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Science vs politics at Copenhagen

india Updated: Dec 11, 2009 17:18 IST
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At stake:

Global climate, our lifestyle the way we know it, our water supply and every living organism and plant life.

WHY:

Scientists from every nation have produced data that points towards a steady increase in the global temperatures. According to their estimates the global mean temperature has seen an increase in 0.6 to 1.0 degree centigrade. The reason for this rise is the way we are using energy resources and cutting down forests for agriculture and cattle rearing. The scientists project that if we keep living like this and ravage the earth then temperatures would rise by 2.0 - 6.0 degree centigrade by the end of the 21st century.

Why temperature would rise:

The way we produce our electricity and run our transport and perform agriculture and cattle rearing is leading to an increased amount of gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. There are four gases and two compound gases - Carbon dioxide, Nitrous oxide, methane, water vapour, cloroflorocarbons and perflorocarbons. Their emission amount has to be contained if the temperature increase is to be offset.

Global efforts:

The world started making efforts to jointly address this problem. It began in 1992 June in Rio De Janerio, Brazil. All the countries agreed to work towards making atmosphere cleaner. The agreement framework and its details were worked out within five years and are known as Kyoto Protocol as it was accepted in the Japanese city of Kyoto.

Kyoto Protocol

The Protocol made a list of 23 nations that were deemed developed. The list was called Annex 1. The countries in this list were asked to bring down their carbon emission. The equation was that the base year was decided as 1990 and all the countries together were required to bring down their emission by 5.2% from this year's emission level.
All the countries except US and Australia accepted the Protocol. Developing countries were exempt from any legally binding emission cuts but were encouraged to adopt new and cleaner technologies. Developed countries were also directed to help the developing countries monetarily and with technical aid to shift to clean development technologies.
The Kyoto Protocol comes to an end in 2012.

What next

To carry on with their efforts to bring down carbon emission all the 192 members of the United Nations are trying to work out a framework to carry forward their global efforts.

Challenges

For a new framework to succeed there are few things that the member nations want to do:-
a) Include United States of America in any future climate action plan.
b) Decide on ways to fund the transition from old polluting industrial set up to new clean energy sources and production practices.
c) Who should pay and what amount.
d) In last 18 years countries like China, Brazil and India have developed at a fast pace and their economies have expanded leading to high carbon emission. The new action plan wants that these emerging economies should also agree to some kind of emission cut - voluntary or binding.

Copenhagen jigsaw

In view of these challenges country representatives or negotiators have descended in Copenhagen to come to a common conclusion. Following is the stated position of all the major players that can make or mar the global climate deal.

1. US - Second largest carbon emitter. Is not a signatory of Kyoto Protocol. Has made it clear that it will not give money to India or China for adopting new technology or green efforts rather its money will go to the most vulnerable countries. It has pledged emission cut of 17% from its 2005 level. Also it would put $10 billion for global climate fund.


2. China - Largest carbon emitter. Under Kyoto Protocol it is under no obligation to put a cap on its emissions. Has been the biggest beneficiary of Kyoto Protocol as it cornered maximum funds from developed countries for carbon mitigation. Refuses to accept any binding commitment to bring down carbon emission but unilaterally declared to bring down carbon intensity by 40-45 per cent by 2020.


3. Russia - Third largest emitter of carbon. Signatory of Kyoto Protocol but under no obligation to go for any emission cuts. Has been silent on voluntary emission cuts as well as any contribution to global climate fund.

4. India - India is the fourth largest emitter of carbon. But it has a unique position. Its per capita carbon emission is less than 1/20th of US at 1.8 tons per person per year. But 400 million of her citizens don't have access to electricity. And when we take its 300 million strong middle class into account the per capita carbon emission reaches close to the world average of 5.2 tons. But India has decided to bring down its carbon intensity by 20-25 per cent by 2020 and wants the developed countries to fund its transition.

5. Britain - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been winning brownie points by raising all the right voices. He was the first one to propose a climate fund of $10 billion. But Britain still has a high per capita carbon emission and nothing concrete has been done to mitigate it.

6. G-77 - A misnomer as it represents 120 developing nations. These under developed or partially developing countries have done little or nothing to contribute in global climate change yet they would be suffering heavily due to it. They are demanding aid from the rich nations who have been historically responsible for huge carbon emissions.

7. AOSIS - Alliance Of Small Island States - These 42 states are low lying island states in Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Ocean. They are demanding that any agreement that does not talk about capping temperature rise of not more than 1.5 degree centigrade would unacceptable to them. Their very existence is at stake due to the rising sea levels in the 21st century.

Copenhagen Wedge

With this disparate demands and hardened positions the Copenhagen Summit began on December 7, 2009. Within two days of the Summit there was an uproar that threatened the negotiations and the Summit itself. Denmark prepared a draft and leaked it to a British Daily the Guardian. Its now popularly called Danish Draft but has the backing of US and UK. The text proposes to force developing countries to agree to specific emission cuts and measures that were not part of the original UN agreement. Divide poor countries further by creating a new category of developing countries called "the most vulnerable" Weaken the UN's role in handling climate finance and make IMF (International Monetary Fund) as the main agency to disburse funds. Not allow poor countries to emit more than 1.44 tonnes of carbon per person by 2050, while allowing rich countries to emit 2.67 tonnes.

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