Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Copenhagen climate summit: UN optimistic about climate change deal

Agreement on a new deal to bring global warming under control is well within range, governments and top UN officials insisted yesterday as the climate summit opened in Copenhagen.

By Geoffrey LeanPublished: 7:30AM GMT 08 Dec 2009

Their surprisingly optimistic assessment is based on remarkable progress over the last weeks on the two most difficult issues facing the conference – reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and providing finance to help the world’s poorest people cope with the potentially devastating effects of climate change.
Of course, there is an element of talking up the prospects for success but, even so, I cannot remember in four decades so difficult a negotiating conference starting with such unexpected optimism or such widespread willingness to agree among governments.

Lars Lokke Rasmussen, who as Prime Minister of Denmark will chair the summit of more than 100 heads of governments when they arrive next week, said that "intensive consultations" with the leaders had revealed that "without exception" they backed "an ambitious agreement to halt global warming".
And Connie Hedegaard, his Minister for Energy and Climate – presiding over the conference in the meantime – added: "I have never seen anything like it when it comes to political willingness". She described the deal as "do-able".
The United Nations Environment Programme and Britain’s Grantham Research Institute, chaired by Lord Stern, jointly published a study which concluded that offers by rich countries to cut emissions and by industrialising developing ones to reduce their rate of growth already amounted to up to 80 per cent of what was needed.
Much of the difference could be made up of measures to reduce the felling of forests and to reduce pollution from shipping and aviation.
And Yvo de Boer – the top official in change of the negotiations – reported "encouraging" progress on agreeing on a $10 billion a year emergency fund to help poor countries. The United States, Australia, Japan and the EU have all supported it.
Many problems remain, not least in agreeing a long-term fund to do a similar job, which would have to be at least ten times bigger. The poorest developing countries, as Bangladesh and Nepal made clear last night, will block any deal that does not include it.
And the very momentum that has caused the present optimism carries its own dangers for, if the summit fails,it will be hard to generate it again. As Ms Hedegaard told the delegates, "If the opportunity was missed, it could take years before we get a new and better one. If ever."