Countdown to Copenhagen
By James Dacey
Canada and Japan pose a serious threat to achieving a planet-saving deal in Copenhagen this December, warned Sir David King, former Chief Science Advisor to the UK government, speaking yesterday at the World Conference of Science Journalists that is taking place in London this week.
He was, of course, referring to the UN Climate Change Conference, which is set to thrash out a successor to the Kyoto protocol when it reaches the end of its first stage in 2012.
The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC concluded that global greenhouse-gas emissions will need to be cut by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050 if we are to ensure that global temperatures do not rise more than 2 degrees by the end of the century.
Over the course of two weeks in the Danish capital, officials from 192 nations will gather to address four main objectives:
1) Legally-binding targets – on carbon emissions;
2) Clarity on how developing countries should be expected to act;
3) Financing – how we going to cover the economic cost of maintaining acceptable living standards in low carbon societies; and
4) Governance structure – how the international community will work together to take the deal forward.
Yesterday in the UK capital, Sir David King urged the developed nations to “show their cards” now so we they can begin to formulate mitigation and adaptation plans in the lead up to December. “The debate has moved on – it is no longer a question of whether man-made climate change is happening but what to do about it”.
The former professor of physical chemistry at Cambridge University then went on to warn of a worrying shift in the positions of the Japanese and Canadian governments. King accused these nations of waning interest in tackling climate change, and attributed this to the recent scrapping of the role of chief scientist in both nations.
But when asked about the viability of mitigating climate change through large-scale geoengineering projects, King played his own cards surprisingly close to his chest:
“I am yet to be convinced that any of the existing options would be worth investing in, but I would like to see more research in this area.”
However, when pressed for his course of action in the event of an unsatisfactory result in Copenhagen, King did reveal a couple of back-up plans:
Plan B look for legal avenues that could stall the protocol from being implenented
Plan C lobby for a strong bilateral agreement between China and the US that could have the international clout to bring about a revision of the agreement.
“Obviously, I am a bit reluctant to discuss these options because it will appear that I am losing faith in plan A – which is by far the most desirable option,” he said.