Tag Archive | "Climate Change"

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Hope in 100,000 Flavours

Posted on 13 December 2009 by editor

One of many marches Saturday in Copenhagen: Credit: Nasseem Ackbarally/IPS

One of many marches Saturday in Copenhagen: Credit: Nasseem Ackbarally/IPS

By Terna Gyuse*

COPENHAGUE (IPS/TerraViva) The midpoint of a conference on climate change in which tremendous hope has been invested; unsurprising then that demonstrations of popular desire for decisive action against global warming took place around the world. Continue Reading

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Ultimatum for the Earth

Posted on 12 December 2009 by editor

Hopenhagen. Credit: Servaas van den Bosch

Hopenhagen. Credit: Servaas van den Bosch

By Ignacio Ramonet, from Paris *

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) If Earth were the size of a football, the thickness of the atmosphere would be about two millimetres. We have forgotten the incredible thinness of this layer, which we tend to believe can absorb an unlimited quantity of toxic gases. As a result, we have created around our planet a filthy gaseous blanket that captures heat and literally functions as a greenhouse. Continue Reading

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Asian Delegates Want ‘Political Accord’, For Now

Posted on 12 December 2009 by editor

By Athar Parvaiz

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) Most Asian delegations to the ongoing global negotiations on climate change are insisting that a political agreement must be reached to pave the way for a legally binding treaty in the near future.

“Though we realise that it is highly unlikely to arrive at a consensus here in Copenhagen for a legally binding treaty, we are quite hopeful of a political accord,” Akira Yamada, Japan’s deputy director-general of the ministry of foreign affairs, told IPS. He said this would lay the foundation for a legally binding treaty.

Akira stressed that Japan wants a treaty that should be signed by both the United States and China, “the largest emitters of greenhouse gases,” he said.

Most negotiators from the Asia-Pacific region interviewed  by IPS said they would only settle for a political accord, believing it will ensure the adoption of a legally binding treaty. But pressure groups are insisting that a legally enforceable agreement should be the outcome of negotiations on climate change as “mere political promises would not do.”

“A politically binding treaty amounts to a love affair while the legally binding treaty is a proper wedlock. This is the simplest expression one can use to tell the difference between the two,” said Mike Shanahan, senior press officer at the London-based independent policy research centre International Institute of Environment and Development.

“No government at any time in any country can deviate from the legally binding treaty while promises through political statements are no guarantee,” he added.

“Although the speed of negotiations is very slow, we are making efforts to make a political agreement, which would later become a legal agreement,” said Kim Chan Woo, director general of South Korea’s ministry of environment.

Both least developed and developing countries want the industrialised nations to pay their “climate debt” through funding commitments and measures to reduce emissions drastically while allow the developed countries to grow.

A Danish draft of a climate change agreement, leaked to the British newspaper ‘The Guardian’ early this week, was summarily rejected by the developing countries, because it tilts the balance of mitigation obligations away from the developed nations, deemed a violation of the spirit and substance of the United Nations Framework Convention and the Bali Action Plan.

“The Danish text is an extremely dangerous text for developing countries. It robs them of an equitable and fair share of the atmospheric space,” said Lumumba Di-Aping, who chairs the largest of the negotiation blocks — G77/China, comprising more than 130 countries.

“We know that Denmark’s prime minister is desperate for a deal in Copenhagen, but it should be a balanced deal,” he said. “We hope that common sense and wisdom will prevail.”

Countries like China and India reacted to the draft in the same manner, saying it was not acceptable to them. The backlash ultimately prompted the Danish government to say that it “was a discussion paper, not a draft.”

“We feel that both the developed and developing countries should contribute to combating climate change, but the nature of contribution should be different,” South Korea’s Kim told IPS.

Indonesian delegate Angus Purnomo said his country has begun enforcing certain climate mitigation measures like reducing emissions. “But we need financial and technological assistance from developed countries. And this is the forum where we should get us a guarantee of every kind of assistance in black and white.”

“We have come here to engage very constructively in the multilateral negotiations under the United Nations system, and we are confident that there will be good outcomes, which must be consistent with the convention principles,” Vijay Sharma, a delegate from India, told IPS.

“We are having discussions on two separate tracks: one on long-term visions, Long-term Cooperative Action, under which mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology would be dealt with. And on the other hand, we are discussing how to enhance and get quantitative targets from Annex 1 [or industrialised] countries under the Kyoto Protocol.”

Less than a week is left for the negotiators to arrive at conclusions before the high-level segments of the ongoing climate talks. Developing countries, particularly the more vulnerable among them, are keen to see the foundations of a legally binding treaty here in the Danish capital.

“We are not responsible at all for the global warming. But when we look at who is suffering the most, it is the least developed countries like Bangladesh and other small island states that are going to suffer the most,” Manzoor-ul-Hanan Khan, the coordinator of the Bangladeshi delegation, said in an interview with IPS.

“Therefore we want a written assurance from the developed countries that they would make efforts to secure our future.”

“Being a poor country, we also want financial and technological assistance for mitigation and adaptation so that we achieve development without any environmental costs,” he said. “We have only one earth; there we need an effective treaty to save it.”

Purushottam Ghimire, a negotiator from Nepal, said his country is facing a major challenge, with melting glaciers threatening millions. “We are here for a consensus and concrete agreement,” he stressed.

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Systematic Suppression of Systemic Solutions?

Posted on 11 December 2009 by editor

Credit: Claudius

Credit: Claudius

By Ashok Khosla *

COPENHAGUE (IPS/TerraViva) Systemic failures, such as sudden changes in climate, accelerated loss of biodiversity and rapid growth of poverty and population, can only be solved by systemic solutions that address the deeper, underlying causes of these failures.

Moreover, since many of these problems are inter-related, they generally have to be solved together – where possible – to get maximum all-round benefits at least cost; when necessary, to minimize the likelihood of ameliorating one while worsening the others. Continue Reading

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Act Now to Save The Planet

Posted on 11 December 2009 by editor

Danish children planting trees. Credit: Ana Libisch/IPS

Danish children planting trees. Credit: Ana Libisch/IPS

By Mohan Munasinghe*

COPENHAGUE (IPS/TerraViva) The climate is changing faster than forecast only two years ago: 2,700 experts at the IARU Climate Congress in March 2009 warned that the IPCC predictions made in 2007 are already out of date, for example 3 degrees C global temperature rise by 2100. The latest information indicates more severe warming exceeding 4-5 C.

Rising temperatures are already penalising the poor most, who ironically contributed least to the problem. Global warming is impacting global food and water supplies, raising sea levels, melting ice sheets and increasing the number and intensity of severe weather events. Continue Reading

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Q&A: ‘Nuclear Energy Is Not a Solution to Climate Change’

Posted on 09 December 2009 by editor

Neena Bhandari interviews DR SUE WAREHAM, proponent of a nuclear-free world

MELBOURNE (IPS/TerraViva) – As the threat of nuclear weapons looms large over the very existence of life on earth, Dr Sue Wareham, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear weapons’ (ICAN) Australian board member, is calling for a speedy abolition of these weapons and the rejection of nuclear power as a solution to climate change.

Speaking at the sessions on nuclear abolition and disarmament at the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions here, Wareham said the power of religion should be harnessed to bring peace in the world through disarmament, abolition of nuclear weapons, eradication of poverty and action on climate change.

The six-day Parliament, which ends on Dec 9, is a gathering of religious and spiritual communities from different parts of the world to discuss issues relating to peace, diversity and sustainability.

A medical practitioner and immediate past president of the Medical Association for Prevention of War (MAPW) in Australia, Dr Wareham believes that her work with MAPW is fundamental to her commitment to the protection of human life and the improvement of human well-being.

In an interview with IPS, she expounds on her passionate pursuit of a nuclear-free society.

IPS: Why is there a sense of urgency to abolish nuclear weapons now?

SUE WAREHAM: One of the reasons this issue is becoming increasingly urgent is because the five yearly review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) will be coming up in May 2010. It is absolutely clear that unless there are moves there towards disarmament and clear signals from the nuclear weapon states that they are willing to take steps towards getting rid of their weapons, we won’t be able to prevent the spread of these weapons further. So nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-Proliferation need to go hand in hand.

IPS: ICAN’s goal is a Nuclear Weapons Convention, a treaty to prohibit the development, testing, production, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons. Is it a feasible and achievable solution?

SW:  It is definitely feasible, and it is necessary. We are calling on people across the world to put pressure on their respective governments to promote a Nuclear Weapons Convention at the NPT review conference next year. We see the convention as the most promising route for the world to take towards nuclear weapons abolition.

It sets the same rules for all countries and that gets around one of the major difficulties at the moment, which is that there is one set of rules for countries that already have nuclear weapons and another set of rules for those that don’t.

IPS: Is nuclear power, being carbon-free, the panacea for climate change problems and should it be a substitute for coal-fuelled power stations?

SW:  We don’t agree nuclear power is a sensible way forward in response to climate change. Nuclear power cannot address the issue of climate change. There are physical limitations to the number of nuclear power stations that could be built in the next decade or so.

Even if there is further development of nuclear power, it will be far too slow because it takes 10 to 15 years to get a nuclear power plant at a point of producing electricity. We need action faster than that.

Particularly important also is the links with weapons. We know there are definite links between the civilian and military fuel cycles, and that is a particular problem that will remain as long as nuclear power is there.

There is also the problem of nuclear waste to which no country has a solution yet. We regard it as unacceptable that this generation should leave our waste to future generations. The technological and practical reality is that we don’t have any way of separating nuclear waste from the environment.

Our message is that the world really needs to put serious and significant funding into further promotion, development and implementation of renewable energies—solar, wind, geothermal and biofuels, which have been underused and under-resourced.

IPS: Has the United Nations succeeded in curbing the spread of nuclear weapons or is it held to ransom by permanent members of the Security Council?

SW:  The United Nations General Assembly every year has a good number of resolutions in favour of nuclear disarmament and is really trying to push this forward. I think we need to distinguish the U.N. as a whole from some of its member states in the Security Council.

All five members of the U.N. Security Council have nuclear weapons, which is an extraordinary thought that we are entrusting the security of the world to the hands of the five nations that have the worst weapons of terror.

IPS: When it comes to possession of these weapons, aren’t there double standards for the haves and have-nots?

SW: There are about 25,000 nuclear weapons in the world today in the hands of nine countries, and these nine nations really hold the world to ransom. What we notice is that a number of the countries that keep nuclear weapons are also most vocal about calling for other nations not to acquire them.

In addition to these nine countries, there are a group of countries, including Australia, which claim to be protected by a ‘Nuclear Umbrella’ (or middle powers lending bases, ports and infrastructure for the U.S. nuclear war-fighting apparatus, lending credence to the idea that nuclear weapons bring security), and we regard that as a problem also. For example, the Australian Government calls on other nations such as Iran not to acquire nuclear weapons and yet Australia claims that we still need to be sheltered under the ‘Nuclear Umbrella’.

IPS: Why has humanity been so slow and ineffective in meeting the challenge posed by nuclear arms?

SW: Nations that have nuclear weapons have been allowed to justify their weapons by the theory of “deterrence,” which is claimed to prevent wars between nuclear-armed countries. But it is a failed theory, because, as we are seeing, if some nations believe they have a right to these weapons, then other nations will claim the same right.  It is a recipe for every nation to have the world’s most destructive weapons.

What’s needed is for all nations to abide by the same rule, which is that all weapons of mass destruction – especially nuclear weapons, which are the most terrifying of all – must be abolished.

IPS: What can religious and spiritual communities do to meet the challenge of abolishing these weapons of mass annihilation?

SW: We see the issue of nuclear weapons as one of the great ethical issues of our time. It is an issue that religions of the world really need to come to grips with because nuclear weapons are the most destructive and threatening weapons to have ever been created.

Therefore, we regard people, who are interested and passionate about ethical issues, have a responsibility of calling for abolition of nuclear weapons.

IPS: As a practicing medical doctor, what drives you to take up the issue of nuclear disarmament with such passion, and what fuels your zeal to see a nuclear-free world?

SW:  Nuclear weapons are so utterly destructive. They make a mockery of what we do as medical practitioners, saving one life at a time. These weapons threaten thousands of lives at once and even future generations.

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Beware of Carbon Trading Trap – Activists

Posted on 08 December 2009 by editor

Activists with poster depicting clock ticking on climate change. Credit: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS

Activists with poster depicting clock ticking on climate change. Credit: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS

By Claudia Ciobanu

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) – As the climate change summit in the Danish capital moves into a second day, environmental groups warn that by pushing carbon offsetting and trade, governments of developed countries are bypassing their responsibility to significantly reduce domestic emissions and  provide aid to developing countries. Continue Reading

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Q&A: “We Are Moving Towards Modest Cooperation”

Posted on 07 December 2009 by editor

Mario Osava interviews Brazilian physicist JOSÉ GOLDEMBERG, key figure at 1992 Earth Summit

RIO DE JANEIRO

José Goldemberg. Credit: American Association for the Advancement of Science

José Goldemberg. Credit: American Association for the Advancement of Science

(IPS/TerraViva) – Vested interests in fossil fuels have blocked major steps against global warming so far, according to José Goldemberg, who has played a leading role at key times in the climate crisis facing humanity.

One of the driving forces behind the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, when he was the Brazilian interim environment minister, Goldemberg says Brazil today lacks the leadership it exercised at the Earth Summit and in the subsequent negotiations that produced the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, because its current proposals are so lacking in vision.

A respected energy expert and winner of the 2008 Blue Planet Prize, a kind of environmental Nobel Prize awarded by the Japanese Asahi Glass Foundation, the 81-year-old physicist continues to work as a professor at the Institute of Electrotechnics and Energy at the University of São Paulo.

In this interview with TerraViva, Goldemberg said he expects an outcome of “modest cooperation” from the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-15), which opened Monday in Copenhagen.

TERRAVIVA: There is a tremendous difference between perceptions of climate change in 1992, and today. And carbon dioxide emissions have risen a great deal, in rich countries as well as in emerging ones, in spite of the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol. Were we naïve about it? Did science take too long to reveal the seriousness of the problem?

JOSÉ GOLDEMBERG: The 1992 “vision” was rather naïve. At the same time, we did not expect so much resistance from fossil fuel producers against changing their technologies and adopting newer and less polluting ones.

This explains why emissions reductions targets in the industrialised countries, spelled out in the Kyoto Protocol, have not been met. And developing countries, which had no binding reduction targets and were only responsible for 30 percent of global emissions in 1990, are now emitting 50 percent, but they are reluctant to take on commitments to reduce them.

This is partly due to the fact that the consequences of global warming take time to make themselves felt, so there is no very strong sense that urgent action is required.

TV: A change in the global energy mix cannot wait until oil runs out, let alone coal reserves. What can be done to overcome the inertia that is preventing a transition to a low-carbon economy?

JG: The assessment reports based on expert research published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the evidence that the signs of global warming are becoming clearer, are helping to motivate countries. There is no doubt, for instance, that the frequency of extreme climate events has increased in recent years.

TV: Can nuclear energy contribute to the solution?

JG: Yes, if the other problems associated with it are solved, such as safe disposal of radioactive waste and nuclear proliferation. These problems are different from those created by fossil fuels, and they are far from being solved, as can be seen in the cases of Iran and North Korea.

TV: What blocked the approval of your proposal of a target of 10 percent renewable energies in the global energy mix, which you presented at the Rio+10 conference, held in Johannesburg in 2002?

JG: The resistance of coal and oil producing countries, including the United States. The European Union enthusiastically supported my proposal, and in fact still does, and is now planning to generate 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

TV: Why has ethanol not taken off as a fuel, as the Brazilian government wishes? Have its prospects changed, in the face of the near panic caused by climate change?

JG: Ethanol has not taken off because the United States and the European Union impose tariff barriers to protect their domestic industries, which produce fuel alcohol from maize and wheat at a cost two or three times higher than Brazilian ethanol made from sugarcane.

TV: What are your expectations of the COP 15 conference? Is the world moving towards another “cold war,” as Graciela Chichilnisky (an Argentine-American scientist who made valuable contributions to the Kyoto Protocol) claims, or towards cooperation, since nobody wins from global warming?

JG: I think we are moving towards modest cooperation, because even China and India are planning to do something to reduce their emissions, although not as much as is needed.

TV: Has Brazil taken on a leadership role again on environmental issues, as it did in Rio in 1992, and in Kyoto in 1997?

JG: No, because the Brazilian proposal on its emissions reductions to COP 15 was formulated belatedly, and is voluntary rather than binding, so it has been received with a certain lack of trust. It’s easy to promise to reduce deforestation in the Amazon by 80 percent by 2020, but it’s harder to keep that promise.

In addition, the Brazilian proposal is conditional, rather vaguely, on financial support from industrialised countries. In contrast, the target adopted by the southern state of São Paulo, which is to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent in comparison to 2005  levels, is clear, objective, and was well received.

(END/2009)

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CHINA: One Green Leap Forward, Two Steps Backward

Posted on 07 December 2009 by editor

By Antoaneta Bezlova

BEIJING  (IPS/TerraViva)  With low carbon seen as the new buzzword for government promotion and backed by Beijing as the new economic growth engine, China is poised for a green leap forward. But the political overtones of the drive and the zeal of local governments jumping on the low carbon bandwagon have raised concerns that the new green campaign may result in overcapacity, worsening China’s frictions with its trade partners. Continue Reading

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Answers Needed

Posted on 06 December 2009 by editor

esfera_hopenhagen_servaas1

Credit: Servaas van den Bosch/IPS

By Diana Cariboni

MONTEVIDEO (IPS/TerraViva) – The sensation that Copenhagen today reflects humanity’s diversity is powerful: more than 15,000 people have flocked to the Danish capital to talk about climate change. In the front line are the ambassadors, politicians, negotiators and technocrats.

Then there are the international bureaucrats, corporate lobbyists, conservationists and nature lovers. Continue Reading

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Missing Gender Dimension

Posted on 04 December 2009 by editor

Sabina Zaccaro interviews IUCN gender advisor Lorena Aguilar Revelo

Lorena Aguilar Revelo. Credit: U.N.

Lorena Aguilar Revelo. Credit: U.N.

ROME  (IPS/TerraViva) Women are known to be innovators when it comes to responding to climate change. The question is how to ensure that the role of women and gender equality are reflected in climate change agreements.

Women in poor countries will be the most affected by climate change effects, according to the 2009 State of the World Population report, released last month by the United Nations Population Fund. This is because women comprise the majority of the world’s farmers, have access to fewer income-earning opportunities, and have limited or no access to technology. Continue Reading

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Q&A: “Copenhagen Should Target the Developed World”

Posted on 04 December 2009 by editor

Andrea Bordé interviews DJIMON HOUNSOU, U.N. Goodwill Ambassador for Climate Change

Actor Djimon Hounsou opens the U.N.Summit on Climate Change in September 2009 with a quote from the late astronomer Carl Sagan.

Actor Djimon Hounsou opens the U.N.Summit on Climate Change in September 2009 with a quote from the late astronomer Carl Sagan. Credit: UN Photo/Marco Castro

UNITED NATIONS (IPS/TerraViva) -  Although a professional actor by trade, Djimon Hounsou takes his role as a U.N. goodwill ambassador for climate change seriously, and hopes to see a strong mandate reached in Copenhagen that puts the spotlight on developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Terraviva spoke with Hounsou about his hopes for what will come out of the climate change conference in Copenhagen.

He believes that developed countries should take responsibility for their share of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, which is currently above 60 percent, but he also hopes to see developing countries launch their own initiatives to combat climate change. Continue Reading

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OIL: A Market Psychology of Fear?

Posted on 04 December 2009 by editor

Oil_well_public_domainDec7_By Chris Arsenault

VANCOUVER  (IPS/TerraViva) With or without a binding deal at the climate talks in Copenhagen, it seems the world may have to cut its oil consumption, as emerging geological and economic trends limit the availability and affordability of petroleum.
Back in the 1970s, Saudi Arabia’s flamboyant oil minister Sheik Ahmed Zaki Yamani articulated what has become conventional wisdom for policymakers around the planet: ”The Stone Age didn’t end for lack of stone, and the oil age will end long before the world runs out of oil.”

Today, an increasing chorus of voices is challenging that prediction. While the world isn’t running out of oil in any absolute sense, a daunting picture of the availability and thus affordability of supply compared with expected demand increases is beginning to emerge.

“In 2015, the world’s consumption of oil will likely be closing in on 100 million barrels per day, roughly 22 percent higher than the current level – which is a relatively high annual growth for the oil industry,” states a briefing marked “confidential” from Canada’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), obtained by TerraViva through a Freedom of Information Request.

The censored briefings, created in collaboration with other Canadian government agencies, paint a troubling picture of future energy security that has recently been corroborated by other sources.

In 2005, the International Energy Agency (IEA), the Paris-based multinational information centre created after the 1973 energy crisis, predicted that world oil production could rise to 120 million barrels per day by 2030, up from 85 million bpd in 2008.

The IEA “was forced to reduce” its predictions on possible world supply “to 116 million and then 105 million last year,” according to a senior official in the organisation, who spoke with the Guardian newspaper in early November on the condition of anonymity.

The U.S. Department of Energy, through its International Energy Outlook (IEO), has also been quietly scaling down its numbers on possible supply. In 2007, the agency predicted that the world would be able to pump 107.2 million barrels per day in 2030. In summer 2009, it drastically reduced its supply predictions to 93.1 million barrels per day.

In its latest forecast, released Nov. 10, the IEA predicted that world oil supply would hit 105 million barrels per day by 2030. Even with those figures, which many analysts, including some inside the IEA, consider overly optimistic, there is likely to be a shortfall of some 11 million barrels per day by 2030.

“Every year we lose four million barrels a day [of production due to depletion],” said Jeff Rubin, the former chief economist with CIBC World Markets.

“Over the next five years, we are going to have to find 20 million barrels a day of new production, just so that we can [continue to] consume what we consume today,” Rubin told TerraViva in June.

Rubin is a believer in the peak oil theory – the idea that oil production will reach a maximum point and then fall fairly sharply as demand outpaces possible supply.

Gasoline and transportation oil can be manufactured from coal and other petroleum sources, meaning the world will not run out in any absolute sense, but the costs – both economic and environmental – will be far higher than conventional crude.

“Groups and individuals speaking out about forthcoming world oil supply challenges are frequently stereotyped as a fringe element with little knowledge about the oil industry,” said the Sweden-based Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas in a Nov. 24 news release. “But their warnings are increasingly supported by some surprising allies: senior petroleum industry officials, consultants and analysts.”

Christophe de Margerie, CEO of Total SA, Europe’s third largest oil company, believes the world will never be able to produce more than 89 million barrels per day.

ConocoPhillips’ chief executive Jim Mulva told a conference in London last month that he doubted producers would be able to meet long-term oil demand. Both oil executives challenged IEA predictions.

The senior IEA official who blew the whistle on the organisation’s tendency to overstate supply says the group is manipulating data in order to placate financial markets.

“Many inside the organisation (IEA) believe that maintaining oil supplies at even 90 million to 95 million barrels a day would be impossible, but there are fears that panic could spread on the financial markets if the figures were brought down further,” a senior IEA official told the Guardian.

According to the confidential RCMP documents, “[censored]… a market psychology of fear will continue to place a ‘geopolitical premium’ on crude oil, keeping prices for oil products higher than market fundamentals alone would dictate.”

It is this fear that the IEA is trying to placate. However, many believe a binding deal at Copenhagen seems like a more reasonable approach to reduce oil dependency than the current policy of fudging the numbers.

(END/2009)

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CHINA/INDIA: ‘Business as Usual’ for Carbon Emission Targets

Posted on 04 December 2009 by editor

Analysis by Darryl D’Monte *

MUMBAI, India (IPS/TerraViva) – China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, has stolen a march over the rest of Asia in unilaterally declaring its carbon intensity cuts a day after President Barack Obama did late last month for the U.S.

The U.S. has proposed a 17 percent cut below 2005 levels by 2020 -less than one-seventh of what the European Union has committed. India, the fifth largest emitter, was forced to fall in line, so as not to be seen as recalcitrant.

Both China and India have toed the U.S. line in citing their voluntary reductions from 2005 levels, whereas the Kyoto Protocol regime has stipulated emission cuts from 1990. This puts China’s offer of reducing its carbon intensity by 40 to 45 percent by 2020 and India’s 20 to 25 percent in a different perspective.

Since emissions have been rising in these two giant economies between 1990 and 2005, the reductions are not so ambitious and do not deviate that much from business as usual.

China has also taken the lead in cobbling together a new BASIC coalition—consisting of Brazil, South Africa, India and China. The four have listed their “non-negotiable” demands: no legally binding cuts, unsupported mitigation actions, international monitoring of unsupported mitigation actions and use of climate as a trade barrier. They threaten to walk out of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen if industrialised countries browbeat them.

Reportedly, China’s Premier Wen Jiabao summoned India’s Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, who was in Beijing in late November, to an unscheduled meeting and told him that China planned to lead the developing world in presenting a united front against the West. He was literally given a night to read the BASIC draft and sign on the dotted line.

This is a far cry from the precursor to Copenhagen, the U.N. Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, when India represented G77 developing countries (now increased to 130). India’s Environment Minister at the time, Kamal Nath, baited the U.S., led by President George Bush, Sr. The White House was so incensed that it admonished then Indian Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, who had to tone down his rhetoric at the summit.

India has tied itself in knots on its stand on climate. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh agreed to abide by the two degrees Celsius cap on rise in global temperatures at the Group of Eight wealthiest nations meetings in Italy in July.

Indian negotiators criticised him for compromising India’s future growth prospects. Subsequently, Ramesh wrote a letter to the Prime Minister, leaked to the media, suggesting India offer voluntary cuts in emissions and subject these to international verification. This triggered a political furore in India, prompting him to retract his letter. China, by contrast, is consistent in its policy.

“India is a leader of the developing world,” says Sunita Narain, director of the Centre for Science and Environment in New Delhi. “It should campaign for the voice of the marginalised and victims of climate change.”

She adds: “India should avoid sitting at the high table with polluters (rich countries). Therefore, we have to put pressure on the North to take effective emission cuts. That will be a real leadership role.”

On Dec. 3, when India announced its policy, Qin Gang, the spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, reiterated that China and India were developing countries and victims of climate change. China understood the Indian situation on climate change and would support India’s adaptation and mitigation plan that was based on its own national situation and capacity.

However, there are vast differences between the two countries. Between 1990 and 2005, per capita energy use increased by half in China – three times more than in India. Jairam himself has referred to China’s carbon intensity – the amount of carbon emitted per 1,000 U.S. dollars of GDP – 2.8 tonnes as against India’s one tonne.

As Huo Weiya of the independent online publication ´Chinadialogue´in Beijing observes: “Three decades of economic growth have given the Chinese citizenry ample material desires; a lifestyle has by now taken root that hopes to keep up with the rich, particularly to keep up with the Americans.”

Some Chinese and Indian experts are uneasy about their countries unilaterally offering carbon intensity cuts. Qi Jianguo, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, believes that the targets would put “great pressure” on China’s development.

Before India announced its policy, Sunita Narain, who is also a member of the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change, warned: “There needs to be a proper deliberative process if India needs a carbon or energy intensity number. That has still not been done. It must not make a laughing stock of itself by announcing new numbers every day; it should stick to its own 20 percent by 2020 domestic commitment.”

She alleged that India’s changing position reflected U.S. interests, not its own. “It is clearly at the behest of the U.S. president. It will derail the multilateral negotiations,” she said.

* Darryl D’Monte, President of the International Federation of Environmental Journalists.

(END/2009)

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