' said FOE International climate campaigner Catherine Pearce.

Pearce's organization is among groups trying to build pressure on the governments of industrialized countries to increase funding for developing countries' initiatives for sustainable development.

Pearce said FOE would like to see industrialized countries make good on their existing commitments to reduce emissions by 2012 and to forge a clear work program for negotiations over what to do after the end of the period covered by the Kyoto pact.

Organizers said delegates from some 190 countries were expected to participate in next week's talks in Nairobi.

Copyright © 2006


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