Climate change. It seems the world is talking of nothing else. The scientists put forward their terrifying prophecies. The politicians, harried by the environmentalists, insist they are working on it. And yet, worldwide, pollution levels continue to rise.
The German Chancellor wants a 50% reduction in global gas emissions by 2050, but Angela Merkel knows full well that will be a difficult target to meet, nigh impossible without the full support of the Americans.
The first phase of the Kyoto treaty has seen an encouraging 15% reduction overall by the signatory countries. But some have performed better than others. And the advances of those making the most effort, such as Germany and certain eastern European countries, are being wiped out by those not only failing to curb their emissions, but even letting them rise. Turkey’s emissions are up by more than 70%. The carbon footprints of Spain and Portugal have risen by almost half.
At least President George Bush does now have some concrete proposals: “The United States will convene a series of meetings of nations that produce most greenhouse gas emissions, including nations with rapidly growing economies like India and China.”
The absence of Kyoto targets for India and China was seized upon by the White House as a reason not to sign the treaty. Now China has stepped up to the plate with concrete plans to combat climate change. But it insists it is a special case.
“It is not fair or reasonable to use climate change as an excuse to try to limit our development or our modernisation,” said Ma Kai, Head of the China’s National Agency for Reform and Development.
China is responsible for almost as much pollution as all the European Union countries put together. But, for now, the United States remains the main culprit and American environmentalists, like Ann Mesnikoff, insist it has to stop pontificating and take the lead.
“To continue to deflect responsibility – and look at developing countries and say they need to come along – it is the United States which has to take the lead. We have the technology, we have the ability to do it and we need to lead by example.”
Since Kyoto was conceived the World has moved on. Major steps are being taken to combat this pressing problem. But getting all the major players to support one effective strategy is still a distant dream.