Tag Archive | "greenhouse gas"

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‘Cut Fossil Fuel Subsidies but Compensate the Poor’

Posted on 14 December 2009 by editor

Credit: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS

Credit: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS

By Claudia Ciobanu

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) – Cutting government subsidies for fossil energy could lead to a 10 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 as compared to 1990 levels, says a recent study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

That represents a fifth of the maximum global commitment of emission reductions envisaged by negotiators at the COP15, and could play an important part in keeping global warming under 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. Continue Reading

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Local Climate Efforts: Too Little, Too Slow, Too Late?

Posted on 14 December 2009 by editor

By Feizal Samath

COLOMBO (IPS/TerraViva) – Some Sri Lankan experts are not pinning their hopes on the ongoing climate talks in Copenhagen, saying greenhouse gas emissions will continue to torment the world as long as western lifestyles remain the same. 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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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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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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