International Delegates Reach Climate Change Deal, Conclude Immediate Action Necessary
BANGKOK, Thailand -- International delegates agreed Friday that the world has the technology and money to limit catastrophic global warming, but that it must act now to reduce the harmful effects of greenhouse gas emissions.
Promptly adopting biofuels, renewable energy sources and greater energy efficiency can mitigate worldwide disaster, according to a report adopted by government-appointed delegates from more than 120 countries at a conference in Bangkok, Thailand.
"It's stunning in its brilliance and relevance," Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the panel that convened the meeting, said of the report Friday. "It's a remarkable step forward."
The United States was pleased the report "highlights the importance of a portfolio of clean energy technologies consistent with our approach," said the head of the U.S. delegation, Harlan Watson.
"The U.S. leads the world in deploying a range of technologies that scientific and economic experts have now agreed can provide a global solution to reduce emissions and sustain economic growth," he said.
Coming out of the meeting early Friday, delegates said science appeared to have trumped politics -- especially opposition from China, which wanted language inserted allowing for a greater buildup of greenhouse gases in the environment before action would be taken.
Beijing and its supporters had argued moves to make deep cuts in carbon dioxide emissions risked stifling its spectacular economic growth, delegates said.
According to a partial version of the final document obtained by The Associated Press, China's efforts failed to remove mention of a stringent emission target from the report. The Chinese delegation could not be reached for comment.
The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.N. network of 2,000 scientists, makes plain that the world must act immediately to cap the global temperature increase at 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over preindustrial-age levels.
"If we continue doing what we are doing now, we are in deep trouble," said Ogunlade Davidson, who headed one of the working groups.
Peter Lukey, a South Africa delegate, said everything his country had wanted to see in the report was there "and more."
"The message is: We have to do something now," he said.
Delegates at the weeklong meeting bickered over how to share the burden of cutting emissions, how much such measures would cost, and how much weight to give certain policy measures, such as advanced nuclear power, an option supported by the United States.
"This is still an excellent report," French delegate Michel Petit said, adding that China and the other developing countries ended up compromising on all major issues. "Nothing important was removed during the process."
The report follows two studies by the IPCC earlier this year warning that unabated greenhouse gas emissions could drive global temperatures up as much as 6 degrees C (11 degrees F) by 2100, triggering a surge in ocean levels, destruction of vast numbers of species, economic devastation in tropical zones and mass human migrations.
Current efforts are aimed at capping the increase in temperatures to 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F), but even an increase that small could subject up to 2 billion people to water shortages by 2050 and threaten extinction for 20 percent to 30 percent of the world's species, the IPCC said.
The full version of the final report was not made available when the meeting ended, but delegates said it largely resembled a draft version that said emissions can be cut below current levels if the world shifts away from carbon-heavy fuels like coal, embraces energy efficiency and significantly reduces deforestation.
Environmental groups said the report demonstrates the world can afford to battle global warming and must do so immediately.
"This is a roadmap that the IPCC is delivering," said Hans Verolme of WWF International. "It's time for the politicians to do more than just pay lip service to the issue of global warming, and to stop climate change before it's too late."
Environmentalists said nations must carry forward this momentum by deciding on concrete actions at the Group of Eight summit of leading industrial nations in June in Germany and at a U.N. Climate Summit in Bali, Indonesia, in December.
"With the final piece of the jigsaw in place, the picture of our options for the future is now in sharp focus," said Stephanie Tunmore, Greenpeace International climate & energy campaigner. "It is quite clear that immediate action to cut greenhouse gas emissions is required."
China, the world's second-largest greenhouse gas emitter after the United States, pushed hard during the meeting, along with India and other developing countries, to raise the proposed cap on carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, delegates said.
A draft of the report proposed the world limit concentrations of greenhouse gases to between 445 and 650 parts per million, but China sought to strike the lower range over fears it would hinder its booming economy, Michael Muller, Germany's vice minister for the environment, told reporters before the agreement was reached.
Much of this week's debate has centered around how much it will cost to adopt greener policies.
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.
Beijing also campaigned for wording that would clearly blame the top industrialized countries in North America and Europe for global warming and give them the responsibility for solving it, rather than latecomers like China and India, delegates said.
On the Net:
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: http://www.ipcc.ch
Source: Associated Press