Under a green banner saying ‘I care’, Poland is hosting talks on climate change. These are not raising high hopes for global action to restrict temperature rise, however.
This is the 19th such annual UN conference. This round is supposed to result in ‘new commitments’ at the end of 2015, but purported realists say a climate deal should allow countries to define their own CO2 emissions targets, since national priorities vary so much.
Care International observer Pascal Girot said: “I hope we can get everyone to the table and [get everyone] to be honest and really believe in a binding agreement by 2015.”
The motivational context for such an agreement is that global average temperatures have risen by 0.8 degrees Celsius since the Industrial Revolution, and are set to exceed two degrees Celsius, with a projected rise of five Celsius by the end of this century if nothing is done.
To prevent more than a two degree rise, experts say mankind’s 50 gigatonne global annual output of greenhouse gases today will have to be more than halved by 2050.
The different policies of the 192 countries at the conference mean that perhaps the best hope is to set some limits on emissions then strengthen them over time, according to one senior climate analyst.
Poland, for instance, predominantly runs on coal; but it’s a minor consumer compared with some emerging economies. China’s appetite for coal is expected to make that the world’s primary source of energy by 2020. Beijing is going to Warsaw conscious of its problems linked to pollution.
Yet China insists that the countries that have been industrialised for longest bear a leading responsibility, saying they are the ones mostly at fault for planetary emission conditions today.
All the countries are concerned, however: the great and powerful in relative order – China as the globe’s biggest emissions producer, then the US, EU and Russia – as well as the small and poor, who do not enjoy the same benefits of industrialisation and yet suffer from climate effects it has contributed to.
The United States never even ratified the Kyoto Protocol – the goals the US has agreed to aim for itself are far more modest than other western countries, one fifth that of Europe’s target for greenhouse gas reductions, for example.
This is about historically rich northern countries’ public resources going to developing countries to support action – when the rich are in recession, the developing are energy hungry to catch up and the poor are suffering the most.