The post-Kyoto fix

Published: Monday 31 December 2007

-- All attention is on the climate conference in Bali. Most people hope that the ongoing negotiations within the un will, however, culminate in an inclusive--and effective--agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions once the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. For that to happen, however, attitudes of the main actors have to change dramatically.

The main focus for many years has been on tensions between the eu and the us. However, there is an equally difficult problem: the so far irreconcilable positions of the industrialized countries and the emerging economies. The us's decision to leave Kyoto made negotiations with countries like China and India all the more difficult. If the world's richest nation does not assume responsibility for its emissions, it is easy to see why developing nations show inflexibility.

us president George Bush has been adamant that China and India must make commitments to curb greenhouse gas emissions. In response, these countries have referred to the principles of  "common and differentiated responsibilities" that underpin the climate convention. These recognize that the prime responsibility of climate change is that of the industrialized countries. We created the problem and account for almost 80 per cent of cumulative emissions. That is why demands on emissions reductions in the Kyoto Protocol target only the industrialized world.

But in a post-Kyoto scenario, no agreement will be effective unless the emerging economies are included in a meaningful way. However, many such countries perceive commitments on emission cuts as threats to their economic development. But most also realize that it is not in their interest to pollute first and then clean up, particularly after scientific reports have clearly demonstrated that low-income countries face the most serious threats from global warming.

Both the Stern and the ipcc reports stress that total emissions must start falling within the next decade or so. For that to happen we need the cooperation of all nations. China is already doing a lot. It has set as a goal to enhance energy efficiency by 4 per cent yearly from 2006 to 2010, and increase the share of renewables from today's 5 per cent to 15 per cent in 2020. However, these will be more than neutralized by a 10 per cent annual economic growth rate.

eu has committed to reduce emissions by 20-30 per cent compared to 1990 before 2020. This would mean that in 2020 eu emissions would be between 1 and 1.5 million tonnes of co2 lower than now. In the meantime-- and based on current trends--emissions in China and India would continue to grow by at least 500 million tonnes per year.

The main challenge in the short term will be to develop low-carbon strategies for emerging economies, without compromising their right to develop. Emerging economies should be offered a climate and energy partnership to help facilitate the transition to a low-carbon economy. According to the Stern report, making energy investments in emerging economies maximally efficient as well as low-carbon would amount to at least us $20 billion more per year. Industrialized countries should pick up a significant share of these costs. Present financial mechanisms at the international level--like the clean development mechanism--will help somewhat. In addition, what is needed is a technology fund that can help finance licence fees for clean technology and cover some of the cost differential between conventional coal and low-carbon technologies.

Moreover, there should be support for capacity-building --to educate and train people in all sectors of society in energy efficiency and low-carbon technology. Of particular importance will be energy-intensive sectors like power production, heating and cooling, construction, cement, steel and transportation.

The World Bank has estimated that it would cost between us $10-40 billion yearly to "climate-proof" investments in low-income countries. According to a recent report by Oxfam, a British ngo, adaptation to climate change in low-income countries would cost a minimum of us $50 billion every year. In the recently published Human Develop-ment Report the cost increase for adaptation is estimated at more than us $80 billion per year. What has so far been made available by the donor community for adaptation and risk reduction--a few hundred million dollars--is a pittance compared to the needs.

Ideally, industrialized countries should offer a climate and energy partnership as a show of goodwill and constructive cooperation to emerging economies like India and China. If the us does not want to cooperate, the eu should go ahead alone. Such a partnership could pave the way for emerging economies taking on emission targets.

Anders Wijkman is member of the European Parliament from Sweden and vice president of the Club of Rome

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