Rich and Poor Nations Spar Ahead of Climate Report Release

Interactions between officials highlights critical insights regarding countries' commitment to climate change

The ongoing debate as to how much responsibility rich nations should take for their outsized contribution to global warming was reignited this week as the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) prepared to release the third installment of their landmark report.

Delegates from 194 countries met in Berlin for negotiations prior to the Sunday release of the IPCC's "Summary for Policymakers" of solutions to fight global warming. In addition to the text itself, reporting of the interactions between officials highlighted critical insights regarding countries' commitment to climate change.

According to the Guardian, objections from rich nations saw the "complete removal" of a section that recommended that "hundred of billions of dollars a year would have to be paid by developed countries to developing countries, to ensure they grow their cities and economies in a non-polluting way."

Another dispute erupted, the Associated Press reports, over whether to include charts that showed emissions from large developing countries, such as China and India, are rising the fastest as they expand their economies.

"Developing countries said linking emissions to income growth would divert attention from the fact that historically, most emissions have come from the developed nations, which industrialized earlier," AP reports. The charts were removed from the summary but remain in the report, which will be published later this week.

"This is the first step for developed countries of avoiding responsibilities and saying all countries have to assume the responsibility for climate change," said Diego Pacheco, the head of Bolivia's delegation.

Further, objections from major fossil fuel producing nations including Saudi Arabia "led to the weakening of statements that ending the huge subsidies paid for oil, gas and coal would help reduce emissions," the Guardian added.

Earlier this week, a leaked version of the draft revealed that, despite the 2008 economic downturn, greenhouse gas emissions grew in the first decade of the 21st century at a rate almost double that of the previous 30 years.

This latest installment of the IPCC report highlights the "relatively modest" cost of addressing climate change and the imperative of switching to renewable sources of energy such as wind, hydropower and solar.

"The longer we delay the higher would be the cost," IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri told AP in Berlin. "But despite that, the point I'm making is that even now, the cost is not something that's going to bring about a major disruption of economic systems. It's well within our reach."

AP continues:

The IPCC [...] projected that shifting the energy system from fossil fuels to zero- or low-carbon sources including wind and solar power would reduce consumption growth by about 0.06 percentage points per year, adding that that didn't take into account the economic benefits of reduced climate change. "The loss in consumption is relatively modest," Pachauri said.

However, included in the IPCC's tally of low-carbon sources are other controversial sources such nuclear energy and bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration (BECCS). Following leak of the draft, Dr. Rachel Smolker, co-director of Biofuelwatch, slammed the panel for recommending "largely untested" and "very risky" technologies that are likely to "exacerbate" climate change, agricultural problems, water scarcity, soil erosion and energy challenges, "rather than improving them."


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