U.N. climate talks focus on business end
By William J. Kole (Associated Press) - August 26, 2007
It’s the business end of climate change: ensuring that the $20 trillion the world will spend on energy over the next two decades is as environmentally friendly as possible.
This week’s latest round of talks on global warming, which get under way in Vienna on Monday, will focus on giving governments and private investors tips and incentives to keep a lid on greenhouse gas emissions.
“We need to ‘climate-proof’ economic growth,” Yvo de Boer, the U.N.’s top climate official, told reporters Sunday.
More than 1,000 delegates were gathering in the Austrian capital for discussions on advising nations, corporations, bankers and public institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund, on how to make the most of their energy investments.
A new report by the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change says additional investments of about $210 billion a year will be needed — mostly in the developing world — to maintain greenhouse gas emissions at their current levels until 2030.
“If the funding available … remains at its current level and continues to rely mainly on voluntary contributions, it will not be sufficient,” the report warns.
Among the hurdles detailed in the report: The world will remain heavily dependent on fossil fuels, meaning it must find new and affordable ways to burn coal and oil more cleanly and recapture carbon dioxide emissions.
“The war against climate change is not a war against oil. It’s a war against emissions,” de Boer said.
Experts say developing countries will need billions more each year to help them adapt to changes in their climates.
An example is the southern African nation of Lesotho. The impoverished country relies heavily on agriculture, yet it is being hit with twice as many droughts as it endured in the 1980s, Lesotho Environment Minister Monyane Moleleki said.
Complicating matters: Since 2000, January and February have become progressively warmer.
“When the rain does come, it comes in deluges — torrents — useless for our agriculture,” he said, appealing to industrialized nations for technology and resources to help his country adapt and overcome what he called “a very dangerous situation.”
“Climate change has been spooky to say the least,” he said.
Maria Magdalena Brito-Neves, environment minister of Cape Verde, a chain of islands off western Africa’s coast, said climate change has also produced chronic drought and threatened delicate ecosystems.
“We are very vulnerable,” she told journalists.
The Vienna meeting, which runs through Friday, is part of a flurry of talks leading up to a major international climate summit in Bali, Indonesia, in December.
De Boer said participants would “take the temperature” of global climate-control negotiations before two other key sessions that will precede the Bali conference — a Sept. 24 meeting at U.N. headquarters in New York, and a meeting three days later in Washington of the world’s 15 biggest polluters, including the U.S., China and India.
The U.N. is leading the push to discuss a successor agreement to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.
The treaty requires 35 industrial nations to cut their global-warming emissions 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. The European Union has set a new goal of reducing greenhouse gases by 20 percent by 2020 and by another 10 percent if other nations join in.
“It’s critical to have all the partners on board,” including the U.S., which has not ratified Kyoto, said Josef Proell, Austria’s environment minister. “We need more than Sunday sermons. We need clear measures.”