Crucial Climate Change Agreement Reached After Fierce Debate

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Agence France Presse

Crucial Climate Change Agreement Reached After Fierce Debate

by
Agence France Presse staff

BEIJING - Climate change experts agreed Friday on measures the world can take to combat global warming, following intense debate and marathon talks at a crucial UN conference here, participants said.

Scientists and other leading authorities from 120 nations finally achieved a consensus after an exhausting session that lasted from Thursday morning until 4:30 am on Friday (2130 GMT Thursday), French delegation chief Marc Gillet told AFP. 0504 03

"It is over. The report has been accepted," Gillet said.

The delegates, from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, regrouped a few hours later and formally approved the report around 10:40 am (0340 GMT), another participant told AFP on condition of anonymity.

They were scheduled to wrap up on Thursday night but a few key sticking points and the sheer complexity of the document put the event into overtime, according to participants.

One sticking point subject to debate until the end was a push by China to highlight that the rich world was responsible for the vast bulk of greenhouse gases that cause global warming, one European delegate said.

Another point of dispute was how much importance to give nuclear energy in the mix of new technologies that the world should depend upon as it moves away from fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gases, he said.

The report is the third and last from the IPCC this year, after the first two looked into the evidence and looming devastating impacts of global warming.

It is scheduled to be released to the public at a press conference here at 1:00 pm (0600 GMT).

Although details of the final report were not immediately available, it is widely expected to warn that world leaders have little time to waste in tackling climate change.

However, it will also emphasise that the tools for reducing greenhouse gas emissions already exist and many can be quickly implemented.

A draft summary of the IPCC report seen by AFP calls for a greater use of renewable energies such as solar, wind, and hydro-power, as well as ways to use energy more efficiently.

Storing carbon dioxide, the biggest greenhouse gas, underground is also under consideration, as are tariffs and other economic mechanisms to make using fossil fuels more expensive and renewable energies much cheaper.

Nevertheless, there was fierce debate at the meeting all week, which began on Monday, and it was not immediately clear as to what had been changed from the draft summary.

The costs of reducing greenhouse gasses that cause global warming was one of the biggest disputes, with China the leading voice in expressing concerns about the economic impacts of cutting back, delegates said.

China sought more than 10 amendments to the draft report, saying it will cost more and be harder to reduce emissions than detailed in the early draft, according to documents submitted to the IPCC and seen by AFP.

A top priority in tackling climate change is how to cut the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which are measured in parts per million (ppm). Today's levels are close to 400 ppm.

The draft of the report says that if the world wants to stabilise carbon dioxide levels at 640 ppm by 2030, it would cost 0.2 percent of average global gross domestic product (GDP) in that year.

A more ambitious target of 550 ppm, the draft says, would cost 0.6 percent of GDP, and stabilising CO2 in the atmosphere at 445 to 535 ppm by 2030 -- an unlikely scenario -- would be about three percent of GDP.

Environmental groups warn that even at 535 ppm, the world will warm to an extremely dangerous level, causing droughts, floods and other disasters, while at 640 ppm the impacts could be catastrophic.

Copyright © 2007 AFP.

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