The Hot Zone


Posted by Alison Hawkes on December 9, 2009
Category : The man made climate

by Erica Rex

Last night, I attended a panel and Q&A in Manchester, England, to hear Ed Miliband, the UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change speak and answer questions before his departure for the UN climate conference that has just started in Copenhagen.

He was joined by Sir Richard Leese from the Manchester City Council, Len Wardle, CEO of The Co-op, and Mike Childs from Friends of the Earth.  The panel was captured real-time on video, if you want to view it here.

But if you don’t want to watch the entire hour-plus video, here are some of the more salient points that captured my interest:

Most of the impact of climate change is felt by the developing world, even though they’ve created a fraction of the problem.

“There two truths at the heart of these negotiations,” said Ed Miliband during the Q&A. “The first is we caused the problem [the developed world, Britain, the US].  The second truth is that ninety-percent of future growth in emissions will come from developing countries.”  He went on to say while he’s in favour of developed nations assisting the developing world financially to develop clean power, he’s not a big fan of helping China.  Despite the fact that the Chinese generate far less greenhouse gas per capita than we do in the US – we tip the scales at 19.9 tons per capita – or the UK, at 9.3 tons per capita.  China, in contrast, generates about 5 tons per year per person.

“The point in this deal is not to finance China,” said Miliband, although he conceded that some financial support for green technology would probably be made available to China.  “If the world is to have a chance of achieving the 2°C world [limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees C], the truth we have to tell people is that China has to take action and quickly.”

One of the other interesting points made was that it’s impossible to change climate without changing at the local level.  The city of  Manchester has promised to reduce its own carbon emissions by 41% by 2050.  It hopes to set an example to the rest of the world.

Deforestation was a major topic of discussion. Deforestation accounts for about 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.  To put this in perspective, this number is slightly greater than the emissions from all transportation globally, which accounts for about 15 percent. Without reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD), the widely endorsed goal of climate stabilization at a maximum 2°C temperature increase will be impossible.

Later this week, I’ll post an interesting excerpt from a historical document:  King Canute of Denmark’s laws regarding forest preservation – as he wrote them in 1016.  Then, if I can reach him, I’ll be speaking with a colleague who is attending the conference to get his take on what is happening on the ground.

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