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Wave of support for gas pact.

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The world can reach a significant new climate change pact by the end of next year if current talks keep up their momentum, the head of the United Nations (UN) climate panel has said. The UN began negotiations on a sweeping new pact in March after governments agreed last year to work

out a treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol by the end of next year.

"If this momentum continues you will get an agreement that is not too full of compromises," said Rajendra Pachauri, head of the UN Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, during a seminar at the Asian Development Bank annual meeting in Madrid. Without a deal to cap greenhouse gas emissions by 2015, then halve them by 2050, the world will face even more droughts, heatwaves, floods and rising seas, according to the panel.

The UN hopes to go beyond Kyoto by getting all countries to agree to curbs on emissions of greenhouse gases that fuel global warming. Only 37 rich nations were bound to cut emissions under Kyoto. The United States, one of the world's biggest polluters, refused to join the agreement. The next talks, to be held in Germany next month, will address funding technology to mitigate climate change - a key demand from developing countries who say rich countries should foot much of the bill.

Getting the private sector on board with a well-regulated carbon emissions trading system is key to long-term financing, according to delegates at the ADB seminar. "Investors need some certainty they will get some return," said Simon Brooks, vice president at the European Investment Bank. India's Pachauri said popular awareness of global warming had risen sharply over the past 12 months and put pressure on Washington and other governments for action.

He said he believed it would be very difficult for any country to remain outside a climate change pact. "There's a question of national prestige involved," said Pachauri, head of the UN panel that last year shared the Nobel Peace Prize with former US Vice President Al Gore. President George W Bush pulled the United States out of Kyoto in 2001, saying the pact would hurt the economy and was unfair since it excluded big developing nations from committing to emissions cuts.

Key to a new agreement is Asia, notably China, said Odin Knudsen, a managing director for JP Morgan & Chase. "China is making tremendous progress," said Knudsen, a specialist in climate change. "It's in China's interests and they want to be energy efficient." In the last three decades Asia's energy consumption has grown 230 per cent and the region has gone from producing one tenth of world greenhouse gas emissions, to a quarter, according to the Asian Development Bank.

The United Nations calculates global warming will cause a 30 per cent decline in crop yields in central and south Asia by 2050 and decrease freshwater availability for over a billion people. Faced with such threats, China is switching over to renewable energy sources which are expected to provide more than 30 per cent of its power needs by 2050, according to the UN.

FUND TO HEAD OFF THREATA

The head of the Asian Development Bank announced yesterday the establishment of a Climate Change Fund to combat the impact of global warming, which he termed a "fundamental threat" to the region. "We will substantially increase our attention to the environmental consequences of growth, including climate change," Haruhiko Kuroda said in his opening address to the annual meeting of the bank's board of governors in Madrid.

"Climate change is a fundamental threat to achieving Asia's development objectives, and to life and livelihoods. "I am pleased to announce that we will... establish a Climate Change Fund, with an initial contribution from ADB resources of $40 million," he said. "The Fund will allow a more holistic approach to climate change mitigation and adaptation, including forestry and land use, changes in livelihood, health impacts, and increase emergencies and disasters caused by climate change."

He noted that the bank's Asia Pacific Carbon Fund, supported by seven European countries, is also to provide over $150 million to co-finance clean energy projects. Kuroda said the ADB is also investing an additional $100 million in five funds to mobilise about $1 billion for clean energy over the next three years.

"Within the next four years, environment and climate change will grow to represent a significant share of ADB's total lending and technical assistance," he said.

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Publication:7 Days (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Date:May 6, 2008
Words:755
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