The climate change talks in Copenhagen have not even begun, yet they are already under threat. The refusal of Asia-Pacific nations to accept binding reductions in Co2 emissions poured cold water on the summit preparations, prompting an urgent compromise.
The Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen has offered a two-step approach; a political deal on cuts, with legally-binding levels left until later. That may satisfy America and China, who between them are responsible for 40 per cent of greenhouse gases. The United States is the world’s second worst polluter and has still not succeeded in agreeing a target for cutting its Co2. Laws to reduce emissions by 17 per cent below their 2005 level by 2020 have still not been passed by the Senate despite gaining acceptance in the House of Representatives in June. For the moment only the European Union and Japan have announced firm plans for Copenhagen; cuts of 20 per cent for the Europeans below 1990 levels by 2020, 25 per cent for Japan. Washington has yet to come up with firm objectives. China and India meanwhile refuse to consider binding targets and these two big polluters have lined up alongside African nations to demand that rich countries impose cuts of 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. It is going to be difficult to reconcile such different demands. And while the talking goes on, so does the pollution. Figures say up by 41 per cent since 1990, 29 per cent alone since 2000. And there is more. A worrying report from the magazine Nature Geoscience says the planet’s oceans and forests are becoming less efficient at soaking up Co2. It is feared they may have exhausted their role as nature’s vital carbon stores.