South Outdoing North in Fight against Global Warming

  • by Julio Godoy * - Tierramérica (berlin)
  • Monday, November 28, 2011
  • Inter Press Service

The developing countries - particularly those with fast-growing economies like China and India - have considerably reduced their carbon dioxide emissions since 1990 and have committed to make future cuts that are proportionally greater than those pledged by the industrialised nations.

The findings of these studies provide new bases for negotiations at the 17th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 17), taking place Nov. 28 to Dec. 9 in the eastern South African city of Durban.

'Comparison of Annex 1 and Non-Annex 1 Pledges Under the Cancun Agreements', authored by Sivan Kartha and Peter Erickson of the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), analyses four studies on greenhouse gas reduction pledges by industrialised countries (listed in Annex 1 of the Kyoto Protocol) and developing nations.

Their report, released in June, concludes that 'there is broad agreement that developing country pledges amount to more mitigation than developed country pledges.'

In an interview with Tierramérica, Sivan Kartha, a senior scientist at SEI-US and co-leader of SEI's institute-wide research theme Managing Climate Risks, said that this conclusion 'applies across all four studies and across all their various cases, despite the diversity of assumptions and methodologies employed and the substantial differences in their quantification of the pledges.'

In addition, said Vartha, the actual reductions made by industrialised nations are considerably lower than those pledged because of measuring standards that distort the results, such as double-counting of offsets, the shifting of emissions to developing countries where goods are now produced, and false estimates on land use and reforestation.

Vartha warned that the greenhouse gas reductions agreed upon at the climate conferences in Kyoto (1997), Copenhagen (2009) and Cancun (2010) are insufficient to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius, noting that the mitigation pledged globally is consistent with a temperature rise of 'possibly as much as five degrees.'

The results of a second study, 'Fair Shares: Crediting Poor Countries for Carbon Mitigation', by David Wheeler, 'undermine the conventional view of North-South conflict that has dominated global climate negotiations, because they show that developing countries, whether by intention or not, have been critical participants in carbon mitigation all along.'

Wheeler, an expert on environmental economics at the Centre for Global Development (CGD), told Tierramérica that, according to his estimates, developing countries 'have accounted for 47 percent of global low-carbon energy growth, and global emissions would be dramatically higher if they had not invested in low-carbon energy sources.'

According to Wheeler, by 2008, annual carbon dioxide emissions from developing countries were 1.6 gigatons (1.6 billion tons) less than they would have been without low-carbon energy investments since 1990, while the corresponding reductions by the developed countries amounted to 1.3 gigatons.

China alone accounted for 442 million tons, as compared to 329 million tons in the case of the United States, said Wheeler.

Vartha, who is attending COP 17, said he would counsel the developing world 'to do much what they are doing already, but in a much more coordinated way.' He would advise them in particular to 'adopt unanimity and close coordination around two issues.'

The first is environmental effectiveness. 'I would encourage developing countries as a whole to energetically support the call of much of the developing world for an international regime that is sufficiently ambitious to actually avert serious climate change.'

This means support for a proposal coordinated in October by the African Group, the Alliance of Small Island States, the Least-Developed Countries, and the member countries of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA).

What is needed is a regime 'that moves well beyond the Copenhagen pledges, which would put us on a path to three to five degrees warming, and well beyond the G8 position that we seek a 50 percent chance of keeping warming below two degrees,' said Vartha.

The G8, or Group of Eight, is made up by Germany, Canada, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan and Russia.

The goal in Durban should be a regime that aims for a high chance of keeping warming below 1.5 degrees, he added.

The second key issue highlighted by Vartha is equity: 'The BASIC countries (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) in particular have very clearly and insistently made the assertion that the climate regime must be equitable or it cannot work.'

These countries are working on a joint paper to be released in Durban which 'provides the basis for more reasoned and fact-based discussions of how much of a contribution each country should make toward climate protection,' he noted.

'If the developing countries can coordinate around a more or less coherent position on what individual countries, both developing and developed, should do - both on domestic mitigation and providing finance and technology - that too will take us a step beyond the unworkable ‘pledge and review’ system of Copenhagen and Cancun,' Vartha concluded.

*The writer is an IPS correspondent. This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network. Tierramérica is a specialised news service produced by IPS with the backing of the United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Environment Programme and the World Bank.

© Inter Press Service (2011) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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