Climate Change from Copenhagen?

From December 7-18, delegations from 192 countries hold two weeks of talks in Copenhagen aimed at establishing a new global treaty on climate change.
The talks are technically known as the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – often abbreviated to COP15. Two years ago, at the UN climate talks held in Bali, governments agreed to start work on a new global agreement, replacing the Kyoto Protocol which will expire in 2012. The Copenhagen talks mark the end of that two-year period. Governments hope to leave the Danish capital having completed the new deal.
Climate change is a pattern of change affecting global or regional climate as measured by yardsticks such as average temperature and rainfall, or an alteration in frequency of extreme weather conditions. This variation may be caused by both natural processes and human activity. Global warming is one aspect of climate change.
Carbon dioxide is the most significant gas in the man-made greenhouse effect. Most aspects of modern life can require the burning of fossil fuels in some form, whether it is the daily commute, cooking a meal or heating a home. The energy supply is the greatest contributor to man-made global warming.

“Our challenge is to meet the growing demand for energy and at the same time reduce emissions to protect the environment,” the Prime Minister Stoltenberg said in his speech at London School of Economics and Political Science on Friday November 20. “The only way to ensure a broad agreement (in Copenhagen summit) is to make it fair. An agreement must include a robust and predictable financing mechanism for climate change action in developing countries.”

Prime Minister Stoltenberg at LSE. Photo: Ragna Skøien / Royal Norwegian Embassy
Growing populations and rising living standards helped drive emissions ever upwards during the second half of the 20th century. In the first years of the new century, China’s emissions overtook those of the US.

“Without a bid from the US or China, only half of emissions are covered,” Sweden’s environment minister Andreas Carlgren said after he led talks with other EU nations.
The United States is the world’s second-biggest greenhouse gas (GHG) producer (15.5% of global emissions, 6,087mt of CO2 equivalent) and the fifth in the world (20t of CO2 equivalent) on emissions per head.
On November 25, the White House said the US would pledge to cut GHS emissions in several stages, beginning with a 17% cut by 2020.
But the offer was less than hoped for by the EU, Japan and UN scientists. Most other countries’ targets are given in comparison with 1990 figures. BBC environment correspondent Richard Black says that on that basis the US figure amounts to just a few percentage points, as its emissions have risen by about 15% since 1990.
This is much less than the EU’s pledge of a 20% cut over the same period, or a 30% cut if there is a global deal; and much less than the 25-40% figure that developing countries are demanding.
The US President Obama will be in the Danish capital on December 9, a day before receiving his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. But he does not plan to return for the crucial last days, when delegates including other world leaders are hoping to pull together a deal.

US President Obama collected his Nobel Prize on December 10 in Oslo. Photo: Jinchen Lee
Responding to the announcement, European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said: “I welcome that President Obama has committed to come to Copenhagen.”
Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen, the host of the talks, said he hoped Mr Obama could “contribute to an ambitious global deal in Copenhagen”.
Due to fast economic growing and increasingly demanding on energy, China recently overtook the US and became the world’s biggest GHG producer (20.7% of global emissions, 8,106mt of CO2 equivalent), with emissions per head ranking the 30th in the world (6t of CO2 equivalent).
On November 26, the Chinese State Council announced that China is going to reduce the intensity of carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP in 2020 by 40-45% compared with the level of 2005.

This is a “voluntary action” taken by the Chinese government “based on our own national conditions” and “is a major contribution to the global effort in tackling climate change,” the State Council said.
A press statement said the index of carbon dioxide emissions cuts, announced for the first time by China, would be “a binding goal” to be incorporated into China’s medium and long-term national social and economic development plans.
The government would devote major efforts to developing renewable and nuclear energies to ensure the consumption of non-fossil-fuel power accounted for 15 percent of the country’s total primary energy consumption by 2020, said the State Council statement.
More trees would be planted and the country’s forest area would increase by 40 million hectares and forest volume by 1.3 billion cubic meters from the levels of 2005.
The State Council said China would expand cooperation with foreign countries in raising its capacity to cope with climate change and import low-carbon and environment-friendly technologies.
Beijing also announced that Premier Wen Jiabao would attend the Copenhagen climate summit.
” The 40-45% target for cutting carbon intensity is ambitious – more ambitious than many observers had expected.” said the BBC News environment correspondent, Richard Black. “This is exactly the kind of plan that major developing countries were supposed to take to the Copenhagen summit.”
“But it doesn’t mean China’s emissions will fall – in fact they are still likely to rise, with the rate at which economic growth rises outstripping the rate at which carbon intensity falls.” Richard Black said.
“The world needs a legally binding agreement, and we need leaders like Wen Jiabao to come to Copenhagen to make that happen,” Kim Carstensen, leader of The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) global climate initiative, said in a statement in Geneva.
Other Big Players
EU: The world’s third-biggest GHG producer (11.8% of global emissions, 4,641mt CO2 equivalent)
Emissions per head: 17th in the world (9t of CO2 equivalent)
” Aspires to play “leading role” at Copenhagen
” Will cut emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2020, or 30% if other big emitters take tough action
” Wants rich nations to make 80-95% cut by 2050
” Wants poorer nations to slow emissions growth
” Says they face costs of $150bn per year by 2020, of which EU will pay $7bn-22bn from public finances
India: The world’s sixth-biggest GHG producer (5% of global emissions, 1,963mt of CO2 equivalent)
Emissions per head: 66th in the world (2t of CO2 equivalent)
” Agrees to limit growth of GHG emissions but will not commit to binding targets
” Says rich countries are to blame for climate change and points to big gap in per capita emissions
” Wants deep cuts in rich country emissions, firm funding pledges and technology transfer
” Keen on preserving Kyoto-style legal obligations for developing countries
Japan: The world’s seventh-biggest GHG producer (3.3% of global emissions, 1,293mt of CO2 equivalent)
Emissions per head: 15th in the world (10t of CO2 equivalent)
” Will cut emissions to 25% below 1990 levels by 2020, if other countries show similar ambition
” This amounts to a cut of 30% in 10 years, and is opposed by industry
” “Hatoyama initiative” will increase financial and technical assistance to developing countries
” Backs proposals in which each country would set its own commitments
The EU aims for deeper cuts than most other industrialized nations – pledging to move from a 20 percent cut below 1990 levels to 30 percent if others follow suit. By 2050, it wants to eliminate most emissions, with a target of up to 95 percent.
While the EU sees itself as a trailblazer, it has delayed promising cash to poorer nations to help them tackle global warming. EU leaders have pledged to pay their “fair share” into an annual global fund but gave no amount.
They estimated that 100 billion euro (148 billion US dollars) a year is needed and that half should come from governments. The EU’s executive suggested that the 27 EU governments should give up to 15 billion euro (22 billion US dollars) a year from 2013 to 2020.
With lots of issues to be involved, the Copenhagen summit, from December 7-18, will see more than 85 national leaders gather to discuss climate change, including UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva.
The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he believed an agreement was in sight, with recent moves by some countries a positive step to cutting emissions. “Our common goal is to achieve a firm foundation for a legally binding climate treaty as early as possible in 2010,” Mr. Ban told the Commonwealth leaders at their summit in Trinidad and Tobago where he was a guest on November 28.
Danish PM Lars Lokke Rasmussen, also a guest at the Commonwealth meeting, said he hoped to see “money on the table” at the UN conference he will host and he was optimistic about a deal being struck at Copenhagen, saying the summit was “capable of delivering the turning point we all want”.
What can we do in daily life to help to cut GHG emissions?
Use your car less or switch to an environment-friendly car. Electric cars or cars powered by bio fuel emit less greenhouse gases than normal petrol or diesel cars.
See if you can travel less by plane. Alternatively you can compensate for carbon dioxide emissions, for example by paying for emission reduction measures in developing countries.
Choose environment-friendly heating at home. Switch from electric heaters and oil to heat pumps and bio energy.
Change to economy light bulbs.
Recycling and source separation reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.
Get involved. Demand that politicians come up with ambitious climate policies, support environment organizations and involve your friends as well.

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