news feature
July 24, 2009




Major Economies 'Ignored' UN Climate Science
by the Environment News Service

(July 21, 2009) When proposing actions to limit greenhouse gas emissions, the world's major economies "ignored" the findings of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning United Nations scientific body that assesses climate change, says that body's top official.

Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, who chairs the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, told reporters Monday it is important that leaders of the Group of Eight, G8 and nine other nations at the Major Economies Forum in Italy recognized that the global average temperature should not increase by more than two degrees Celsius, an "aspirational goal" which they had not agreed on or discussed earlier.

Dr. Rajendra Pachauri heads the IPCC. (photo by Devra Berkowitz courtesy UN )

But, he said, they disregarded the IPCC's findings that emissions will have to peak in 2015 and then rapidly decline to avert the worst consequences of global warming.

"The G8 leaders should have reached agreement that the peak should be reached by 2015 and by 2020 they would implement a clear plan of action for deep cuts in emissions," Pachauri said. "It would have been very valuable if they has spelled out what the deep cuts would be. But they haven't discussed what these deep cuts will be."

The 17 leaders of Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States agreed to establish, "at the earliest possible date," a peak year after which overall global emissions of greenhouse gases will start falling.

The world needs a "mix of policies" that will bring about this kind of shift, Dr. Pachauri said. "If we place a price on carbon no reason why the world cannot come up with technologies to cut 50 percent of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 as the G8 has said. We need investments in development technology, and we also need investments in infrastructure, in public transport, in much faster, more efficient trains, Pachauri said.

"The science is getting clear," Pachauri emphasized. "Gaps in our knowledge are filling up and the certainty with which we can make predictions is getting stronger."

Pachauri said it is apparent that the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which took effect in March 1994, "has not been successful," pointing out that between 1970 and 2004 there has been an increase of 70 percent in greenhouse gases. The UNFCCC is the parent treaty under which the Kyoto Protocol to limit greenhouse gases was negotiated. The successor agreement that will pick up when the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012 will be drawn up in Copenhagen in December, also under the UNFCCC.

It is "extremely important for the United States to be engaged in the new agreement in Copenhagen, Pachauri said. "President Barack Obama has said on several occasions that even the economic downturn is no excuse for inaction on climate change."

"The U.S. administration is trying to do its best," he said. Whether its best is good enough depends on what legislation comes into being."

The Wanakbori coal-fired power plant is the largest in the state of Gujarat, India. (photo courtesy Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Ltd.)

As for his native land of India, Dr. Pachauri said he expects India's National Action Plan on climate change will be announced in the next month or two, but he cautioned that India is working to supply electricity to 400 million of its people who have no light bulbs in their homes although it means generating power with coal-fired power plants that emit greenhouse gases.

"We really have no choice but to use coal in the near term," Pachauri said. "Sooner the better India will move to other forms of energy generation."

More than 200 climate change experts from around the world gathered at an IPCC meeting in Venice last week to plan the focus of the panel's next comprehensive assessment report.

The report of IPCC Working Group I on the scientific aspects of the climate system and climate change is due early in 2013. The other two Working Groups will issue their reports every few months until the final synthesis report is published in 2014.

Working Group II assesses the vulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems to climate change, potential negative and positive consequences, and options for adapting to it; and Working Group III assesses options for limiting greenhouse gas emissions and otherwise mitigating climate change.

Climate change will be high on the agenda later this week when the United Nations chief visits China and Mongolia.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called climate change "the defining challenge of our era." He has called on China – as well as the United States, India and the European Union – to show "global leadership of the highest order" in tackling the issue, particularly in advance of the crucial climate change negotiations scheduled for December in Copenhagen to finalize a new agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Secretary-General is scheduled to meet on Friday with President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and other Chinese officials in Beijing and later, on Saturday, in Xi'an.

"During his working visit to China, he will pursue his dialogue with the Chinese leadership on climate change and other global issues," UN spokesperson Marie Okabe told reporters Monday.

While in China, he will participate in a number of climate change programs, including a "Green Light" event focusing on energy efficient technologies and the extensive production and use of energy saving lamps in the world's most populous nation.

The article was originally posted at and reposted here with permission.