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Pricking the global conscience (Climate Change)

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    Fw: [fuelcell-energy] ... Pricking the global conscience Dec 14th 2005 From The Economist print edition A UN conference on global warming makes progress, sort
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 15, 2005
      Fw: [fuelcell-energy]
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      Pricking the global conscience

      Dec 14th 2005
      From The Economist print edition

      A UN conference on global warming makes progress, sort of

      Get article background

      JEAN CHR�TIEN, a former prime minister of Canada, described his
      country's relationship with its giant southern neighbour as like
      sleeping with an elephant. It was, he observed, good to have a few
      others around to watch the elephant as well. An important United
      Nations (UN) conference on climate change, which has just concluded
      in Montreal, showed just how right he was.

      For two weeks, negotiators from nearly every country in the world
      converged on the frozen Canadian metropolis to discuss the future of
      the Kyoto protocol. That controversial UN pact obliges many
      industrialised countries (but notably not the United States) to cut
      their emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) by a fixed amount below
      their 1990 levels by 2012. The treaty's 150-odd signatories had hoped
      to map a rough outline of what should come after the treaty's first
      commitment period.

      In the event, the American delegation strenuously opposed them,
      insisting that it was too early to contemplate life after Kyoto.
      Then, in shockingly undiplomatic language, Paul Martin, Canada's
      prime minister, denounced the American position and invoked the need
      for a "global conscience" to deal with this most global of problems.
      America's chief negotiator stormed off in a huff, throwing the
      meeting into chaos. The talks looked destined to fail. Then something
      odd happened that persuaded the elephant to dance.

      Canada's friends came to the rescue at the last minute. Defying
      expectations, China, the biggest GHG emitter not to have an emissions
      target, and Australia, which also rejected the Kyoto treaty, agreed
      to talk about talks. Then Bill Clinton delivered a clever last-minute
      speech suggesting that the Bush administration's position on climate
      change is out of touch with the sentiments of many Americans and with
      the actions of the many American states and corporations that are
      already cutting GHG emissions.

      Finding itself isolated, the American delegation reluctantly returned
      to the negotiating table�and, after an all-night session, a
      compromise deal was announced on December 10th.

      Life after Kyoto
      The final pact is not quite the "historic agreement" some green
      groups claim, but it does, nonetheless, make progress in three broad
      areas. First, the signatories to Kyoto agreed on fiddly details
      essential for the implementation of the pact. For example, they
      accepted compliance rules that set out what happens if countries do
      not meet their targets. They also agreed on ways to improve the
      treaty's overly bureaucratic mechanism for rich countries to gain
      credits for reducing GHGs in developing ones and in former Soviet

      Second, they agreed that future climate talks should take twin
      tracks. First, Kyoto signatories will now start negotiations on what
      binding emissions targets the rich countries of "Kyotoland" must
      accept for the second commitment period. These negotiations must be
      completed in time to ensure that there is no gap between the first
      round and what follows.

      Second, everyone�including America�agreed to start talks on a
      possible UN climate pact that would include America and China. This
      is not as big a breakthrough as it might seem, for the American
      delegation insisted that mandatory emissions targets must not be part
      of these discussions. Even so, it represents progress of a sort, and
      it creates a UN process through which a post-Bush America could take
      on meaningful emissions targets.

      The final, and largely overlooked, outcome of the conference may yet
      prove its most important: delegates agreed to promote carbon capture
      and sequestration technologies, and to get serious about adaptation
      to climate change.

      Carbon sequestration matters because the world cannot simultaneously
      meet its energy needs and climate goals without developing
      technologies for using the vast global reserves of coal in ways that
      do not contribute to global warming.

      Adaptation matters because even if future rounds of Kyoto succeed in
      bringing America on board, many aspects of global warming are already
      inevitable. The sea level, for example, will continue to rise for
      decades to come, with awkward consequences for much of humanity,
      especially in the poorest parts of the world.

      The Montreal summit therefore deserves credit for bringing America
      back into the UN's climate negotiations. However, its enduring legacy
      may be greater still if it results in serious efforts around the
      world to adapt to the inevitable consequences of climate change.




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