Mexico talks hold key to closing gap on fighting climate change
WORLD governments yesterday began another attempt to overcome the gap between rich and poor nations on fighting global warming, with evidence mounting that the Earth’s climate is already changing in ways that will affect both sides of the wealth divide.
During two weeks of talks, the 193-nation United Nations conference hopes to conclude agreements that will clear the way to mobilize billions of dollars for developing countries and give them green technology to help them shift from fossil fuels affecting climate change.
After a disappointing summit last year in Copenhagen, no hope remains of reaching an overarching deal this year setting legal limits on how much major countries would be allowed to pollute. Such an accord was meant to describe a path toward slashing greenhouse gas emissions by mid- century, when scientists say they should be half of today’s levels.
Eighty-five countries have made specific pledges to reduce emissions or constrain growth, but those promises amount to far less than required to keep temperatures from rising to potentially dangerous levels.
The recriminations that followed the Danish summit have raised questions over whether the unwieldy UN negotiations, which require at least tacit agreement from every nation, can ever work. Adopting scaled back ambitions for Cancun, if successful, could restore confidence in the process.
“As is the case with any large puzzle with over 1,000 pieces and over 190 players, one needs to start with the edges and work inwards,” Jennifer Morgan, of World Resources Institute, said.
Christiana Figueres, the top UN climate official, said world capitals are aware of both a growing environmental and political urgency.
“Governments need to prove that the intergovernmental process can deliver,” she said. “They know that they can do it. They know that they need to compromise.”
About 15,000 negotiators, environmental activists, businessmen and journalists are convening at a resort complex under elaborate security precautions, including naval warships a few hundred meters offshore in the Gulf of Mexico.
While delegates haggle over the wording, timing and dollar figures involved in any agreement, scientists and political activists at the conference will be offering the latest indications of the planet’s warming. Some 250 presentations are planned on the sidelines.
Meteorologists are likely to report that 2010 will end up tied for the hottest year since records began 131 years ago.
The UN scientific body that won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for its climate change report, which called global warming “unequivocal,” is expected to tell the conference its warnings of potential disasters are out of date.
Agronomists are due to report on shifting weather patterns that are destabilizing the world’s food supply and access to clean water.
As often during the threeyear process, attention will focus on the United States and China, nations representing the industrialized and developing world.