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Durban set to pick up more heat

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Compromise formula on Kyoto Protocol faces obstacle

DURBAN burned with sweltering heat Wednesday and the UN’s weather agency World Meteorological Organisation‘s just-released report that 2011 is the 10th hottest year since records began in 1850 had probably something to do with a new-found formula to save the Kyoto Protocol. Inam Ahmed writes in The Daily Star.

The compromise formula to give a fresh lifeline to Kyoto Protocol that ends next year suggested that the countries which had signed the legal binding on emission should continue their commitment for a second phase. In return, the USA which did not sign the protocol should commit to cut carbon emission earlier than 2020.

However, politics has once again complicated the new formula as the US is firm on its stance that it would not talk anything about emission cut before 2020. And India, the fourth biggest carbon emitter, has outright rejected any commitment.

But a silver line appeared with China saying it is ready to cap its emission. Chinese press has also slated Canada’s decision to leave the protocol.

With such undercurrents flowing high, the climate conference at Durban looks set to pick up more heat in the coming days. The worrying prospect is that if countries fail to commit to the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol, the funding to the poor and developing countries through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) would be dead as well.

Last year about $1.2 billion had flown to the developing and poor countries in CDM. The CDM allows emission-reduction projects in developing countries to earn certified emission reduction (CER) credits. These credits can be traded and sold, and used by industrialised countries to a meet a part of their emission reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol.

A new tension is also folding regarding the CDM between the poor countries and the developing countries like India, Brazil and China. The major part of the CDM fund has flown to India and China because of their solar and wind power projects. The LDCs now want that CDM should be specifically focused on the poor countries and not the developing countries.

Meantime, as the debates continue, Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), yesterday said scientific evidence is clear about weather extremities because of climate change. He also said different parts of the world are witnessing different outcomes and the problems of the flood deltas (Bangladesh is one of them) are witnessing heightened crises.

He mentioned the latest IPCC special report on risks from extreme events as evidence of his claims.

The report has said since 1950 extreme weather conditions are witnessed and heavy rainfall will increase in the 21st century. Frequency of warm and cold spells will also increase and it is likely that the average maximum wind speed of tropical cyclones like typhoons and hurricanes will increase throughout the coming century.

Droughts will intensify over the coming century in southern Europe and the Mediterranean region, central Europe, central North America, Central America and Mexico, northeast Brazil, and southern Africa.

At the same time it is very likely that average sea level rise will contribute to upward trends in extreme sea levels in extreme coastal high water levels.

So when such signs and warnings are visible, Pachauri said time is ticking by to fight such a grim future.

His warning coincides with the UN’s weather agency World Meteorological Organisation’s report that 2011 was tied as the 10th hottest year since records began in 1850. Arctic sea ice, a barometer for the entire planet, had shrunk to a record low volume.


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