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Monday, December 21, 2009

Climate Summit deal 'falls short of what's required to avoid catastrophe'

Tribune Staff Reporter

THE critical two-week long UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen ended on Friday without a legally-binding deal being reached on efforts to curb global carbon emissions and no set future date by which attempts would be made to achieve such an agreement.

Chairman of CARICOM, President of Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo, told The Tribune yesterday that the deal reached between a number of countries at the summit "has some positive elements but falls short of what is required to avoid catastrophic climate change".

The so-called Copenhagen Accord brokered between the US, China, Brazil, South Africa and India involves "significant departures from CARICOM's position" on what the Summit needed to achieve for the benefit of its members and the world in the fight against global climate change, added the President.

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham was one of three CARICOM leaders including Mr Jagdeo who, along with dozens of world leaders, decided to personally attended the UN Climate Summit last week in the hope of helping to ensure a meaningful outcome would be reached.

While at the Summit, Mr Ingraham made a speech in which he reiterated his warning that the Bahamas "will suffer catastrophic results if emissions are not stabilized and reduced".

"A temperature rise of two degrees Celsius will result in sea level rise of two metres and will submerge 80 per cent of our territory," stated Mr Ingraham.

Yesterday Mr Jagdeo noted that the Accord announced late Friday night by US President Barack Obama "seeks to limit temperature increases to 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels (but) the commitments listed (by individual countries on cutting carbon emissions) in its appendices would lead to an increase of over 3 degrees".

CARICOM and the Alliance of Small Island States, of which The Bahamas is a part, had both called for countries to commit at Copenhagen to doing what is necessary to limit temperature increases to 1.5 celsius above pre-industrial levels if its members and other countries are "to stay alive".

Speaking at the close of the Summit, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon called the deal "an essential beginning" but cautioned that serious work lies ahead to turn it into a legally binding treaty.

Nonetheless he praised the fact that "all countries have agreed to work towards a common long-term goal to limit the global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius; many governments have made important commitments to reduce or limit emissions; countries have achieved significant progress on preserving forests; and countries have agreed to provide comprehensive support to the most vulnerable to cope with climate change".

President Obama called the Accord an "important breakthrough that lays the foundation for international action in the years to come" but also admitted that it leaves the world with "much further to go" to get the legally binding agreement that is agreed to be necessary to avert the most devastating potential impacts of climate change.

And besides the question of turning the Accord into an agreement with legal teeth, the criticism remains that while it "recognises" the scientific case for keeping global temperature rises to no more than two degrees celsius in total it does not contain the kind of commitments by countries to reductions in emissions that would achieve that goal.

Meanwhile, it is not yet known whether all 192 countries outside of the small group who ultimately negotiated the Accord will adopt it.

Yesterday Mr Jagdeo, who has been a strong advocate for action on climate change, said that based on what transpired at Copenhagen, he does not think the type of agreement which climate experts say is necessary to save small island and low lying states like The Bahamas and Guyana can now be reached by the end of 2010.

December 21, 2009