UN versus US views on climate change mitigation


usavsun.jpgLast week, the United States announced that they are willing to mitigate global warming by setting voluntary goals.

Meanwhile many countries – including the European Union – met within the United Nations to tackle the future of the Kyoto Protocol.

So is it good or bad news ? As we will see in this article, there are some good and some bad.

The good news are that President Bush is now urging the United States and other countries to decrease greenhouse gases.

The bad news, he doesn’t want to work within the UNFCC as it would – to him – hinder the US economic growth and wouldn’t comprise developing countries. Most observers think that the goals that would be set by such a system would be too little too late.

According to the IHT, the most polluting countries are teaming up with the United States to counterbalance the UN Framework on Climate Change and set their own process.

President Bush’s views stress the importance of green technologies and enabling each country to set its own goals while the United Nations want to decrease the overall greenhouse gases emissions by a minimum of 25 percent by 2020 (cf. this previous article) by several means, including energy efficiency.

To me, the situation is going on the right direction as some months ago, the US President were arguing that climate change wasn’t human-made and didn’t think it was necessary to fight global warming.

But when I read the following lines in the International Herald Tribune, I am quite doubtful :

Rice called on conferees to agree on a long-term goal for greenhouse gas reduction; to set individual mid-term national targets – “Every country will make its own decisions, reflecting its own needs and interests,” she said – and to work with private industry to develop energy technologies.

Of course, such a reasoning brings critics :

But critics in Europe and elsewhere say that approach will allow countries to avoid the tough choices they say are needed to slow climate warming and temper its disruptive effects: a rapid retreat of sea ice, and precipitation changes that have brought droughts and floods, damaging crops.

They favor tough new standards under a treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, signed by 170 countries but rejected in 2001 by President George W. Bush.

The European views on President Bush’s idea were summed up by the German Chancellor :

In a speech at the UN earlier this week, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany made her view clear: Contributions to fighting climate change from individual countries or groups of countries were welcome, but could “never be a replacement for a post-Kyoto agreement under the umbrella of the United Nations.” She called for global emissions to be halved by 2050.

(…)

European officials have complained openly about the American approach as possibly helpful, potentially a distraction, but in any case insufficient.

Meanwhile, n a very interesting article written by the secretary general of the United Nations (We can combat climate change ; IHT ; Sept 27th), Mr. Ban Ki Moon notes :

These are the two faces of climate change – worsening cases of extreme weather on the one hand, accompanied by scientific evidence that humankind is the cause; on the other, clear signs that the world has awakened to the scale of the problem and, at long last, has decided to do something about it.

This is the message from the recent high-level meeting on climate change at the United Nations. The idea was to spur conversation, to get global policy-makers together to make common cause in finding solutions to a common problem. In this, we succeeded beyond our expectations. Certain words ran like a thread through our discussions: “urgency,” “action,” “now.”

It was the largest such meeting ever held, with more than 80 heads of state. And I sensed something remarkable happening, something transformative – a sea-change, whereby leaders showed themselves willing to put aside blame for the past and to pose to themselves more forward-looking questions.

(…)

We need a breakthrough – an agreement to launch negotiations for a comprehensive climate change deal that all nations can embrace. It will be difficult but I am optimistic. We are in a different place, today, than yesterday.

His “speech” continues on and on and is very interesting. I strongly recommend you to read it completely as it states it all in a very clear way. Both fear and hope abound here as the fight against global warming is becoming widespread and more and more countries join up to avoid the worst.

The conclusion is just full of hope and make think that we can do it :

The lesson from Montreal and New York, one environmental expert noted, is that “curbing climate change may not be as hard as it looks.”‘ With political will, he suggested, comes results. Our job is to translate the spirit of New York into deeds in Bali.

Sources :

Further reading from the IHT :

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