UN Panel’s Global Warming Report May Win U.S. Support

We told you global warming was about money

By Alex Morales

Nov. 12 (Bloomberg) — American officials are planning to back a new United Nations document that says governments and businesses will have to spend billions of dollars a year to reduce global warming and adapt to its effects.

The report will be discussed this week at a meeting of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, the group of scientists producing the most detailed study yet of global warming. The group’s recommendation will guide talks in Bali, Indonesia next month of the UN body charged with writing a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, an international accord that set carbon gas emission limits for some countries.

By agreeing with the draft document, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg, the U.S. is indicating a need for faster action to slow climate change. As the largest emitter of gases blamed for global warming, the U.S. is seen by other nations as critical to the creation of a new worldwide response when the Kyoto agreement expires in 2012.

“We haven’t seen any problems in the drafts that we’ve seen,” said John Marburger, director of the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy in Washington, in a telephone interview. “But it depends what happens at the meetings.”

IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri today opened the panel’s meeting in Valencia, Spain. Delegates will spend 5 days revising the 22-page draft.

The final report will condense data from three IPCC documents released in the past year detailing the warming that has occurred, forecasting the climate change’s future effects, and outlining technologies that may reduce the temperature rise.

Policy Guide

“What is produced here in Valencia is the guide that every one of the thousands of delegates who will be attending the UN climate change conference in Bali will be packing in their suitcases and slipping in their back pockets,” Janos Pasztor, a spokesman for the UN environmental program, told delegates today.

Sophie Schlingemann, a spokeswoman for the Geneva-based IPCC, declined comment on the content of the report, saying the draft was for delegates to see in preparation for meetings this week and not for the press. The draft is on the IPCC Web site accessible to delegates.

“Each time you have a meeting like this, there’s a temptation to add something or put a little spin on it,” Marburger said. “We’re pretty comfortable with the way the summaries for policy makers have construed the underlying reports in the three previous products. We just want to make sure that that level of accuracy is maintained in this one too.”

Kyoto Successor

President George W. Bush’s administration has rejected the mandatory caps on gases that form the basis of the Kyoto Protocol, adopted in 1997. The treaty binds 35 nations and the European Union to cut collective emissions by 5.2 percent from 1990 levels by 2012.

One clause in the draft that may be debated by delegates in Spain says that the UNFCCC and its Kyoto protocol treaty have made “notable achievements” in efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

“There is high agreement and much evidence that notable achievements of the UNFCCC and its Kyoto protocol are the establishment of a global response to climate change, stimulation of an array of national policies, and the creation of an international carbon market,” the draft says.

U.S. Delegation

When asked about the Kyoto protocol clause, Marburger’s deputy, Sharon Hayes said “that’s the kind of thing we’ll be looking at.” Hays will lead the U.S. delegation in Valencia.

While “we have no major issues, it doesn’t mean that wording can’t and shouldn’t be tweaked, so that’s something we’ll be taking a close look at,” Hayes said. “Our job as a delegation is making sure that the summary documents reflect accurately what’s in the underlying documents, which is what the scientists are telling us.”

Under the cap-and-trade system promoted by Kyoto, companies are allocated permits that allow them a certain amount of carbon emissions. If their emissions exceed the permits, they must buy more credits from firms that haven’t used their allotment.

Bush has said the mandatory emissions cap would damage the U.S. economy, because large developing nations such as China and India aren’t bound by Kyoto’s targets. His administration has instead pursued voluntary agreements with smaller groups of nations aimed at developing and sharing clean technology.

Bali Meeting

The Bali meeting, held by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, will bring together government officials from around the world to discuss options for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for warming. The session aims to set a deadline to agree on a successor treaty to Kyoto.

It’s “critically important” that the document tells politicians “this is our understanding of the science, this is what is going to happen to us if you fail to act, and these are the instruments that potentially you can deploy in order for us to avoid being confronted with those impacts,” said Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the Framework Convention in a Nov. 9 telephone interview. “It’s up to the politicians in Bali to give the political answers to what the scientific community is saying.”

Marburger said technologies that could reduce carbon dioxide emissions are nuclear power, and carbon capture and sequestration, a process which traps the gas as it is emitted and pumps it into underground storage.

While the draft says that a range of technologies and a mix of policies are needed to tackle global warming, it also states “greater cooperative efforts and expansion of market mechanisms will help to reduce global costs for achieving a given level of mitigation, or will improve environmental effectiveness.”

Governments and power producers are projected to invest $20 trillion in energy plants and infrastructure by 2030. Decisions made now to pursue so-called clean technologies instead of more polluting coal-powered facilities may help cut still-rising atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases, the draft says.

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