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Subject: [kyoto2-discussion] Guardian blog article on GDRs; China Grim
on Prospects for Climate Pact
Date: Mon, 6 Oct 2008 22:19:35 +0000
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A brave new target: cut greenhouse emissions by 122%
A new approach to tackling climate change advocates setting emission
reduction targets - of sometimes greater than 100% - according a
country's responsibility and capacity to contribute to a solution.
Could this ever be put into practice, asks Duncan Clark
All comments (3)
* *Duncan Clark* <http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/duncanclark>
* guardian.co.uk <http://www.guardian.co.uk/>,
* Monday October 06 2008 15:30 BST
* Article history
Over the past 10 years, targets for cuts in CO2 emissions have crept up.
Take the UK. Kyoto required a 12.5% reduction from 1990 levels by 2012,
some of which we'd already achieved when we ratified the agreement.
Next, the government promised a 20% reduction by the same date. That
developed into a 60% cut by 2050, which the government has now accepted
may need to become an 80% reduction.
George Monbiot and others have gone further
calling for a cut of more than 90% by 2050 to reflect the latest science
and to allow for equal distribution of the right to pollute around the
Many think that targets such as these sound hopelessly ambitious, but a
from the Stockholm Environment Institute <http://www.sei.se/index.php>
goes further still. It claims that for many developed countries a useful
and just target will be a reduction of more than 100% – and in just over
a decade. The report takes Sweden as a case study and concludes that its
goal should be a drop in emissions of 122% by 2020.
Hold on a minute, I hear you cry, how can a country reduce its emissions
by more than it produces?
The answer to that seeming paradox, of course, is to pay for emissions
reductions abroad. But why should Sweden and other similar countries
have to do that? Surely reducing its own emissions to zero – or nearly
zero – would be enough?
Not according to the new report, which is based on an approach called
Greenhouse Development Rights <http://www.ecoequity.org/GDRs/>. This
idea has been around a year or so, but hasn't often made the headlines.
The new report is an interesting example of seeing how it might actually
work in practice. It's all a bit complex, so bear with me here.
The approach is based on the idea that the developing world will,
justifiably, never "prioritise rapid emissions reductions above its goal
of human development for its people. Any strategy that even implicitly
attempts to force such a prioritisation will be futile."
The way around this potential roadblock, the report suggests, is to work
out the true responsibility of each country – ie its emissions – as well
as its true capacity to contribute to the solution.
To work out the responsibility, you look at imports and exports to work
out the true carbon footprint of each country. If an individual in the
West purchases something – be it a phone made in China or a bean grown
in Kenya – the emissions are allocated to your country, not the country
that produced it. In the case of Sweden – which, like most rich
countries, imports far more than it exports – this adds around a fifth
to its official emissions figures.
How about capacity? The idea here is to set an income threshold – the
report plumps for $20 per person per day – above which a responsibility
for paying for climate change kicks in. It's a bit like how income tax
works: you don't pay anything until you earn a fixed annual minimum.
Finally, you work out the total required cut in global emissions
reductions and divvy it up nation-by-nation according to responsibility
and capacity. In the case of Sweden, the report calculates that it
should make (or pay for) 0.51% of the world's total emissions savings,
which equates to 122% of its current emissions. This ambitious target,
the report estimates, would cost the average Swedish citizen around
$1.20 per day.
For comparison, the US would need to make or pay for 33% of the world's
emissions saving, the EU 26%, Japan 7.8%, China 5.5% and India 0.5%. But
over time, as emissions and income patterns shift, so do the targets. If
a country gets greener, its responsibility drops. If it gets richer, it
will be asked to do more.
All of which is rather neat. I'm going to ponder this idea more (the
report doesn't make for easy Monday-morning reading), but my initial
reaction to the GDR concept is positive – something worth serious
consideration alongside competing schemes such as Contraction &
Unfortunately, as with all such schemes, it's hard to imagine today's
world signing up. Sweden? Perhaps. The US? Perhaps not. The American
politicians who have recently been describing the financial bail-out as
the first step on the slippery path to socialism would doubtless make
parallels between the GDR approach and that old Marxist maxim: from each
according to his ability, to each according to his need.
The report acknowledges that its proposal would be hard for many nations
to swallow, with targets "large enough to seem implausible by today's
standards of political realism." But it implores Sweden to take a do the
right thing by the climate and the world's poor by committing to its
122% carbon cut in the run-up to the Copenhagen summit.
We'll have to wait and see if it happens. It seems a long shot to me,
but we can take some comfort from the fact that a handful of Western
governments – such as Sweden's – may at least seriously consider such
targets. Thanks be for Scandinavia.
*China Grim on Prospects for Climate Pact *
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CHINA: October 7, 2008
*BEIJING - Negotiations seeking a global pact to tackle global warming
are troubled and could end in disastrous failure, China's top climate
change envoy warned on Monday, saying rich countries are failing to
deliver on promises. *
China is emerging as the world's top emitter of the greenhouse gases
that stoke dangerous global warming and plays a key role in talks to
address the threat. These are supposed to culminate in a new deal in
Copenhagen, Denmark, late next year. But Yu Qingtai, China's special
representative for climate change talks, told Reuters he was gloomy
about the discussions to create a treaty building on commitments laid
out in the Kyoto Protocol's first phase, which expires at the end of 2012.
"As far as the Copenhagen process is concerned, my personal assessment
is unfortunately fairly pessimistic...things have moved forward in an
extremely difficult way and the progress achieved is extremely limited,"
Yu said in an interview.
In preliminary talks, rich nations had failed to flesh out their
promises to give technology and financing help to poorer countries, he
The global financial turmoil draining government budgets should not be
"used as an excuse by the developed country governments for not meeting
their commitments", he added.
China's rising greenhouse gas emissions, which experts believe have
already or will soon surpass those of the United States, have prompted
many Western politicians and experts to argue that Beijing must accept
mandatory caps if the United States and other reluctant countries are to
agree to emissions cuts.
Under current agreements, China and other developing countries need not
take on greenhouse gas caps under Kyoto.
Yu rejected calls for this to change, instead blaming foot-dragging by
richer nations and leaving little doubt that talks leading to Copenhagen
will be combative.
But failure to reach agreement by late next year could exact a terrible
price, he said. Scientists have warned that growing levels of solar heat
held in the atmosphere by a blanket of carbon dioxide and other
pollutants are stoking droughts, melting glaciers and intensifying wild
"I would not even try to contemplate," he said. "If we fail, the
consequences would be disastrous for everybody."
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said last week the
market difficulties would make it harder to agree a climate deal, while
US Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has said he might be
forced to scale back his planned investments in energy.
Spelling out China's demands, Yu said any final deal must reflect rich
countries' responsibility for gases emitted during production of the
many Chinese-made goods they consume.
He also firmly rejected calls for global emissions caps across
high-polluting industrial sectors, such as steel-making.
These are favoured by Japan and some Western nations as a way of curbing
emissions from developing nations without clamping down on more
vulnerable sectors of the economy, but Yu said they were little more
than an attack on China's competitiveness.
"You don't need to measure the efficiency level of a European country
against the efficiency of a developing country. The result would be
obvious. It would not be fair to use a so-called benchmark," Yu said.
Technology transfer is a particularly sore issue, with China frustrated
by rich nations' attitude towards one element Beijing considers vital
for any deal. Yu was dismissive of arguments that Western governments
cannot mandate the transfer of patented technology held by companies.
"As national governments, once you make a commitment it is up to you to
find the ways and tools to ensure that your commitments are met," he said.
China argues it is owed help to move towards a low-carbon economy.
It says despite high annual emissions, per-capita greenhouse pollution
is well below that of rich peers and historically it pumped out much
less than rich nations over the past two centuries since the start of
the Industrial Revolution.
With little over a year until the negotiators gather to seek final
agreement, Yu also said he hoped the United States under a new president
would take "a more constructive and positive approach to the fight
against climate change".
(For summit blog: http://summitnotebook.reuters.com/)
(Additional reporting by Emma Graham-Harrison; Editing by Nick Macfie)
Story by Chris Buckley and Emma Graham-Harrison
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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