Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Boost green power - Stop wasting brain power

CHRISTIANA Figueres, who heads UN efforts to prevent global warming, urged the United States to stop wasting its brain power and get on board with boosting manufacturing in the green technology sector.

The US has lost ground to Germany, China and other countries in producing solar panels, wind towers and alternative energy mechanisms in general, Figueres reminded reporters at a press conference in Washington.

"It's a lost opportunity (that could help) the US to move out of the fiscal cliff," she said. The US lag in the sector meant it has failed to use the high level of technical innovation that has traditionally powered US business, Figueres indicated.

Figueres was attending the Carbon Forum North America, a conference that this year focusses on emissions trading systems to be implemented in individual US states and Canadian provinces.

California in November will be the first US state to start selling emission credits.

Figueres heads the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and its efforts to reduce carbon emissions blamed for global warming.

Experts say that global temperatures must be kept from rising no more than 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial times to avoid catastrophic effects. Current emissions put the world on track for a 4- to 6-degree rise by 2100, even with expected voluntary reductions.

While Washington has made a voluntary commitment to the UNFCC to reduce its carbon emissions by 17 per cent over the 2005-2020 period, the US refused to join the current Kyoto Protocol because developing countries like China, its main economic rival, were exempted.

But Figueres said she had "no reason to doubt" that both the United States and China — the world's two largest carbon emitters — would uphold their commitments made in Durban in 2011 to join negotiations on a new binding agreement to be adopted in 2015 and go into effect by 2020.

Also in Durban, all industrialised countries and 49 developing countries, including all emerging economies, officially committed to voluntary reductions by 2020, she said.

"China already has legally binding domestic regulations (and has) met and exceeded their current goals," Figueres said.

"When China says they're going to do something, they do it!" The United States is blamed for obstructing progress in reducing global emissions. It refused to join Kyoto, insisting that developing and emerging economies also commit to reducing greenhouse gasses.

The Kyoto Protocol expires in December, and Russia, Canada and Japan have refused to sign up for a second Kyoto deal. The European Union agreed in Durban to soldier on alone with a few other countries under an extension.

Another round of climate talks is slated for November 26 to December 7 in Doha, Qatar, where negotiators are to decide how long to extend Kyoto — five to eight years — as a bridge until a new, broader agreement can be implemented. As of January, Kyoto will only encompass 10-12 per cent of global emissions.

"Governments are walking down the right path," said Figueres. "So there's good progress, but not enough ... We need further ambition ... and higher speed."

"None of these pledges is enough!" she added. They are "not what is going to guarantee stabilisation of the atmosphere."

Efforts at the US federal level to adopt cap-and-trade emissions schemes have been blocked by conservative resistance, but Figueres declined to comment on the November 6 presidential elections that pit incumbent Democrat Barack Obama against Republican Mitt Romney.

"No matter how you all vote on November 6, there is one truth: Climate (change) is here and with us," she said.

But US attitudes were changing, she noted, "due to droughts and wildfires" over the summer.

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