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Kampala, Buganda, Uganda
Working with the School of Public Health in the College of Health Sciences, Makerere University. I am a trained Social and Population Scientist.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The World is Backtracking on Climate Change Targets

The World is Backtracking on Climate Change Targets

It started like a promising step in the right direction post the Copenhagen 2009 Climate change conference when a political accord to keep the Earth's average temperature from rising no more than 1.3 degrees C above today's average was agreed on. Now the countries have started to back track on the targets that they themselves set for action on climate change. For example, China- which is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gas has dragged its feet. After the January 31st pledge submissions, China insists that the emission cuts are not binding to the business owners. They will be voluntary. This, you and I can attest is one step towards failure in meeting China ’s target of reducing carbon emissions per unit of GDP by 40 to 45 per cent on 2005 levels. Not many owners of major national pollutants (in China ) will commit to this if it is voluntary like the government says.

Now, only 55 countries, including the EU, China and USA have met the January 31st deadline to submit pledges to the UN for cutting greenhouse emissions. This is less than half of all the countries that committed to the 2009 Copenhagen political accord. The 55 that have committed though together contribute about 78% of the world’s greenhouse emissions. The question is; will these pledges be met by action as we go along? Or they are just pledges like many we have seen in the past on other global issues that rarely come to pass. For the record, these individual countries and blocks like the EU all seem to hinge meeting their targets to other countries doing the same or more. The EU for example will only increase its target to 30 per cent on 1990 levels if the other countries show more urge in their commitments. This literary means no country or block wants to commit fully to their own reduction as it halts returns from industrialisation. Not to mention that the business communities in each of these countries will continue to put their governments on pressure not to commit to targets that will certainly impact on their own profitability. The US senate is already debating in this line of thought. There is an element of selfishness in every nation. No one nation wants to lead by example in such aspects as it impacts on their economies. The economic competition in the world seems to be playing a part in this. Heavy investments are needed to have clean efficient energy and have industries cut back on the gasses they currently remit. This literary means less profitability on the part of the private industries, thus the national governments have to hedge by providing incentives or directly cash investments. The US or EU will not do this when they see China continuing in almost the present direction because this in a sense means economic strength for China at the expense of the two power blocks.

The UN is already voicing its concerns that the targets set are certainly not enough to help reverse effects of global warming. These pledges, its projected will still see global temperatures rise up to 3 degrees C, levels that are dangerous for the world. The less developed regions like sub-Saharan Africa with meagre resources will certainly suffer the brunt, witnessing massive rises in climate change migrants and clashes over limited natural resources like water and fertile land as droughts escalate.

It is more likely that by the end of the year 2010 in the Mexico City climate change conference, there will be less progress beyond mere pledges. It is time for more action. BUT who is responsible?

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