As global warming continues its startling pace and climate impacts affect an increasingly large number of people around the world, governments from more than 190 countries meeting at the UN climate conference in Doha, Qatar, barely cleared the low hurdle of confirming a new commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol and placing negotiations on a clearer path to a new global agreement in 2015.
“The UN talks are ambling along while global warming races by at full-speed,” said Duncan Marsh, international climate policy director at The Nature Conservancy. “This past year provides alarming and stark real-world evidence that governments – especially major emitting countries – need to demonstrate more urgency and stronger action to reduce carbon pollution and help people prepare for and respond to impacts.”
The backdrop of this year’s conference is the devastating number of droughts, floods, mega fires and super storms throughout 2012 – which have affected the lives of millions of people around the world and destabilized water and food security. In the United States, Hurricane Sandy alone is estimated to have caused upwards of $60 billion in damage.
Meanwhile, a new round of studies this year point to the shocking levels of carbon pollution in the atmosphere and pace of expected temperature rise. The United Nations reported that the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have increased by 20 percent since just 2000, while the World Bank recently reported that the world is currently on a path to a roughly 4-degree Celsius (roughly 7-degree Fahrenheit) rise in temperature by century end. Additionally, the International Energy Agency (IEA) recently found that “the door is closing” for global action to keep temperature increases below the commonly cited goal of 2-degrees C.
“Despite greater clarity of the extreme costs climate change presents to society, these negotiations fail to reflect the level of urgent response demanded by the facts in front of us,” said Marsh.
A particularly challenging area of this year’s negotiations involved the question of how to fund climate actions to both reduce carbon pollution and help countries reduce the risks to their most vulnerable people, both between 2012 and 2020, and beyond.
“Some new funding pledges were made here at COP18, but much more is needed to adequately address the challenges of reducing carbon pollution and helping countries prepare for and respond to impacts,” said Marsh.
Despite the meager progress in the negotiations, there are bright spots in the growing number of strong climate actions outside of the UN process, by individual countries and by the private sector.
“If you just listened to these negotiations, you would have no real sense of the many positive climate-related actions being taken around the world,” said Marsh. “We’re seeing countries adopt carbon reduction goals, establish emissions trading systems, reduce deforestation rates, promote low-carbon sustainable development, and take steps to better protect their communities. But the fact remains that these individual country actions can’t get us where we need to go without a comprehensive global deal.”
A critical step in getting the level of global action required continues to be stronger United States leadership – as the world’s largest historical carbon polluter – in taking a comprehensive approach to reducing the country’s carbon pollution.
“We are looking to President Obama and both parties in Congress to take on this issue in the President’s second term by putting a price on carbon and placing the U.S. in a leadership role in helping to move the world to the level of ambition needed to address this most urgent global challenge,” said Marsh.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
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