UN meeting on global warming moves towards deal

By staff writers
May 4, 2007

Experts and observers, including NGOs and faith groups, at the United Nations climate change conference in Bangkok say a deal has been done on ways to combat global warming, despite trenchant opposition by China to policies restricting economic growth.

The areas of dispute included language regarding the Kyoto protocol (about which the US remains skeptical), the true costs of cutting emissions and how they will be borne, and the role of nuclear power.

The third part of this year's assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) looking at ways to curb emissions and the economic factors involved is due to be released later today (4 May 2007).

But environmentalists remain tight-lipped about what is really being achieved in the midst of much political horse trading.

"[O]ne direction seems to be that there isn't the investment going into renewable technologies and energy efficiency that's sufficient for them to meet the potential they have to tackle this problem," Catherine Pearce, international climate campaigner with Friends of the Earth UK, told BBC News in Bangkok.

The draft report assesses the likely costs to the global economy of stabilizing greenhouse gases at various concentrations in the atmosphere.

Aiming for a total greenhouse gas concentration equivalent to 650 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide would reduce global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by about 0.2%, it says, whereas a more ambitious target of 550ppm would cost about 0.6% of global GDP.

The current atmospheric concentration is approximately 425ppm, and many climate scientists now argue that only agreeing to keep below about 450ppm can prevent major climatic consequences.

The IPCC draft report says that keeping concentrations at this level could cost up to 3% of GDP.

Eco-activists and those working on alternative economic models have long suggested that the components of the calculation of GDP should in fact include social and environmental costs, rather than these being seen as competitive or negative.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report will not make policy recommendations, but China and others have still sought to minimize and weaken references to lower stabilization levels.

Meanwhile, campaigners say that the commitment of the Pope on global warming action and the shift of opinion in the evangelical sector are significant in helping to shift opinion in the USA towards more effective action, despite White House resistance.

As an indication of the breadth of the emerging coalition, the National Cathedral in Washington’s recent Earth Day service featured Richard Cizik, a green leader in the National Association of Evangelicals - and was orginally going to include Grammy-winner Sheryl Crow singing the hymn "Morning Has Broken."

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