Culling emissions must for survival: IEA

The global energy agency warns the present emission levels would make planet uninhabitable, Sayed Talat Kamal writes from Durban
Published : 7 Dec 2011, 10:02 AM
Updated : 7 Dec 2011, 10:02 AM
Sayed Talat Kamal
Durban, Dec 7 ( — The current level of emissions would see the world with a 6-degree rise in temperature by 2035, creating a planet in which human civilisation is unlikely to survive, the International Energy Agency has said.
"Unless the world changes its energy course by 2017, we will not meet the target of staying below a 2-degree Celsius rise," the organisation's executive director Maria van der Hoeven said on Wednesday.
The warning comes in the wake of discussions at the 17th Conference of Parties (COP17) meet in Durban, as delegates from over 190 nations engage in negotiations to arrive at a consensus and renewed commitment towards extensions of the Kyoto protocol restrictions.
Scientists believe any rise in temperature above the 2-degree threshold could trigger far-reaching and irreversible changes over land and in seas. And while science indicates there is still a chance to avoid catastrophic climate change, countries would have to move fast.
Climate change is a result of greenhouse gases trapping the sun's heat in the earth's atmosphere, raising global temperatures, which in turn triggers weather change, leading to stronger and more frequent cyclones and floods, rising sea levels, drought, erosion and increased salinity.
Global studies, endorsed by the UN and the scientific community, indicate that in order to arrest the temperature rise within 1.5 degrees, global emissions must be reduced to 40 percent of what they were in 1990 by 2020, and to 95 percent of 1990 levels by 2050.
Furthermore emissions must not peak after 2015.
However, even ominous predictions, such as this, have done little to break the political stalemate between the US, powerful developing countries such as China, India and Brazil, against the establishment of a Climate Change Fund and the extension of the Kyoto protocol restrictions being advocated strongly by the EU.
The US in particular is being viewed as dragging its feet in negotiations, to the extent that the Climate Action Network (CAN), a consortium of about 700 NGOs, have "honoured" the US with third prize in their 'Fossil of the Day' awards.
The "awards" are being bestowed on nations seen as blocking efforts to curb global warming. The US has been given the dubious distinction for "mobilising other countries to block progress in COP17".
The first prize was won jointly by New Zealand and Russia.
Russia "won" for refusing to sign on to a second period of greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto protocol, while at the same time attempting to carry over its hot-air emission credits from the first commitment period to the second commitment period.
New Zealand's inconsistency in the Kyoto protocol negotiations during the Durban meet won fetched it the trophy. The country has "insisted that it could not constitutionally agree to provisional implementation of a second commitment period despite its internal policy stating that it can".
In light of the grim forecast by the IEA executive director, where 2017 was declared as the cut-off point for reversing on the current energy course, the US proposal to lock in a 10-year timeout with no new targets to lower emissions till 2020 is "alarming", according to CAN.
Notably, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, while urging senior negotiators for the 194 nations to "pull back from the abyss" before it was too late, also acknowledged that the goal of signing a legally binding treaty on renewed restrictions of greenhouse gas emission "may be beyond our reach - for now."
The UN secretary General, in Durban for the concluding week of the talks, reminded delegates that the World Meteorological Organisation has already reported that carbon emissions were now at the highest level in history.
Toufique Imrose Khalidi
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