China org: China celebrates 30 yrs of conserving biodiversity




НазваниеChina org: China celebrates 30 yrs of conserving biodiversity
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Irish Times: Clock ticking on climate change



11th April 2011


IT IS abundantly clear from the bickering in Bangkok last week that the latest round of climate talks will not lead to the adoption of a comprehensive agreement at the United Nations climate change summit in Durban next December. The United States and several other developed countries are seeking a deal that would simply build on the “incremental progress” achieved at last year’s conference in Cancún, whereas the developing world wants firm commitments that their richer cousins will make substantial cuts in greenhouse gas emissions under a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. The resulting Mexican stand-off has been, and will continue to be, at the core of these tortuous negotiations in the run-up to Durban and beyond.

One of the most significant aspects of the Cancún agreement was that, for the first time, governments of both developed and developing countries recognised that deep cuts in global emissions “are required . . . so as to hold the increase in global average temperatures below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels”. How this is to be translated into reality is the fundamental question that faces not only the 194 parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, but humanity in general. Even US negotiator Jonathan Pershing conceded that current pledges to cut emissions fall “wildly short” of what would be needed if there is to be any chance of achieving the declared objective.

Aggregate reductions amounting to 6.6 billion tonnes are on the table, less than half of the 14 billion tonnes identified as necessary by the UN Environment Programme between now and 2020 if “tipping points” are to be avoided; the difference between these figures has become known as the “gigatonne gap”. And remarkably, the countries doing most to help bridge it are in the developing world, with 3.6 billion tonnes in cuts on offer – significantly more than what developed countries have pledged, even though they bear historical responsibility for the build-up of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere. Their three billion tonnes also includes over one billion in offsets for actions taken in developing countries, such as helping to protect tropical rain forests.

Nobody knows whether all, or any, of this will actually happen. The US, which has pledged a modest 17 per cent cut by 2020 relative to 2005, still has no climate change legislation and does not see the need for a binding international treaty. The only treaty that exists, the Kyoto Protocol, is due to run out at the end of 2012 with no extension or replacement in prospect. Next year, coincidentally, will also mark the 20th anniversary of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, at which world leaders adopted the climate change convention “to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”

Clearly, this objective has not been realised. Whatever individual countries do, there is an urgent need to reach a global consensus on how we all proceed, preferably by negotiating a new international treaty modelled on the architecture of Kyoto. Time is not on our side, however.


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Daily News (Sri Lanka): Green economy, significant concept



10th April 2011


The Green Economy is emerging as a significant concept, though also a controversial one, that will be part of the international environmental debate this year. At the United Nations in New York earlier this month, I took part in a panel discussion on this topic, together with the head of the UN Environment Program, Achim Steiner and others.

The green economy has become a major theme of the Rio Plus 20 a conference to be held in 2012 in Brazil to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the historic UN conference on environment and development, better known as the Rio Summit held in 1992.

At first glance, the green economy appears to be a simple idea, whose time has come. Surely we all want to conserve natural resources and minimise pollution and Greenhouse Gas emissions. What better way than to turn the economy green?

International consensus

There is, however, no scientific agreement yet on how to achieve a green economy, nor is there an international consensus on what it means and how to move towards it.

A green economy gives the impression of an economy that is environmentally-friendly, sensitive to the need to conserve natural resources, minimise pollution and emissions during the production process and promotes environmentally-friendly lifestyles and consumption patterns.

The difficult questions are whether the attainment of such an economy constrains other aspects, including economic growth of poor countries and social goals such as poverty eradication and job creation.

Right to development

How do we identify and deal with the trade-offs? What is the role of the state and regulation and what is the appropriate way to address the market and private sector? How can we build an economy that is more environmentally-friendly and how should we handle the transition to a greener economy?

The Rio Summit had partially answered these questions by providing a basic framework - that the environment must be integrated within development, and not be taken separately. Thus the need to protect the environment should not be at the expense of the developing countries’ right to development.

From this sprang the concept of “sustainable development”, with its three pillars of environmental protection, economic development and social development. It recognised the need not only for international policies and actions, especially finance and technology transfer, to support developing countries to move towards a sustainable development pathway. The Rio Summit established the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities”. The rich countries, having contributed most to global environmental damage, have the responsibility to take the lead in changing their own economic model and in providing developing countries the finance and technology to move to an environmentally friendly system.

Positive aspects

Developing countries want the green economy concept to be placed well within this sustainable development framework of the Rio Summit - and not to replace it. While acknowledging the positive aspects of developing the green economy concept, they also point to the risks.

The first risk is that the green economy is defined in a one-dimensional manner and promoted in a purely environmental manner, without considering fully the development and equity dimensions.

The second risk is that a one-size fits all approach is taken, in treating all countries in the same manner. This would lead to failures either for environment, development or both. The levels and stages of development of countries must be fully considered.

The third risk is that the green economy is inappropriately made use of by countries for trade protectionist purposes. In particular, rich countries may use this to justify unilateral trade measures against the products of developing countries, or to impose standards that have not been agreed to.

A fourth risk is that the green economy is used as new conditionality on developing countries for aid, loans, and debt rescheduling or debt relief.

This may pressurise affected developing countries to take on one-dimensional environmental measures rather than sustainable development policies.

Other issues in considering the green economy include what is the role of the pubic sector and the private sector, and the role of regulatory mechanisms and market mechanisms.

There is a long and large debate on these issues.

Many believe that the environmental crisis is a result and sign of market failure, that the private sector and markets left to themselves have generated the resource depletion, pollution and Greenhouse Gas emissions characterise the environmental crisis.

Thus, regulation of the private sector is important. Regulatory mechanisms such as limits to pollution and emissions, pesticides in food, water contamination, and use of environmental taxes and fines, are thus seen as crucial policy instruments, that should be major or central components to promoting the green economy.

However, there is instead an increasing trend of relying on ‘markets’ whereby companies and countries can pollute beyond their assigned limit by buying pollution or emission certificates from other companies or countries.

Such markets for buying and selling pollution rights is seen in developed countries as an alternative to companies or countries having to take their own adequate action, and to allow them to pass the action on to others. This has aroused increasing criticisms.

While there is an interest in learning about the use of pricing mechanisms, taxes and payment for entrance of cars into urban centres, there is also a debate on the appropriateness and effects of the use of markets for pollution permits or for offsetting in the implementation of environmental commitments.

Finally, there are many challenges facing developing countries in moving their economies to more environmentally friendly paths.

On one hand this should not prevent the attempt to urgently incorporate environmental elements into economic development.

On the other hand, the various obstacles should be recognised and the developing countries should be supported internationally.

The conditions must be established that make it possible for countries, especially developing countries, to move towards a green economy.

Thus, what seems to be a simple idea, the green economy, is actually complex in terms of policy prescriptions and especially when it is the subject of international negotiations. We will be hearing more about the concept and the debate around it.


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