IPCC Delegates Hammer Out Climate Change Report in Thailand

May 4, 2007

International delegates struggled into the night Thursday to agree on ways of cutting destructive greenhouse gas emissions-or face economic and environmental catastrophe caused by global warming.

China has emerged as a key voice in the debate this week at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change conference, where a U.N. network of 2,000 scientists and delegates from more than 120 nations have held closed-door meetings on how best to cope with global warming. The conference was tasked with coming up with policy options by Friday.

As the wrangling over the text of the final report wound down to its final hours, China-the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases-was pushing to raise the lowest target level of CO2 in the world’s atmosphere, said Michael Muller, Germany’s vice-minister for the environment.

A draft of the report proposes a cap on concentrations of greenhouse gas levels ranging from 445 parts per million to 650 parts per million, but China wants the lower range stricken from the report over fears it would hinder its roaring economy, Muller said. “The Chinese are resisting a lot, and a lot of countries are hiding behind the Chinese position,” Muller told reporters.

He did not specify who was supporting China, but the United States also feels the targets are too stringent. Another rapidly developing country, India, shares many of the same concerns that the world’s rush to cut down emissions would slow its economic growth.

China is facing increasing international pressure as its economy expands-it posted 11.1 percent growth in the first quarter-and it pumps increasing amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

At the meeting this week, Beijing has campaigned for language making plain that the world’s top industrialized countries in North America and Europe are responsible for global warming and bear the top responsibility for solving it, rather than latecomers like China and India, delegates say.

“China is being the most vocal about the language,” said Edward Mulbah, a delegate from Liberia. “They don’t want to be held responsible for consequences in the future.”

Chinese delegates have not discussed their positions publicly at the conference, but environmentalists on Thursday suggested Beijing was being unfairly targeted, and it was making strong efforts to improve energy efficiency and rein in emissions.

Stephan Singer, of the conservation group WWF International, said China had a worthy target of increasing energy efficiency by 20 percent from 2006 to 2010. “It’s a very ambitious target and I would wish many industrialized countries would have the same target,” Singer told reporters.

Despite the German objections to the Chinese position, other delegates suggested the negotiations were going smoothly. Delegates were going painstakingly line by line through the draft of the report to iron out disagreements over wording.

Some participants said most of the objections from India and China-often efforts to strike language altogether versus amending it-have been overcome so far, as scientists provided proof on such basic issues as how mitigation measures correspond to various emission levels.

“China and India were the governments having more questions and requesting changes in the existing text,” said Michel Petit, a French delegate. “But up to now, every time we were able to overcome their concerns and come to an agreement.”

The report is expected to urge countries to deploy an array of measures- including energy-efficient technologies, a shift away from coal, and agricultural reforms-to keep world temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F), thereby limiting the impact of global warming.

India has raised objections to language in the report that says significant emission cuts can be made in developing countries, delegates said. Instead, it has argued to strike such language as part of its demands that development must come ahead of caps on emissions.

Delegates were also debating different categories of energy use and ways to cut emissions as they went through a draft of the report summary, and were working into the night so negotiations could be wrapped up on Thursday.

Two previous IPCC reports this year painted a dire picture of a future in which unabated greenhouse gas emissions could drive global temperatures up as much as 6 degrees C (11 degrees F) by 2100.

Even a 2 degree C rise could subject up to 2 billion people, mostly in the developing world, to water shortages by 2050 and threaten extinction for 20 percent to 30 percent of the world’s species, the IPCC said.

For further information go to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change web site at: http://www.ipcc.ch.

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