Baseless fear of economic hardship hampers efforts to curb climate change – UN official

22 January 2007

A lack of global leadership on climate change, stemming from an unwarranted fear of economic hardship, is seriously hampering efforts to combat global warming, the top United Nations official dealing with the issue has warned.

“Industrialized countries fear unwillingness on the part of their developing country competitors to act and are therefore reluctant to take the first step themselves,” the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Yvo de Boer, told this year’s Delhi Sustainable Development Summit in the Indian capital.

“Developing countries fear that a new round of climate negotiations would impose on them obligations that would hurt their economic goals,” he added, stressing that the key to the problem is to provide incentives for economies to grow along a greener path, and to put in place mechanisms to ensure that the needed resources are available.

He pointed to India as an example of a country which is already successfully making use of such incentives. “India is showing that economic growth and climate protection are far from being mutually exclusive. The country already has 155 registered CDM projects, with another 400 projects in the pipeline,” he noted, referring to the Kyoto Protocol treaty's Clean Development Mechanism.

This aims at enhancing sustainable development by allowing industrialized countries to generate emission credits or allowances through investment in emission reduction projects in developing countries.

India’s CDM projects range from a biomass plant in Rajasthan state to a wind power plant in Karnataka state and are expected to generate some 300 million certified emissions reductions (CERs) by the end of 2012. Each CER represents a ton of carbon dioxide equivalent that can be traded on the international carbon market.

Since 2005, the estimated potential of emission reductions to be delivered by the CDM pipeline has grown twelve-fold to more than 1.5 billion tonnes – equivalent to the combined emissions of Australia, Canada and the Netherlands.

“Whilst it is clear that the CDM is working in India, it is also clear that more of these incentives are needed to have a significant impact on protecting the world’s climate,” Mr. de Boer said.

Recent scientific findings suggest that much deeper emission cuts are required than the average of 5 per cent below the 1990 emissions of industrialized countries agreed under the Kyoto Protocol, with the European Commission calling for reductions in the order of 60 to 80 per cent by mid century.

Under the UNFCCC, talks and negotiations are under way that need to result in a “global compact” to fight climate change by channelling green investment into the rapidly growing economies of the developing world, several of which, like India, are set to overtake developed countries within the next decades, Mr. de Boer said.

Meanwhile, the business community is calling for assurances of continuity for the existing carbon market beyond 2012, the year the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expires. “A post 2012 agreement is needed as soon as possible” Mr. de Boer added.

“There would be a significant risk for the value of carbon beyond 2012 without a long term provision for the carbon market. Industrialized countries need to take the lead on this,” he said.

 

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