Ban adds to climate expectations

2009-12-09 08:24

Copenhagen - UN chief Ban Ki-moon said he expected the Copenhagen climate summit to seal a historic deal on cutting emissions amid warnings on Tuesday that the last decade broke the record for global warming.

"I am encouraged and I am optimistic," Ban said, reflecting the weight of expectation resting on the 12-day negotiations.

"I expect a robust agreement in Copenhagen that will be effective immediately and include specific recommendations."

Prospects of a breakthrough were bolstered late on Monday when the US declared it would start to regulate carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas, as a dangerous pollutant.

But the cost of failure in the Danish capital was highlighted when the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said the Noughties were shaping up to be the hottest since records began.

"The decade 2000-2009 is very likely to be the warmest on record, warmer than the 1990s, which were in turn warmer than the 1980s," Michel Jarraud, the WMO's secretary general, told a news conference.

Jarraud also said the year 2009 would probably rank as the fifth warmest since accurate records began in 1850.

'Hottest known ever'

Britain's Met Office released data from hundreds of monitoring stations worldwide showing the rise in global surface temperature has averaged more than 0.15ÂșC per decade since the middle of the 1970s.

The Copenhagen talks, under the banner of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), are the boldest attempt in a 17-year odyssey to turn back the threat of climate change through consensus.

If all goes well, the conference will yield an outline agreement that sets down pledges by major emitters of greenhouse gases to curb pollution.

It will also set down principles of long-term financing to help wean poor countries off high-carbon technology and beef up their defences against climate change.

Rich countries are under pressure to kick in $10bn a year in "fast-track" funding from 2010 to 2012.

Further negotiations would be needed over the next year to flesh out the agreement. Once ratified, the accord would take effect from 2013.

Delegates said the next few days would see countries lay out their positions before some 110 world leaders - including US President Barack Obama, Premier Wen Jiabao of China and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh - arrive for the climax.

Towards the end of the week, former Danish climate minister Connie Hedegaard, the conference chair, will carry out a review of positions and then put together a draft agreement.

'Like ants'

But an earlier proposed paper by Hedegaard, dated November 27, that circulated at the conference on Tuesday was savaged by greens and aid activists.

"Like ants in a room full of elephants poor countries are at risk of being squeezed out of the climate talks in Copenhagen," said Antonio Hill of Oxfam International.

"As the talks ramp up and the big players put forward their proposals for the deal, it is vitally important that vulnerable countries are part of the debate."

Climate change is already forcing people from their homes, according to a report released on Tuesday by the UN's International Organisation for Migration (IOM). Most move within their countries or to a neighbouring state.

"Large-scale human movement from climate change and environmental degradation is not only inevitable but is already happening," IOM said.

The UN refugee agency has estimated that some 24 million people worldwide have fled their homes due to environmental factors.

Two years of talks have taken place in the run-up to Copenhagen, exposing deep rifts on emissions burden-sharing.

Reducing greenhouse gases carries an economic cost in energy efficiency and in shifting away from the oil, gas and coal, the cheap and plentiful "fossil fuels" that are the mainstay of the world's power.

Developing countries, several of which are already big polluters, are refusing to budge unless rich nations slash their emissions by at least 40% by 2020 over 1990.

Among advanced economies, eyes have turned to the US, which remained on the sidelines of the climate arena under George W Bush.

Obama is now bulldozing away Bush's policies and is steering legislation through Congress that would cut US emissions by 4% by 2020 compared to the 1990 benchmark - albeit still a fraction of what the EU is demanding.