Blog about UN Climate Change Conference in Bali 3-14 December 2007 and other related issues

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Official: China acting on climate change

BALI, Indonesia, (Xinhua) -- China is committed to strengthening ability and capacity to fight climate change and to making new contribution to protecting the global climate, said a Chinese official here on Friday.

China has set very ambitious domestic goals to combat climate change and is taking a series of practical and proactive actions including setting up regulatory, legal, financial, and economic instruments, said Su Wei, director-general of the Office of National Leading Group on Climate Change under the National Development and Reform Commission.

China is committed to controlling green house gas (GHG) emissions by 2010 and endeavors are to be made to achieve such goals as reducing energy consumption per unit GDP by 20 percent; increasing the share of renewable energy to 10 percent; stabilizing nitrous oxide emissions from industrial processes at 2005 level; controlling the growth of methane emissions; increasing the forest coverage rate to 20 percent and increasing carbon sink by 50 million tons over 2005 level, Su said at a side event for the ongoing United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali.

China is closing down those backward energy intensive plants and replacing them with advanced ones. China is also implementing the 10 priority energy conservation programs targeting at more than 1,000 key energy intensive enterprise, Su told participants at the side-event "The United Nations and China: Connecting Institutions, Technology and Partnerships to Combat Climate Change".

For adaptation to climate change, China is trying hard to enhance capacity for disaster prevention, warning and mitigation. Efforts are also being made to improve the adaptation capacity in the agriculture, water resources, ecosystems, health, tourism, and other sectors. The formulation of national adaptation strategy is well underway.

China has a much higher expectation in technology development and transfer, and very much like to have an effective technology transfer mechanism under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said Su.

China's technology need covers both mitigation and adaptation technologies as China is a very diversified economy and is now in the process of industrialization.

Due to the natural endowment of resources and the increasing demand of productivity for the world market, China has an enormous task of deploying clean and less-carbon technologies and know-how for energy efficiency, renewable and nuclear energy, said Su.

Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and U.N. Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in China Khalid Malik also delivered speech at the event.

UN chief to attend Bali climate meet during Asia tour

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) — UN chief Ban Ki-moon was to embark on a four-nation Asian tour Saturday highlighted by his attendance at the climate change conference in Bali, Indonesia, his spokeswoman said Friday.

Ban was to begin with a two-day official visit to Thailand on Monday, during which he was to call on King Bhumibol Adulyadej and confer with Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, Michele Montas said.

The secretary general was also to hold talks at the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in the Thai capital before heading for Bali Tuesday.

Delegates from more than 180 nations are gathered for the December 3-14 meeting, which is tasked with setting down a blueprint to slash greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2012, when the Kyoto Protocol expires.

Thursday the UN chief said he favored a binding cap on greenhouse gas emissions but noted that the coming climate change conference in Indonesia should instead focus first on setting a timeline for a deal by 2009.

"Our ultimate goal is a comprehensive agreement on climate change that all nations can embrace," the secretary general said. "In Bali, we need to set an agenda -- a roadmap to a better future, coupled with a timeline that produces a deal by 2009."

Next Friday, Ban was to travel to Dili for an official visit to East Timor where he was to meet with government officials, women's groups and inspect camps for displaced persons as well as the UN mission which is helping the government stabilize the tiny Pacific territory.

East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, was separated from Jakarta following a 1999 independence vote marred by deadly violence inflicted by the Indonesian military and its militia allies.

Indonesia had invaded East Timor, which is formally known as Timor-Leste, in 1975.

On December 15, Ban was to head for Jakarta for a 24-hour official visit that will feature talks with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The next day, he was to make a brief stopover in Tokyo for talks with Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura before heading back to New York.

From New York, he was to fly to Paris to attend a conference of donor countries on December 17 focusing on financial and economic aid to the Palestinian Authority.

In the French capital, the UN secretary general was also to take part in a meeting of the Middle East peace diplomatic quartet as well as in talks between the four -- the United Nations, the United States, Russia and the European Union -- and the Arab League.

Ban was due back in New York on December 18.

Climate change can create jobs: UN

NAIROBI: The cost of adopting responsible policies on climate change for global economies could be balanced by the creation of millions of "green jobs," the United Nations said on Thursday.

In a statement released as thousands of delegates gathered in Bali for a key meeting on climate change, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Chief Achim Steiner called for a major boost to so-called clean industries.

"Millions of new jobs are among the many silver, if not indeed gold-plated linings on the cloud of climate change," said Steiner, also UN under-secretary general.

"Talk of environmental sustainability and climate change often emphasises the costs, but downplays the significant employment opportunities from the transition to a global economy that is not only resource efficient and without the huge emissions of greenhouse gases, but one that also restores environmental and social values," he added.

Steiner was referring to the preliminary findings of a report on "green jobs" due to be released next year and commissioned by Nairobi-based UNEP, the International Labour Organisation and the International Trade Union Confederation.

"In the US alone, the environmental industry in 2005 generated more than 5.3 million jobs - ten times the number in the US pharmaceutical industry," a UNEP statement said, quoting the report.

It also said that "by the year 2020, Germany will have more jobs in the field of environmental technologies than in its entire automotive industry."

According to UNEP, investment in renewable energy has now reached 100 billion dollars (70 billion euros) and represents 18 percent of new investments in the power sector.

"Added together, we are clearly on the edge of something quite exciting and transformational," Steiner said, urging government officials gathered in Bali to send strong signals to promote such development.

Thunder, Hail, Fire: What Does Climate Change Mean for the U.S.?

The U.S. heartland can look forward to hotter, wetter summers, according to the latest climate research. Global warming will cause more severe thunderstorms—convective cloud fronts that could produce wind gusts of 58 miles (93 kilometers) per hour, 0.75-inch (1.9-centimeter) size hailstones and even more frequent tornadoes—in the region, according to research led by atmospheric scientist Robert Trapp at Purdue University. At the same time, according to independent environmental consultant Kristie Ebi, heat waves like the one in Chicago that killed 700 people in 1995 will become more commonplace.

"Climate change is projected to increase the frequency, intensity and duration of heat waves in the Midwest," says Ebi, an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report author. "In addition, heat waves are projected to be hotter."

Of course, the U.S. Midwest is not the only region of the world that is being affected by climate change. Signs of global warming are beginning to appear everywhere: from runaway ice melt in the Arctic to slowly drowning islands in the Pacific. "Changing climate conditions are already happening," says Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, which today released a report on regional impacts in the U.S. "It is clear that there is an immediate need for strong national and international policy action."

The reports findings, in addition to increased heat waves, include:

Western Wildfires—The increasingly destructive and widespread fire seasons of recent years are likely to continue due to a combination of increased drought and land development encroaching on naturally burning landscapes, along with a climate change–induced fuel boom (enhanced plant growth and a shift to more woody species) exacerbated by fire-suppression efforts leading to more abundant plant matter to fuel violent blazes, according to ecologist Dominique Bachelet of Oregon State University in Corvallis and The Nature Conservancy. "The deadly combination of human behavior and climate change means we will likely see more wildfires like those in 2007," she says.

Gulf Coast Swamped—Human engineering efforts such as levees have reduced the ability of the wetlands of Louisiana and other Gulf Coast states to keep pace with subsiding land and rising sea levels, according to coastal scientist Robert Twilley of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. "If soil formation cannot keep pace," he says, "inundation of wetlands from rising seas will essentially drown these landscapes, and wetlands will convert to open waters." That, in turn, will make nearby communities far more vulnerable to the effects of storm surges, such as the one caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"Dead Zones" Deader—One of a number of large and growing seasonal areas in bodies of water from which all oxygen has been leeched drives the degradation of Chesapeake Bay. A "dead zone" is a place devoid of the fish and bottom dwellers, such as the crabs and other shellfish, for which the bay is famous. Marine scientist Donald Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, warns that climate change will also complicate the already difficult task of restoring this important watershed and food source. "Climate change impacts are not straightforward," he says, "but are multiple and interactive."

source: Scientifc American

New focus on climate change

The CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology will unveil a new Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research in Canberra today.

The partnership brings together researchers from around the country to study all aspects of Australian climate and weather, including bushfires, tropical cyclones, severe weather events and climate change.

The Centre's foundation director Dr Chris Mitchell said the challenges facing Australia were massive and could only be addressed through collaboration.

"For example, one of the areas of research is to continue to monitor the state of the atmosphere," he said.

"And unless we have a good understanding of how those concentrations of greenhouse gases are changing and whether or not the policy interventions we make globally are making a difference in the atmosphere we don't have the feedback loop in place.

"We're obviously going to be looking at climate change, a whole number of issues, one of them is, we've been suffering from water shortages driven by a reduction in rainfall.

"How much of this is due to climate change, how much of it is just the normal run of climate variability? We need to do some science to really understand that."

source: ABC News

U.S. must act fast to slow climate change

Upon arriving at an international conference on global warming in Bali this week, a key U.S. representative sheepishly promised not to get in the way of aggressive new measures to collectively limit greenhouse gases.

"We're not here to be a roadblock," U.S. climate negotiator Harlan Watson told reporters on the island-nation. "We're committed to a successful conclusion, and we're going to work very constructively to make that happen."

Despite that assurance, Watson's statement is a rueful admission that our country — still one of the top producers of those heat-trapping gases — has effectively impeded progress in the past. Unfortunately, that hasn't changed much.

Delegates from about 190 nations are in Bali for the next two weeks to begin forging a new consensus on one of the most profound challenges of our generation: how to reduce rising levels of carbon dioxide from human activities. Scientists have concluded that higher concentrations of atmospheric CO2, mainly from burning of fossil fuels for energy, are playing havoc with the global climate and could threaten life as we know it.

The goal of conferees is to craft a workable plan of action that will eventually replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty that pledged 36 signatories to lower their carbon emissions over time. That treaty, which the U.S. Senate never ratified, is scheduled to expire in 2012.

The challenge is urgent. Floods, species extinctions, extreme droughts and melting glaciers are evidence of dramatic climate changes already under way. The symptoms could get worse unless prompt steps are taken within the next decade or sooner to reverse course.

The major sticking point, at least for the United States, has always been accepting mandatory caps on smokestack and tailpipe emissions that have been identified as the worst culprits. The Bush administration and influential American lawmakers have long claimed that binding limits on greenhouse gases would unduly burden the American economy.

The White House has also resisted mandatory caps on the grounds that China and India, which have also emerged as major sources of CO2, have steadfastly rejected them as well. However, any new global climate treaty must include even more stringent carbon controls if it is to have an effect long term.

The administration is correct to insist that every industrialized nation participate in any climate change treaty going forward. Last year, for the first time in modern history, China's rapidly expanding economy produced more carbon dioxide emissions than the United States; India isn't far behind. (In per capita terms, though, the United States still far outpaces China and India.)

However, waiting for other nations to clean up their act before we do likewise is irresponsible and borders on juvenile. It's the equivalent of a petulant teenager complaining that he should be allowed to play in moving traffic because his peers can get away with it.

The world is right to expect leadership on this issue from our country, which accounts for 25 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. But if delegates are waiting for the Bush administration to assume that role, they need to look elsewhere.

Congress is working on a bipartisan climate change bill that could include mandatory limits on carbon, but prospects for its passage are hard to predict. Frustrated by inaction in Washington, various state and local governments, universities, private companies and average citizens from coast to coast have begun to tackle climate issues on their own initiative.

For example, California is unilaterally trying to force automakers to raise their fuel efficiency standards, while states in the Northeast have formed a coalition focused on reducing emissions from coal-fired power plants. In a recent Supreme Court ruling, justices admonished the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to regulate carbon dioxide emissions as an air pollutant.

Even America's corporate interests, whom the White House insists it's trying to protect from onerous carbon regulations, are growing impatient.

In an announcement timed to coincide with the start of the Bali conference, 33 of the nation's top corporations have called for an immediate construction moratorium on coal plants and other steps to mitigate the effects of global warming.

Another encouraging development occurred last week when the newly elected prime minister of Australia, the only other westernized nation opposed to Kyoto, quickly signed the agreement.

But short of a last-minute change of heart — and policy — by the Bush administration, Americans may have to wait until the next election before their government fully joins the world community in addressing global warming.


United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali

The Conference, hosted by the Government of Indonesia, brings together representatives of over 180 countries together with observers from intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations, and the media. The two week period includes the sessions of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, its subsidiary bodies as well as the Meeting of the Parties of the Kyoto Protocol. A ministerial segment in the second week will conclude the Conference.

What is needed is a breakthrough in the form of a roadmap for a future international agreement on enhanced global action to fight climate change in the period after 2012, the year the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expires. The main goal of the Bali Conference is threefold: to launch negotiations on a climate change deal for the post-2012 period, to set the agenda for these negotiations and to reach agreement on when these negotiations will have to be concluded.

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