Climate “deadlines are conditioned by the Earth’s response to human activity, not by humans”

October 9, 2007 at 10:16 am | Posted in Ashton, Climate change, Deadlines, EU, Grateful Dead, IPCC, MEPs, UN | 2 Comments
  • With the Kyoto limits on greenhouse gases due to expire in 2012, the debate on what should replace them came to Parliament’s Climate Change Committee on Thursday 4 October.
  • A panel of experts from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as well as representatives from the US, China and Japan set out their views on how to deal with the problem.
  • The UN experts told MEPs that to avert catastrophic climate change temperature increases must not rise by more than 2 degrees.

From last week’s European Parliament News, MEPs told “no rewind button Rewind button ” on climate change ahead of post Kyoto talks.

John Ashton is clear on climate change key points for policymakers, as in this excerpt:

A central theme stressed by the main UN speakers was the need to see climate change as a current rather than a future problem. John Ashton, a keynote speaker from the UK Foreign Office told the meeting that “we don’t have a rewind button Rewind button. We have to get it right the first time”. He went on to say that “it’s today’s problem, not tomorrow’s” … warn(ing) that “the deadlines are conditioned by the Earth’s response to human activity, not by humans”.

On 3 December the island of Bali in Indonesia will see a meeting of the current signatories of the protocol. It will mark an important first step in negotiating the post Kyoto international framework on emissions.

Lack of will, not lack of wisdom, is the key problem

Mr Ashton said that “any discussion on post-2012 has to be fixated on the outcome. What we are talking about is an effort to build a world economy in energy which, by the end of the century, should be zero-carbon.” The key problem “is not a lack of wisdom … but a lack of political will … to build the appropriate policies” necessary to tackle climate change.

Pointing to the $20 trillion needed for investments in global low-carbon energy infrastructure over the next 30 years, Ashton noted that, in as much as governments may set emission targets, many of the most important decisions are in fact “those made in the board-room” – i.e., by industry. “This is largely about the direction of the flow of private capital,” he said and stressed that in order to invest the private sector needs confidence in government action.

The sense of urgency is palpable. If only the next U.S. Administration could somehow guarantee support for businesses going forward FastForwardnow, such that the madmade* 13-month hiatus we have to endure does not end up being a miserable span of time we look back on with regret.

The significance of deadlines that are conditioned by the body’s response to human activity dawns quickly … once you are pregnant. Just before I went on a maternity leave, a good friend and colleague remarked, quite matter-of-factly, that despite tremendous efforts by all concerned, our company had achieved next to nothing in the nine months since I had conceived. Meanwhile, nature did what it does, naturally FastForward. It would be a pleasure to welcome a newborn to this world, blissfully unaware of artificial deadlines and unrealistic goals.

This anecdote illustrates perfectly the difference between manmade and natural deadlines. There is no denying the latter.

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.

😉 Douglas Adams

Now playing: Grateful Dead – Mama Tried 5-8-77 Cornell University, Ithaca, NY (Disc 1)
via FoxyTunes

* this is a typo. I decided to leave it in 😉



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  1. It would be nice to know what the UN folk really said, rather than the (hopefully incorrect) paraphrase. Is it online anywhere?

  2. Well I cannot find anything beyond that link from last week’s European Parliament News, MEPs told “no rewind button ” on climate change ahead of post Kyoto talks, where it says:

    According to the UN panel, achieving this would mean halting increases of emissions by 2015. The barrier of a 2 degree increase would also mean reducing levels of emissions between 50% (globally) and 85% (for industrialised countries) below the 1990 level by 2050.

    Beyond that, I have found zilch.
    I must tell you, though that I wrote a post a month ago based on the previous EU session. That one, I failed to find follow-up on (and my post remains unpublished!), but presentations for it have been posted now. Perhaps we will find the presentations linked for this latest one soon. I should keep an eye on this.
    In fact, the pair of thematic sessions to the EU CLIM committee are linked from this page, which I have reposted here so we can talk about this arrangement.

    If you download “Climate protection challenge post-2012” – Programme for this latest session, you know better than I do, but it looks to my novice eyes that only one has a role with the UN IPCC, as far as I can tell. Michael Grubb of Cambridge University is an economist, and he was one of the authors of a draft SPM for WG3:

    Prof. Michael GRUBB
    Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
    “Sustaining European Action Post 2012 in a world of incomplete participation”
    Mr Nick CAMPBELL
    Chair, International Chamber of Commerce Climate Change Task Force, Paris, France
    “ICC perspectives on a long-term international framework to address global climate change”
    Ms Katherine WATTS
    Policy Officer, Climate Action Network (CAN), Brussels, Belgium
    “The political framework needed to avoid dangerous climate change, the NGO view”
    Distinguished Advisor, Energy and the Environment, BP, United Kingdom
    “Technology for material greenhouse gas abatement post 2012”
    Mr Andrei MARCU
    Chief Executive, International Emissions Trading Association (IETA), Brussels, Belgium
    “Architecture and role of markets after 2012”
    2 10- 15 min
    3 1 min per question and 5 min reply per panellist
    4 5-7 min per presentation

    I will tell you more later.

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