Whistle away the emissions


December 9th, 2008

This morning I walked through the conference centre to the tune of ‘Time to say good-bye’, originally sung by Andrea Bocelli, but now being whistled by the man in front of me. What had spurred his operatic outburst? The Poznan conference doesn’t finish until Saturday; surely he couldn’t be embarking on the road to Copenhagen just yet? Perhaps he was just sad to leave the plenary, or, perhaps he had a more pragmatic reason.

There is a small chance he was reflecting on the continued loss caused by climate change if countries such as Canada, Japan, Australia, and Russia don’t commit to emissions reduction targets anytime soon. These countries don’t seem to want to say goodbye their carbon but are happy to see Kenya lose its fertile land, Peru lose its water supplies, and Bangladesh lose homes and livelihoods every time a flood hits.

Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UN’s climate change convention, stated today at a press conference that precise and adequate figures for near-term reductions are essential requirements from developed countries next year in Copenhagen. But if these countries could give an indication as to their intentions here in Poznan it would go a long way to building trust with the less developed countries that are already complying with what is required of them. The path to Copenhagen will be much smoother for this.

It shouldn’t have to take a catastrophic loss to jolt the non-committal countries to deviate from their emissions paths, but if Australia needs inspiration it should look to the three-year water drought it is only just recovering from that sent food prices across the world sky high. To avoid this, these countries could just check the recent science compiled by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This states that we need reductions in the range of 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020.

But if these countries still find it hard to let go then perhaps they should reflect that soon the communities they are turning their back on will start running out of time to say goodbye. Perhaps I will follow the same chap in Copenhagen whistling ‘Sorry seems to be the hardest word’.

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