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News : International Last Updated: Dec 19th, 2007 - 13:17:15

Bali Global Business Day told that business needs firm targets to respond to climate change; UN report highlights increased potential for conflict in many regions
By Finfacts Team
Dec 11, 2007, 06:32

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Delegates shield themselves from the sun as they await for security clearance at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia.

Business groups on Monday said at the UN Conference on Climate Change currently underway in Bali, Indonesia, that firm targets were required to encourage investment in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Also on Monday, a UN report was published , which said that governments must invest more in preventing climate change-related conflict or else face myriad crises around the world as global warming triggers disputes and exacerbates existing insecurity.

Water scarcity, falling crop yields, rising sea levels, more frequent extreme weather events and mass migration are just some of the potential sources of conflict if governments do not develop and implement a credible strategy to combat climate change, described the UN Environment Programme study released on the sidelines of climate conference.

"I firmly believe that the engagement of the business sector in fighting climate change is crucial... An international climate change deal for the post 2012 period should therefore be designed in a way that makes sense from a business point of view. But first we need political agreement on the launch of negotiations on such a new climate deal. And that has to happen this week here in Bali" said UNFCCC's (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) Executive Secretary, Yvo de Boer, during his opening remarks at the  Bali Global Business Day.

David Hone, group climate change adviser for oil company Shell, and an associate of the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD), an organisation representing hundreds of companies across various sectors, said countries should be given definite emissions targets, broken down into “clearly segmented timeframes”.

“The real confidence would ultimately come once we’ve set and passed one or two [target] deadlines and someone’s held to task if we don’t meet them. If that doesn’t happen, then the whole thing starts to unravel,” he said.

The Bali conference objective is to set out a framework that will form the basis for future negotiations on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which will expire in 2012. A key issue is  of whether explicit targets on emissions cuts should be included in this framework.

Both the United Nations, the European Union and several developing countries are seeking a target requiring developed countries to cut emissions by 25-40% by 2020.

However, the US is opposed to putting a target on future emissions reductions, even if they are non-binding. Japan and Canada are reported to have similar reservations.

World Business Council on Sustainable Development President Bjorn Stigson
Reductions on emissions would affect most businesses, in particular power utilities, oil and gas companies, and car manufacturers.

"The private sector is the major source of innovation, technology and investments that can transform the global energy system. We are making investment decisions that will impact the climate issue for 20, 30, 50 years or more into the future. To do “the right thing” we need clarity on the policy framework within which we do our business" said WBCSD President, Bjorn Stigson at the Bali Global Business Day.

Stigson said that it is obvious that we need to move toward a low carbon economy to address climate change. The climate science as presented by IPCC is clear and requires both mitigation of emissions and adaptation to the consequences. There is an urgency to act and define a new global policy framework post 2012 to guide long-term investments in technology and infrastructure.

The context for our actions is complex and involves difficult balancing between competing societal goals. Five key elements of this context are:

  1. Climate change and development must be addressed together. This involves trade, financial flows, technology cooperation and preservation of forests.

  2. Energy demand will grow, driven by the developing countries and their need for poverty alleviation.

  3. There is a lot of inertia in the global energy infrastructure and change will take a long time because of the enormous amount of existing capital stock.  

  4. Fossil fuels will be the primary energy source for decades.

  5. Carbon emissions will grow as a consequence.

“Long-term clarity [on emissions] influences investment, and uncertainty has a negative impact on levels of investment. Governments have to provide clarity,” Stigson said and cited an example of a power utility that was considering building a new power station: “The investment would depend on whether governments were shooting for targets of 50 per cent emissions cuts by 2050, or whatever.”

Stigson said the following points could be seen as a common denominator for most of these business recommendations:

  • An urgent need for a new global policy framework post 2012 to be finalized before the end of 2009 based on

  • A long-term target for GHG emissions

  • A price of carbon

  • Use of market mechanisms

  • Push for energy efficiency and demand side management

  • Strengthened R&D and accelerated deployment of energy technologies

  • Clean coal solutions, including carbon capture and storage

  • Revival of nuclear and big hydro

  • A reformed and broadened CDM (carbon trading market)

  • New policy tools- like industrial sectoral approaches

Climate Change and Conflict - New Report Weighs the Risks and Pin Points Likely Hotspots

German Advisory Council on Global Change and UN Environment Programme Claim Combating Global Warming Contribution to Global Security

Combating climate change will be a central peace policy of the 21st century.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Executive Secretary, Yvo de Boer
Unchecked it is likely to aggravate old and trigger new tensions in parts of the world that may spill over into violence, conflict and war a new report concludes.

Areas at increased risk of insecurity include northern and southern Africa alongside countries in the Sahel region and the Mediterranean

Other potential hot spots are central Asia; India, Pakistan and Bangladesh; China; parts of the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico and Andean and Amazonian regions of Latin America.

The report, prepared by German and Swiss academics, urges governments meeting at the UN climate convention conference in Bali to adopt deep and decisive emission reductions alongside support for adaptation or 'climate proofing'.

Otherwise climate change, including more extreme weather events; impacts like the melting of glaciers; the drying out of big forest systems and rising numbers of climate refugees is likely to overwhelm the ability of many countries to govern and to cope.

Professor Hans Schellnhuber, a lead author of the report, Director of he Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Visiting Professor at Oxford University, said: "Without resolute counteraction, climate change will overstretch many societies' adaptive capacities within coming decades. This could result in destabilization and violence jeopardizing national and international security to a new degree".

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director UN Environment Programme (UNEP), said: "There are multiple environmental challenges facing the world and the security of communities and countries. Climate change is perhaps the most high profile".

"However, if we can counter climate change and climate proof economies to buffer them against the climatic changes already underway, perhaps the world can unite around these other pressing challenges from reversing the decline of biodiversity and loss of marine resources up to designing a more intelligent, fairer and ultimately sustainable global trade regime".

The new report comes in the wake of rising concern over climate change and conflict. Earlier in the year the UN Security Council debated the issue and there have been warnings from retired and serving senior military in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Also on Monday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), jointly founded by UNEP and the World Meteorological Organisation, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo with co-winner, former US Vice President Al Gore. 

The new report, entitled Climate Change as a Security Risk, has been prepared by the German Advisory Council on Global Change drawing on the work of international experts and organizations including UNEP.

The report suggests four 'climate-induced conflict constellations'. These are degradation of freshwaters; decline in food production; increase in storm and flood disasters and environmentally-induced migration.

It also tries to define and explain what may constitute vulnerable states and societies. These are likely to be ones that are in political transition and have a low level of economic activity with often large population or high population densities.

Countries bordering a neighbour in which violent conflict is being waged or ones that have themselves experienced violent conflicts in the very recent past within their own borders will also be vulnerable to renewed conflict in a climatically constrained world.

Highlights from the Report-Regional Hotspots

North Africa: The potential for political crisis and migratory pressure will intensify as a result of the interaction between increasing drought and water scarcity, high population growth, a drop in agricultural potential and poor political problem-solving capacities. The populous Nile Delta will beat risk from sea-level rise and salinization in agricultural areas.

Sahel zone: Climate change will cause additional environmental stress and social crises (e.g. drought, harvest failure, water scarcity) in a region already characterized by weak states (e.g. Somalia, Chad), civil wars (e.g. Sudan, Niger) and major refugee flows (Sudan: more than 690,000 people; Somalia: more than 390,000 people).

Southern Africa: Climate change could further weaken the economic potential of this region, whose countries already belong to the poorest in the world in most cases. It could also worsen the conditions for human security and overstretch the capacities of states in the region.

Central Asia: Above-average warming and glacial retreat will exacerbate the water, agricultural and distributional problems in a region which is already characterized by political and social tensions, civil war (Tajikistan) and conflicts over access to water and energy resources.

India, Pakistan, Bangladesh: The impacts of climate change will be especially severe in this region: glacial retreat in the Himalayas will jeopardize the water supply for millions of people, changes to the annual monsoon will affect agriculture, and sea-level rise and cyclones will threaten human settlements around the populous Bay of Bengal.

These dynamics will increase the social crisis potential in a region which is already characterized by cross-border conflicts (India/Pakistan), unstable governments (Bangladesh/Pakistan) and Islamism.

China: Climate change will intensify the existing environmental stress(e.g. air and water pollution, soil degradation) due to the increase in heat waves and droughts, which will worsen desertification and water scarcity in some parts of the country.

Sea-level rise and tropical cyclones will threaten the economically significant and populous east coast. The government¹s steering capacities could be overwhelmed by the rapid pace of modernization, environmental and social crises and the impacts of climate change.

Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico: Increased frequency of more intense hurricanes could overwhelm the economic and political problem-solving capacities in the region (especially in Central America).

Andean region and Amazonia: Faster glacial retreat in the Andes will worsen the region¹s water problems. The collapse of the Amazon rainforest, which cannot be ruled out, would radically alter South America¹s natural environment, with incalculable economic and social consequences.


Finfacts Climate Change Reports - access on right-hand column of home page

© Copyright 2007 by Finfacts.com

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