June 6, 2011

Industrial Emissions Still Climbing

A new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) shows that emissions from fossil fuels, despite 20 years of effort, are going up instead of down, hitting record highs as climate negotiators gather to debate a new global warming accord, reports the Associated Press (AP).

It is one of several pieces of bad news facing delegates from about 180 countries heading to Bonn, Germany, for two weeks of talks beginning Monday.

Another strike against curbing emissions is the tsunami-triggered nuclear disaster in March, which apparently has sidelined Japan's policies to combat climate change and has prompted countries like Germany to hasten the decommissioning of nuclear power stations which have nearly zero carbon emissions.

"Japan's energy future is in limbo," analyst Endre Tvinnereim of the consultancy firm Point Carbon told AP. The fallout from the catastrophe has "put climate policy further down the priority list," and the short-term effect in Japan "” one of the world's most carbon-efficient countries "” will be more burning of fossil fuels, he said.

Fatih Birol, the IEA's chief economist, says the energy trend should be "a wake-up call." The figures are "a serious setback" to hopes of limiting the rise in the Earth's average temperature to 3.8 F above preindustrial levels, he said.

Scientists believe that a rise above those levels could lead to catastrophic climate shifts affecting water supplies and global agriculture. Higher temperatures would also set off more frequent and fierce storms and endanger coastlines with higher average water levels.

A study released Sunday supports what developing countries say about the industrialized countries, who have overloaded the atmosphere with carbon dioxide and other climate-changing gases over the last 200 years. That they are not doing enough to cut future pollution.

The study, based on an analysis by the Stockholm Environment Institute commissioned and released by Oxfam, evaluated national pledges to cut carbon emissions submitted after the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit. It found that developing countries account for 60 percent of the promised reductions.

The analysis is complicated because countries use different yardsticks and baseline years for measuring reductions but the study calculated that China, which has pledged to reduce emissions in relation to economic output by 40-45 percent, will cut its carbon output twice as much as the United States by 2020.

"It's time for governments from Europe and the US to stand up to the fossil fuel lobbyists," said Tim Gore, a climate analyst for Oxfam, the international aid agency.

Wealthy countries falling under the Kyoto Protocol's mandate of 1997 are resisting demands to extend their commitments beyond 2012 unless powerful emerging economies like China, India and Brazil accept similar mandatory caps.

"The Kyoto Protocol uncertainty is casting even a bigger shadow over the negotiations than in years past, and is going to come to a head," Jake Schmidt of the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council, told AP.


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