Thursday, May 3, 2007

A Little Trouble with Big China

China is causing talks on the next Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change report, due out Friday, May 3, to stall, according to the LA Times.

China, on pace to become the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, has emerged as the major stumbling block in approving a United Nations report on how to stabilize global warming and generate the trillions of dollars needed for the endeavor.The report, to be released Friday in Bangkok, Thailand, is the third of four installments being issued this year by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.The first two reports, on the causes and effects of global warming, were largely scientific documents. The new report outlines a specific strategy to charge polluters for their emissions.China, which is powering its industrial development with its massive coal reserves, has been pushing for wealthy nations to bear the bulk of the blame — and eventually the costs.At the same time, China has tried to downplay the responsibility of developing nations like itself, according to some delegates at the weeklong U.N. meeting in Bangkok.Negotiations over the report have slowed to a crawl."China has been the biggest obstacle," said one participant, who did not want to be identified because the talks were closed.A bigger dispute looms as negotiations enter their final day.Debate over the economic feasibility of quick action, which pits the United States against Europe, was postponed earlier this week.In formal comments obtained by The Times, the U.S. delegation suggested that reducing emissions immediately could be too costly."The main issue is the interpretation of costs, whether it is reasonable or affordable," said a European scientist who helped write the draft now being revised. "Some studies say we can afford it. The question is whether we have to do it."The U.N. reports on global warming, which have been released periodically since 1990, are not binding agreements. But they have become powerful in forging an international consensus on climate change.Scientists and policymakers from more than 100 countries have been involved in drafting the documents.The United States is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, accounting for 25% of all emissions, followed by China and Europe.The U.N. report suggests that stabilizing greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere would require charging polluters up to $100 per ton of carbon by 2030, according to a draft of the report, which was obtained by an environmental group and provided to The Times.The idea is that if polluting becomes too expensive, industries will adopt new technologies to reduce emissions.The most stringent, and most expensive, scenario in the draft seeks to hold temperature increases below 3 degrees Fahrenheit. It would require global emissions to peak in 15 years and fall to half of current levels by the middle of the century.By 2030, the annual costs of mitigation would amount to 3% of global gross domestic product — about $2 trillion, or a year's worth of economic growth.The most lenient scheme would cost 0.2% of GDP in 2030. Emissions would peak in 55 years, allowing temperatures to rise by as much as 7 degrees.The last U.N. report, released in April, said such warming would be catastrophic, with rising sea levels, flooding and drought affecting billions of people.

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