Delegates Reach Deal on Climate Change

May 4, 2007
The report urges an array of measures - including biofuels, renewable energy sources, greater energy efficiency and agricultural reforms - to keep world temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius over preindustrial age levels.

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Delegates at an international conference on climate change brokered a blueprint Friday for combatting global warming, resisting pressure from China to tone down language on cutting emissions of heat-trapping gases.

The delegates agreed the world can avoid the catastrophic consequences of global warming by drastically reducing its reliance over the next few decades on the burning of coal, oil and other fossil fuels that produce greenhouse gases. Their report also advocates significantly reducing the deforestation of the planet.

The document was produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.N. network of scientists and government officials from more than 120 countries, after a week of closed-door talks in Bangkok.

Delegates said the final version, to be released later Friday, largely resembles a draft of the report, which called for limiting concentrations of greenhouse gases to between 445 parts per million and 650 parts per million.

"Everything we wanted to see was there and more. The message is: We have to do something now," said Peter Lukey, a member of the South Africa delegation.

Delegates said they overcame a push by China to remove the lower emission target from the report, and a partial version of the finalized document obtained by The Associated Press showed the original wording had remained intact.

China, the world's second-largest greenhouse gas emitter after the United States, was supported other rapidly developing nations, including India. They worry that curbing emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases could slow their booming economies.

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.

Chinese delegates did not discuss their positions publicly, but French delegate Michel Petit said China and the other developing countries ended up compromising on all major issues.

"Nothing important was removed during the process," he said, calling the report "excellent."

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.

The delegates agreed that the world has the technology and economic resilience to avoid catastrophic global warming, but only if acts immediately to reduce the harmful effects of greenhouse gas emissions.

The report urges an array of measures - including biofuels, renewable energy sources, greater energy efficiency and agricultural reforms - to keep world temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over preindustrial age levels.

Even an increase of that magnitude 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 in a report earlier this year.

Consensus came only after considerable debate on such issues as how the share the burden of cutting emissions, how much such measures would cost the global economy, and how much weight to give certain options, such as nuclear power.

The U.S. remained surprisingly quiet at the conference, though it had voiced some of the same objections as China prior to the meeting. Some delegates said Washington appeared to be content letting China take the lead.

However, the U.S. delegation was vocal over the role nuclear power could play in efforts to reduce greenhouse gasses. European nations reminded policy makers not to forget the security risks that could be associated with that.

Environmentalists said nations now needed to carry forward this momentum to decide 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.

"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."


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