Global players battle over climate change

28th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

28 March 2007, Brussels (dpa) - A drama is pushing its way towards the top of the world's political agenda: along with wars, hunger and epidemics, the issue of climate change has emerged as an urgent challenge. In light of more and more studies with increasingly-dire scenarios, politicians and industry leaders around the globe must consider how to at least slow down Earth's rising temperatures. Alarmed citizens are expecting quick answers, even though the horrific scenarios posed by scientists of thousands

28 March 2007

Brussels (dpa) - A drama is pushing its way towards the top of the world's political agenda: along with wars, hunger and epidemics, the issue of climate change has emerged as an urgent challenge.

In light of more and more studies with increasingly-dire scenarios, politicians and industry leaders around the globe must consider how to at least slow down Earth's rising temperatures.

Alarmed citizens are expecting quick answers, even though the horrific scenarios posed by scientists of thousands dying from heat and largescale flooding are still decades away.

That urgency is expected to be underscored in the second part of the United Nations climate change report due out on April 6, which will focus on societal and economic consequences of global warming.

From the first instalment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report in February, a few things are already known: the dramatic effects of environmental pollution in the industrial age are unavoidable.

More than 2,000 scientists agreed more strongly than in years past that global warming was caused by human activity, and projected that the 21st century could see global temperatures rise between 1.8 to 4 degrees Celsius.

In the second installment, due on April 6, scientists are to calculate the societal and economic consequences. In the last installment due out on May 3, scientists are to address how to prevent the very worst.

The scientific alarms have galvanized German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a physicist by training, to action. She currently wields considerable influence on the international stage in making it a priority issue, holding the chair of the European Union council of ministers until June 30, and leadership of the Group of Eight (G8) seven top industrial nations and Russia until the end of 2007.

In Europe, a change of thinking has been brewing. EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso gave a push at a summit in late October 2005 with a policy concept that would make energy policy and climate protection two sides of the same coin.

Initially, his ideas were smiled at politely and put on the back burner in the EU's policy thinking. But today, the EU proudly claims to have taken a vanguard role on the issue. Politicians, independent of their party affiliations, have made climate protection their own issue to cultivate voters.

Even those EU member countries, especially in eastern and central Europe, which tend to lag behind in climate protection helped the EU summit in late March to agree to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by one-fifth by the year 2020, compared with 1990 levels.

Should the other economic blocs in Asia and the Americas go along, then the EU would even seek a 30 per cent CO2 reduction.

The 27 EU states also aim to boost their efforts in the field of renewable energy. On average, they want to achieve one-fifth of their energy from solar, hydro, wind or bio-mass sources by 2020. Improved insulation in housing and the use of bio-fuels should additionally help them to burn less fossil fuel.

Environmental activists have praised these good intentions, even though hard work remains to be done on burden-sharing within the EU. The fact remains that there will be no drastic overnight improvements.

For, it seems, everyone agrees that the real polluters are found on other continents. The fact that US President George W Bush only with great reluctance can pronounce the words "climate change" is something Merkel will experience at the G8 summit in early June.

And no wonder: The United States alone accounts for more than one-fifth of the world's total CO2 emissions. It remains to be seen whether Bush, in his less than two remaining years in office and bogged down in other problems such as the Iraq war, will summon the political will to impose strict conditions on domestic industry or on his countrymen known for their love of gas-guzzling cars.

But Bush will not be the only one at the G8 summit in the Baltic Sea resort of Heiligendamm to resist Merkel on her aim of setting up a binding and quickly-tangible strategy against global warming.

Russia produces nearly one out of every seven tonnes of the world's CO2. The 27-member EU combined produces slightly more.

In second and fifth place among the world's top CO2 producers are China and India, while it is the Russians who are doing an outstanding business in exporting the carbon ingredients blamed for a possibly impending climate catastrophe.

Rising exports of oil and gas, along with rising demand and prices, have filled Moscow's coffers. Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to demonstrate at the summit his country's new self-confidence when faced with environmental protection issues.

China's announcement of aiming to become "greener" is something to be taken with a degree of caution. Even if the country with its booming economy does seek to put on the brakes a bit, the country must still consume gigantic amounts of energy to maintain its status as the world's workshop.

This is something Chinese State and Party leader Hu Jintao is expected to make clear in his role as a guest at the G8 summit. In Asia, China is feeling the heat of competition from rival India, which will likewise be represented in Heiligendamm.

For a trained scientist like Merkel, the clearest way to solve a problem which crosses all boundaries is through unlimited international cooperation.

But the German chancellor, who had previously been an environmental minister, is also all too familiar with the limits politicians often face.

DPA

Subject: German news

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