You are here:   Dispatches > Cold Comfort On Global Warming

Tying Typhoon Yolanda and other storms to climate change was repeated by a number of officials and diplomats over the course of COP-19. The most careful expression I heard was from Todd Stern, the top US climate negotiator. He said that while no causal connection could be scientifically established, the typhoon was entirely consistent with what science tells us to expect from climate change. Stern failed to mention that there is no event that is not consistent, including the lack of Atlantic hurricanes in 2013.

The typhoon played neatly into the hands of poor countries who have been demanding reparations from the developed world for losses and damages suffered as a result of extreme weather events and sea-level rise. After long, acrimonious negotiations, it was agreed to create a new "Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage". Funding details are to be arranged at a later date. Of course, wealthy countries already provide tens of billions of pounds a year in disaster aid regardless of the cause of the disaster.

Loss and damage is only the newest avenue for wealth transfers. At Copenhagen in 2009, President Obama achieved agreement that the developed countries should provide funding to assist poor countries to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. The number that was casually thrown up and quickly adopted was that funding should ramp up to $100 billion a year by 2020. The Green Climate Fund has recently been officially created with a director and offices in South Korea (although North Korea would be more appropriate since that nation has already cut its emissions to near zero). There are many poor countries eager to receive payouts from the Green Climate Fund, but, as Ban Ki-moon remarked, the fund is so far just an empty shell. The problem is that the wealthy countries, with the exception of China, are struggling economically and have no cash to spare. And China has made it clear that it has no intention of contributing to the fund because it is still a developing country. 

The fact that the cupboard is bare and likely to remain bare is now the chief concern of the poor countries. Many hours at the official sessions were devoted to speeches admonishing the US and the EU to commit to start contributing to the Green Climate Fund immediately and reach $70 billion by 2016. No agreement was reached in Warsaw on when, where, and how the money is going to be raised, so this will be a top agenda item when the 194 nations belonging to the UNFCCC gather late next year in Peru. 

The main action at COP-19 was in the committee that is negotiating a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol by the end of 2015, which is to be ratified and go into effect by 2020. This committee met for many hours and far into the early hours of the morning on several days. The disagreements are longstanding, fundamental and intractable. Progress was so slow that two and perhaps three more week-long sessions will be held before the next climate conference in Lima in December. In addition, a summit of heads of state has been set for September 24 at the UN's headquarters in New York. 

There is agreement that setting targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions should follow a bottom-up approach rather than the top-down framework in the Kyoto Protocol. Thus COP-19 agreed that the 194 parties to the UNFCCC should develop their own national plans and submit them by early 2015. Some process will be developed to review these plans and then decide whether taken together they will be sufficient to avoid catastrophic global warming, which has been defined as a rise of two degrees centigrade or more in the global mean temperature. 

View Full Article

Post your comment

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
More Dispatches
Popular Standpoint topics