Climate ship plots course through the battering waves
Published: 6th May 2012 11:08:19
The European Union hosts this week what could be one of the most significant meetings of the year on climate change.
Last December's UN climate summit, in the South African port of Durban, saw heated discussions on a proposal that governments should commit to agreeing a new comprehensive global emissions-limiting deal with some kind of legal force before 2015.
Reluctant nations found themselves up against a burgeoning coalition of principally small countries from the developed and developing worlds alike, which found common interest in tackling climate change as quickly as possible.
The rainbow coalition included the EU, the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), small islands vulnerable to impacts such as rising sea levels, and progressive Latin American countries such as Costa Rica.
The giant container ships steaming into and out of the Durban docks were matched stylistically by the delegations striding from conference room to conference room, their beetle brows and purposeful gaits testament to the precious cargo they might deliver.
And deliver they did, eventually, with governments committing to agree a new global deal by 2015 and have it in force by 2020, with every country included.
But it was just a promise; and promises have been broken before on the wheels of realpolitik.
Since Durban, real world issues have begun to bear down on those leading the charge towards that new global deal.
Recession continues to stalk the eurozone. And even though many European governments say green measures will not impoverish them further and may even make them richer, few are acting as though they believe it.
Opposition to the inclusion of international aviation within the EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) from countries such as China, the US and Russia has increased. As a result some European governments and senior EU officials fear a trade war could be triggered with nations that include eurozone creditors.
Meanwhile, environment ministers and officials from the smaller developing countries are increasingly engaged not with the UN climate process, but with preparations for June's Rio+20 summit.
And here they are finding that on issues such as overseas aid contributions, Europe is not always behaving as the friend it appeared to be in Durban.
That issue carries over into the climate change discussions, because here too the rich world has promised money - $100bn per year by 2020 - and if pledges are not being met in the arena of overseas aid, why should those developing countries believe pledges will be met in the climate context?
Just five months on, the Durban coalition is a little battered.
On Monday and Tuesday in Brussels, at least 30 of the coalition's key members will meet to re-state their Durban commitment and talk about some of the key steps they can take in the short term to give the 2015 process some momentum.
That's an urgent priority, as the first meeting of the working group on the new process (the Durban Platform) is just a couple of weeks away and the visions of various countries on how it should progress are very different.
They'll be talking about what needs to be done to ensure that an adequate proposal goes on the table at the next UN climate summit, in Qatar in December, for putting EU emission cuts (and possibly others too) under the Kyoto Protocol.
They'll need to discuss how the 2015 deal can bring all countries into a new agreement that will eventually regulate emissions from all countries, yet contains the principle of equity at its heart, allowing poor countries room to emit carbon as they develop.
They'll be trying to navigate the remaining hurdles to fully implementing new international schemes to bring financial support and clean technology from developed countries to their poorer counterparts.
And they'll discuss Rio+20 as well - not least because some of the proposals on the table there, such as a goal to double the global share of renewable energy by 2030 and moves to make agriculture more sustainable, would by themselves slow the rise of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.
Along the way, they'll be hoping to pick up a few countries such as Australia that didn't make it clear in Durban whether they belonged to the group pushing for the new deal or the one being pulled towards it reluctantly.
Ministers and officials will be coming to Brussels fresh from an informal two-day session at UN climate convention headquarters in Bonn, where they've heard United Nations Environment Programme chief scientist Joseph Alcamo outline a few key issues.
He told delegates that steps such as setting tighter rules on car emissions, regulating for energy efficient goods and building urban mass transit systems are already having an impact that can be measured.
But he also said that without much faster uptake of such measures, the best estimate for the year 2100 would be a world that is on average 2.5-5C warmer than in pre-industrial times.
Governments have heard such messages plenty of times before, of course.
And they're likely to hear them louder than ever next year when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) publishes the first instalment of its fifth Assessment Report, which is likely to forecast harsher impacts ahead on factors such as sea level rise than the previous edition.
The geopolitics are not auspicious for a massive, game-changing leap on climate change this year.
China is preparing for a change of leadership later this year, with President Hu Jintao and other senior figures set to step down. Presidential elections in the US and in France could usher in a major change of direction.
So the priority is to get things right on the deliverables. And the current Danish EU presidency offers a window to do that, with its energetic Climate Minister Martin Lidegaard working alongside his predecessor Connie Hedegaard, now EU Climate Commissioner, in a co-ordinated push.
South Africa's International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who chaired the Durban talks, said recently it was vital that "the gains made in Durban are not rolled back by being overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem and the task at hand".
Hence the importance of the Brussels meeting, small and select though it is, as an opportunity to re-focus and re-energise - to get the small things right, and establish a framework for the bigger political negotiations that lie ahead.
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Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. Climate ship plots course through the battering waves [Online] (Updated 6th May 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1426828/Climate-ship-plots-course-through-the-battering-waves [Accessed 30th Aug 2014]
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With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com