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Nations Prepare Proposals For New UN Climate Plan

May 11, 2009

Most nations have submitted less-than-ambitious proposals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the months leading up to the UN convention on climate change in Copenhagen in December.

Australia on Monday announced plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 while postponing its carbon emissions trading plans by a year to mid-2011. The country cited the ongoing economic recession in its decision.

According to Reuters calculations, international plans amount to average reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 9 to 16 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

Kyoto protocol calls for an average cut of 5 percent less than 1990 levels by 2008-12 among industrialized nations.

“The economic downturn is putting a brake on the level of commitment and investment to mitigate climate change,” Pep Canadell, head of the global carbon project at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, told Reuters.

“The current stimulus packages are committing the economies of developed countries to run deficits for a number of years which will not make things easier in the near future either,” he said.

US Democrats in Congress are hoping to curb emissions by just over 80 percent by 2050 compared to 2005 levels, according to the New York Times. Additionally, they are in favor of a 2020 emissions curb near President Obama’s call for a 14 percent cut below 2005 levels.

“Remember, this is an 80 percent reduction by 2050,” Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) told the Times. “This is 2009. We’ve got 41 years in this deal, and we shouldn’t be so worried about the first 10 years. Because if we can’t mitigate the economic impact of the first 10 years, we’re not going to have a bill anyway. You’re just not going to build public support for it and members of Congress to vote for it.”

According to Reuters, countries like China and India want industrialized nations to agree to a cut in greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. In addition to these agreements, they are also calling for aid and green technology.

The European Union has stated that rich nations must make drastic cuts to ensure that the Earth’s climate does not increase by more than 2 Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

“Submissions so far from all countries are nowhere near 2 Celsius,” Bill Hare, a visiting scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and a director of Climate Analytics, told Reuters.

“Many countries are slumbering through the climate crisis like Sleeping Beauty,” Norwegian Environment Minister Erik Solheim said.

“Even going back to 1990 levels in the U.S. — which is far from insignificant — has just made Japan feel more at ease that it doesn’t need to go any further,” said Kim Carstensen, head of the Global Climate Initiative of the WWF International environmental group.

“My sense is that we have seen the same relaxation in Europe…Australia may be the point where we begin to see a change,” he said.

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