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Wednesday November 29, 2006

Having been sufficiently shocked by the findings of scientists on how earth’s climate is changing dramatically through greenhouse gas emissions (see Indonesia Digest No. 39.06), I was most eager to learn about the results of the Climate Change Conference that was held during a fortnight in Nairobi, Kenya. Scouring Indonesian papers, I found little on the subject, so I surfed the net. Reading through various articles I found that those attending gave mixed - even controversial - reactions to the Nairobi results. 

On the one end is the statement made by the EU delegation that
EU “welcomed the solid results” of the Nairobi world climate conference. Finnish Environment Minister Jan-Erik Enestam, who led the EU delegation, said that : «The Nairobi climate change conference has been a success and I congratulate on this achievement. The European Union has achieved all its main priorities and continues to lead the battle against climate change. We came here above all to drive progress on adaptation issues and pave the way for strong further action to cut emissions, and that is what we have done. Now we need to ensure that action follows urgently », reported the EU website.  

On the opposite side of the scale was the opinion expressed by
Environment and development groups who regret that “the measures presented do not match the scale of the problem”. 

"It's very clear from the Stern Review, from the latest scientific information, from the impacts we're already seeing in places like Kenya, that we need very rapid cuts in carbon emissions, and we need the negotiations to start next year and finish at the latest in 2008," said Andrew Pendleton, climate analyst with the charity Christian Aid. 

The theme was echoed by other campaign groups. "Ministers are simply not reflecting the urgency which is being felt in the real world," said Catherine Pearce, international climate campaigner with Friends of the Earth UK. "We are still not seeing the bold leadership which is needed here." reported the BBC. 

However, I myself found that the most comprehensive report, especially for those of us who were not present or not able to follow closely the conference proceedings, was filed by Japan Times of 25 November. 

Apparently, discussions in the Conference had been tough, as countries defended their self interests, which, understandably were often at odds with one another, and serious conflict was expected to ensue between the interests of the developed, vis-à-vis the needs of developing countries. 

A Compromise Agreement 

Japan Times reported diplomatically and in a matter-of-fact way that on November 17, “countries that attended the second meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol in Nairobi agreed to review the pact in 2008”. “It is hoped that the review will lay the groundwork for creating a future international mechanism to combat global warming more effectively than Kyoto , but many obstacles remain to be overcome”. 

The Nairobi agreement was a product of political compromise, says Japan Times.  Developed nations wanted an early review of Kyoto in the hope that it will lead to a mechanism under which developing nations are persuaded to do more to reduce emissions. They tried to get and other developing countries to commit to a regimen of emission cutbacks. 

Developing countries, on the other hand, tried to delay a review of the pact. They took the view that most global warming thus far has been caused by the past economic activities of developed countries. Instead, these countries sought assistance in dealing with the adverse effects of global warming such as droughts, rising sea levels, and floods. put up the strongest resistance to writing a schedule for reviewing the Kyoto Protocol. However, on the last day of the conference, finally agreed to the review. 

Although the agreement made it clear that the review will not subject developing nations to new mandatory emission cutbacks, the fact that the Kyoto Protocol member nations agreed to review the pact is significant. 

The agreement in Nairobi required Kyoto Protocol member nations to  submit to the secretariat by mid-August their opinions on how the pact should be improved with regard to matters such as compliance by developed nations and assistance needed by developing nations to cope with issues related to climate change. After two years of preparations, a conference will be held in 2008 to review the workings of the Kyoto Protocol. 

The review will be based on "the best scientific information and assessments" as well as "relevant technical, social and economic information," was the agreement.  In a related move, a network of some 2,000 scientists were commissioned by the United Nations to issue their new findings in February on climate changes caused by emissions of greenhouse gases, reports Japan Times. 

The Kyoto Protocol agreed in 1997 that effective from 2005, thirty five industrialized countries would reduce by 2012, emissions of greenhouse gases by an average 5% below 1990 levels. 

to overtake as no. 1 polluter 

In 2001, however, the , the no. 1 polluter in the world, accounting for 25% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol, saying that remaining with the pact would damage its economy. Meanwhile, developing countries including , which is the world’s no. 2 polluter, and are not obliged under the pact to reduce emissions. Whilst, the and together account for around 40% of greenhouse-gas emissions, says Japan Times.  

s things stand now, global warming is set to continue. The emissions of many developed countries, including and the , have grown from 1990 levels. Developing nations are likely to start emitting more heat-trapping gases than developed countries in a short time. is expected to become the No. 1 carbon-dioxide emitter in a few years. Experts warn that to avoid devastating damage from global warming, emissions need to be cut 50 percent or more by 2050. Thus there is the urgent need for the international community to make sincere efforts to reduce emissions by overcoming differences in opinions and interests. 

It is hoped, therefore, that the review will pave the way for future negotiations on a new protocol to strengthen the world mechanism to combat global warming, including mandatory emission reductions by developing countries or at least a commitment by them to use energy more efficiently. 

As for developing nations' call for assistance to help them adapt to the adverse effects of global warming, the nations agreed on how to manage a fund for that purpose. The Adaptation Fund will draw on 2 percent of the profits from the clean-development program. Industrialized countries can invest in sustainable development projects designed to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in developing countries. Such projects can generate tradable emission credits. Thus the conference produced a system to help support the needs of developing nations. 

Barriers to forming a unified front to combat global warming are still high. But the international community should use the momentum from the Nairobi conference to strive for sustainable economic growth. Japan must make sincere efforts to meet the Kyoto Protocol target so that its proposals for fighting global warming will carry weight, says Japan Times (25 November 2006). 

The Nairobi Conference was attended by 6,000 participants from 180 countries including the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan. President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya and President Moritz Leuenberger of the Swiss Confederation addressed event as did ministers and heads of delegation from some ninety-two countries, writes UNDP. 

The most important of the issues outstanding as the talks entered their final phase concerned the review of the Kyoto Protocol, reported the BBC.  The protocol states that it should be reviewed at this stage, with many of its measures open to discussion.   

A number of developing countries viewed this with suspicion, believing that it might open the door to demands that they consider binding cuts in emissions, possibly impacting economic development. 

They asked for, and eventually got, a minimal review. 

The European Union, with the support of a number of other nations, wanted a root and branch examination of emission targets and all the other components of the protocol. The plan now is for such a review to take place in 2008. 

On the European side, UK Environment Secretary David Miliband was upbeat about the conclusions, citing decisions to allocate more resources to Africa for clean technology and for adaptation to the impacts of climate change. 

However, he acknowledged there was a large gap between the emissions cuts which science suggests are necessary, and the level of political commitment to making those cuts. 

"I come away from this conference with two senses: one, the world community can make progress when it puts its mind to it, but two, my goodness we really need to up the momentum, we need to increase the acceleration," he told BBC News. 

"And for that, you don't just need environment ministers - you need prime ministers, finance ministers, and foreign secretaries to put themselves behind this global drive." 

Mr Miliband acknowledged that even alongside the welter of other international initiatives on climate, the UN process is especially important because it is the only one which can demand binding cuts in emissions. The next round of talks will be in Bali next December, reports BBC.
(Sources: UNDP website, Times, BBC) (Tuti Sunario)