1.1. Global leaders reach climate change agreement
16 February 2007 , Guardian Unlimited
Leading world politicians and industrialists have reached a new, non-binding agreement at a meeting in the United States on tackling climate change.
Delegates agreed that developing countries would have to face targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions as well as rich countries.
The meeting in Washington of the G8+5 Climate Change Dialogue also agreed that a limit should be decided for maximum acceptable carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, the NBC reported. A global market should be formed to cap and trade carbon dioxide emissions, they also said.
The group is a discussion forum that is part of the British-led environmental group Global Legislators Organisation for a Balanced Environment (Globe). Globe was set up to encourage discussion of environmental issues between politicians and business leaders of the world’s leading industrialised nations.
Although the talks were informal and did not represent official government policy, analysts said they provided a good indication of current political thinking on climate change.
The announcement will be seen as a coup for the British government because the discussion forum was launched at the House of Commons in February 2006 and its president, the MP Elliot Morley, is a special representative of the prime minister.
"I’m very happy with this outcome. This is the most detailed statement that has ever come out of a Globe meeting," Mr Morley told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. "It contains a number of broad principles that all the countries here are generally supportive of in terms of the way forward.
"I think it is a great step forward in terms of building confidence and it is a very clear message from legislators … that we want to see progress."
The US senator Joe Lieberman told the forum yesterday that he believed the American government would introduce greenhouse gas-cutting laws in the near future "after many years of denial and inaction" on global warming.
"I want to make a prediction, which is that the Congress of the United States will enact a nationwide law mandating substantial reductions in greenhouse gases before the end of this Congress or early in the next," he said. This session of Congress ends late in 2008.
Senator John McCain said the push to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that spur global climate change was a national security issue, and that voluntary efforts to limit these emissions from vehicles, power plants and other human sources "will not change the status quo".
Jim Rogers, the chief of Duke Energy, applauded the mandatory cap-and-trade approach, and stressed that if the United States did not act soon to cut CO2 emissions, fast-developing China and India probably would not participate in any global emissions-cutting programme.
The forum’s closing statement yesterday said man-made climate change was now "beyond doubt".
"Climate change is a global issue and there is an obligation on us all to take action, in line with our capabilities and historic responsibilities," Globe said in a statement.
The declaration carries no formal weight but it is considered to indicate a real change in mood of the world’s most powerful nations.
The two-day meeting brought together politicians from countries including the Group of Eight rich nations plus Brazil , China , India , Mexico and South Africa .
The former cabinet minister Stephen Byers took part in the forum along with the Virgin boss, Sir Richard Branson; the German chancellor, Angela Merkel; and Paul Wolfowitz, the president of the World Bank, who all gave keynote addresses.
The round of discussions aims to agree on a post-2012 climate change policy and present a consensus statement from the participants to the G8 heads of state in Japan next year.
Delegates want to improve understanding between politicians, business leaders and key organisations about different countries’ priorities and how future deals can be reached.
1.2. JRC releases report on plight of European coastal and sea waters
14 February 2007
The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) has drafted a report detailing the effects climate change has on Europe ’s coastal waters and regional seas. The report deals with the effects of climate change and the human impact on European coastal and marine habitats. It also identifies gaps in the current scientific and technological knowledge base regarding climate-related impacts, along with policy recommendations to address them. The report stresses that that any policies designed to mitigate climate change impacts will have to address human exploitation of the seas and coasts, to ensure sustainable management of marine resources The report was presented at the “Climate Change and the European Water Dimension” symposium organised by the German EU Presidency in Berlin (12-14 February).
Mounting scientific evidence illustrates how climate change and variability can harm coastal and marine habitats, and the JRC report, entitled “Marine and Coastal Dimension of Climate Change in Europe : A report to the European Water Directors”, makes it clear that Europe ’s waters are not immune to its effects. The research, carried out by international experts under the co-ordination of the JRC, demonstrates that global warming is influencing different European ecosystems in different ways.
For example, water temperature trends in northern regions have progressed differently from those in the Mediterranean . In areas around Scotland , water temperatures have risen approximately 1°C over the last 20 years, whereas the change in the Mediterranean is closer to 0.5°C. Rates of sea level change have also varied, ranging from 0.8 mm per year to 3.0 mm per year, according to the report. Such changes in sea level interfere with other critical processes including tide behaviour, changes in sea ice conditions, evaporation and various tectonic developments on land such as rising land masses due to melting of glaciers, which require careful attention and continuous monitoring, the authors of the report say.
The report discusses how nuances in sustained environmental pressures, e.g. rising greenhouse gases, increasing surface temperature, rising sea level, etc., have led to increased episodes of catastrophic weather such as downpours, droughts, storm surges and floods – all of which come at high human and environmental costs. In just one example, the report says that the frequency of winter storms and extreme weather conditions has doubled over the past 50 years in northern regions of the UK .
Specifically, the report shows that climate change has altered: water characteristics and circulation; the carbon cycle and carbonate system (acidification); and whole ecosystems forcing warm-water species northward leading to a related decline in cold-water species. For example, dominant zooplankton species have declined by 70% since the 1960s as a result of water temperature increase, thereby deeply changing the structure of fish assemblages in the North Sea – in addition to over-fishing – with an almost complete disappearance of the economically-important cod population. Other environmental changes included in the report concern phenological cycles and trophic associations; coastal recession and erosion rates along the Western European coast as a result of sea level rise and storm surges; and incidence of coastal flooding and other environmental hazards/disasters due to tidal/storm surges.
Additionally, the report deals with the human impact on European coasts. It points to ever-increasing human activity as having adverse effects on marine habitats. Authors of the report list fisheries, energy production, trade and tourism, among others, as examples of ways in which humans are altering marine environments. Anthropogenic pressures can compound the effect of climate change by reducing the resilience of marine and coastal systems, leaving them even more vulnerable to climate forcing.
To download the full report, please visit: http://ies.jrc.ec.europa.eu/.
1.3. Climate change: scientists warn it may be too late to save the ice caps
19 February 2007