Despite extreme weather and new evidence, prospects of a deal at this year's climate change conference look bleak

Paris 2015 is the big one – that is when nearly 200 governments around the world have pledged to agree the legally-binding carbon-reduction targets

Share
Related Topics

Climate change has tumbled down the political agenda in recent years, as weak economies focus minds on poverty and the climate sceptics wage an effective – if disingenuous – lobbying campaign. But two events have coincided with this year’s annual UN climate change conference, in Warsaw, that must focus minds.

The first is typhoon Haiyan, the strongest storm to make landfall ever recorded, which wreaked havoc in the Philippines last week, just before the conference began. Although the storm cannot be directly linked to climate change, it underlines the scientific consensus that we can expect a rise in frequency and severity of extreme weather events.

The second, reported in this newspaper yesterday, is that climate sceptics’ key argument has just been debunked. Global warming has not slowed down over the past 15 years; temperatures have continued to rise at largely the same rate since 1998 – when the so-called “pause” began, but scientists were not adequately recording rapid warming in the Arctic.

Coming after the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest finding, in September, that the world is incontestably warming and that humans are almost certainly the main cause, one might hope that governments would be spurred into action in Warsaw. But, one week in, events suggest the reverse. Japan says it will replace its target to cut emissions by 2020 with one that will, effectively, increase them by about 3 per cent over the period – blaming the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Meanwhile, Australia, a vast consumer of coal, is also signalling a possible weakening of its emissions targets range and has begun the repeal of its carbon tax.

Cue shock and outrage? Sadly not. The truth is that nobody is expecting much from this year’s climate change summit. Paris 2015 is the big one – that is when nearly 200 governments around the world have pledged to agree the legally-binding carbon-reduction targets that they hope will be sufficient to limit global warming to 2C. Next year’s summit, in Lima, is therefore far more important than this one, because it could pave the way for the big deal in Paris the following year.

The events of this fortnight may nonetheless be key to any success or failure in 2015. Signals of commitment, or a lack of it, have a domino effect. It is, therefore, encouraging that China and the US are felt to be becoming more committed to tackling climate change. Even that cannot entirely drown out the warning sounds from Canada, Australia and Japan, though.

The Warsaw meeting could never deliver a detailed, long-term, global agreement to tackle climate change. But some shorter-term targets might still be set, providing a much-needed boost ahead of Paris. Concrete steps to reduce emissions before any agreement in Paris is implemented would be a good start, as would an outline on the schemes – such as airline taxes or a worldwide carbon price – that will be needed to pay for the costs of climate change.

And yet, despite the mounting evidence that our environment is changing around us in dangerous ways, the political will seems not to have caught up. So far, we can expect only the usual woolly platitudes from Warsaw.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

General Election 2015: The SNP and an SMC (Salmond-Murdoch Conspiracy)

Matthew Norman
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station  

General Election 2015: Despite all the seeming cynicism, our political system works

Ian Birrell
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living