e360 digest

08 Dec 2009: Leaked Text Causes Uproar;
EU Withdraws Offer on Emissions Reduction

Delegates from developing nations at the Copenhagen conference were incensed after reading a leaked document purporting to show that a group of wealthy nations intends to sideline the UN in future climate change negotiations and place CO2 emissions restrictions on poorer nations.

The Guardian reported that the so-called “Danish text” — reputedly drafted by wealthy nations including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Denmark — would abandon the principles of the Kyoto Protocol requiring industrialized nations to commit to binding greenhouse gas emissions while poorer nations were not compelled to act. The draft text would hand control over financing climate change projects in the developing world to the World Bank and would make funds given to poorer nations for climate change adaptation contingent on those nations taking actions to reduce emissions.

The Guardian reported that the draft text also would limit per capita carbon emissions in poor countries to 1.4 tons by 2050 while allowing citizens of rich countries to emit 2.7 tons. One diplomat told the newspaper that the draft text was “a very dangerous document for developing countries. It is a fundamental reworking of the UN balance of obligations.”

Meanwhile, the European Union said at the Copenhagen talks that it was withdrawing an offer to reduce CO2 emissions 30 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 because other nations, including the U.S., had made inadequate emissions reduction offers in the past month. The EU is still standing by its 20 percent reduction commitment.

As the second day of the summit got underway, news from Washington still created a stir among the 15,000 people in attendance at the conference. Reuters analyzes the announcement by the Obama administration on Monday that it plans to regulate greenhouse gases as a threat to human health, even if Congress doesn't take action to reduce emissions. The announcement, made on the opening day of the Copenhagen meeting, was intended as a clear signal from the Obama administration to the world that it plans to tackle the problem of climate change.

The Wall Street Journal reports that many businesses and industries are sharply critical of the announcement, saying that it would place an unfair burden on commerce as the country struggles to rebound from recession. Despite the outcry from many businesses, the Journal reports that comments submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency supporting the regulation of greenhouse gases ran three to one in favor of clamping down on CO2 emissions.

As the delegates debated these developments, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the UK’s Met Office announced that the first decade of this century has been “by far” the warmest decade on record.

Refuting claims from global warming deniers that the world has in fact been cooling for the past decade, the two meteorological agencies said that 2009 will almost certainly be the fifth-warmest year since record keeping began 160 years ago. The WMO said that global temperatures in the past decade were .79 degrees F above the long-term average.

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