US defends 'enormous' climate efforts

2012-11-26 21:14
International Relations and Co-operation Minister, and president of the 17th UN climate change conference, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, speaks at the opening of the 18th conference in Doha. (Karim Jaafar, Al-Wantan Doha, AFP)

International Relations and Co-operation Minister, and president of the 17th UN climate change conference, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, speaks at the opening of the 18th conference in Doha. (Karim Jaafar, Al-Wantan Doha, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Doha - The US defended its track record on fighting climate change on Monday at UN talks, saying it's making "enormous" efforts to slow global warming and help the poor nations most affected by it.

Other countries have accused Washington of hampering the climate talks ever since the Bush administration abandoned the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 treaty limiting emissions of heat-trapping gases by industrialised countries.

As negotiators met for a two-week session in oil and gas-rich Qatar, US delegate Jonathan Pershing suggested America deserves more credit.

"Those who don't follow what the US is doing may not be informed of the scale and extent of the effort, but it's enormous," Pershing said.

Efforts

He noted that the Obama administration has taken a series of steps, including sharply increasing fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks, and made good on promises of climate financing for poor countries. A climate bill that would have capped emissions stalled in the Senate.

"It doesn't mean enough is being done," Pershing said. "It's clear the global community, and that includes us, has to do more if we are going to succeed at avoiding the damages projected in a warming world."

The two-decade-old UN talks have not fulfilled their main purpose: reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say are warming the planet.

The goal is to keep the global temperature rise under 2°C, compared to pre-industrial times.

Efforts taken so far to rein in emissions, reduce deforestation and promote clean technology are not getting the job done. A recent projection by the World Bank showed temperatures are expected to increase by up to 4°C by 2100.

Scientists warn that dangerous warming effects could include flooding of coastal cities and island nations, disruptions to agriculture and drinking water, the spread of diseases and the extinction of species.

Resolving issues

Attempts to forge a new climate treaty failed in Copenhagen three years ago, but countries agreed last year to try again, giving themselves a deadline of 2015 to adopt a new pact.

Several issues need to be resolved by then, including how to spread the burden of emissions cuts between rich and poor countries.

That's unlikely to be decided in the current talks in the Qatari capital of Doha, where negotiators from nearly 200 countries are focusing on extending the Kyoto Protocol, and trying to raise billions of dollars to help developing countries adapt to a shifting climate.

"We owe it to our people, the global citizenry. We owe it to our children to give them a safer future than what they are currently facing," said South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who led last year's talks in Durban.

The UN process is often criticized, even ridiculed, both by climate activists who say the talks are too slow and by those who challenge the scientific near-consensus that the global temperature rise is at least partly caused by human activity, primarily the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil.

The concentration of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide has jumped 20% since 2000, according to a UN report released last week. The report also showed that there is a growing gap between what governments are doing to curb emissions and what needs to be done to protect the world from potentially dangerous levels of warming.

Current threat


"Climate change is no longer some distant threat for the future, but is with us today," said Greenpeace climate campaigner Martin Kaiser, who was also at the Doha talks. "At the end of a year that has seen the impacts of climate change devastate homes and families around the world, the need for action is obvious and urgent."

Many scientists say that extreme weather events, such as Hurricane Sandy's onslaught on the US East Coast, will become more frequent as the Earth warms, although it is impossible to attribute individual weather events to climate change.

The Kyoto Protocol is seen as the most important climate agreement reached in the UN process so far. It expires this year, so negotiators in Doha will try to extend it as a stopgap measure until a wider deal can be reached.

The problem is that only the European Union and a handful of other countries - that together are responsible for than 15% of global emissions - are willing to set emissions targets for a second commitment period of Kyoto.

Developing countries

The US rejected the Kyoto accord because it didn't impose binding commitments on major developing countries such as India and China, which is now the world's top carbon emitter.

China and other developing countries want to maintain a clear division, saying climate change is mainly a legacy of Western industrialisation and that their own emissions must be allowed to grow as their economies expand, lifting millions of people out of poverty.

That discord scuttled attempts to forge a climate deal in Copenhagen in 2009 and risks a recurrence in Doha, as talks begin on a new global deal that is supposed to be adopted in 2015 and implemented in 2020.

Environmentalists found the choice of Qatar as host of the two-week conference ironic. The tiny Persian Gulf emirate owes its wealth to large deposits of gas and oil, and it emits more greenhouse gases per capita than any other nation.

Qatar has not even announced any climate action in the UN process, and former Qatari oil minister Abdullah Bin Hamad al-Attiyah didn't do so when he opened the conference Monday.

"We should not concentrate on the per capita [emissions]. We should concentrate on the amount from each country," al-Attiyah told reporters. "I think Qatar is the right place to host" the conference, he said.

- AP

Read more on:    un  |  us  |  qatar  |  kyoto protocol  |  energy  |  climate change
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 

ANCYL: Not voting would be blasphemy

Not voting in the forthcoming elections would be blasphemy, the ANCYL says in a statement commemorating the 50th anniversary of struggle icon Nelson Mandela's Rivonia trial speech.

 
 

Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Nokia E7

Your mobile office Real-time emails with Mail for Exchange. Easy access to...

From R3499.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may be good at organising events but they do take their toll on your energy levels. You may need some time out today just to...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.