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Carbon Emissions are Everyone's Problem

6 Jan 2009

The Irish Times

CLIMATE CHANGE: A renewed commitment to lowering worldwide CO2 emissions means every individual and every country will need to review their responsibilities towards global warming, writes Frank McDonald.

THE COUNTDOWN to Copenhagen is under way - in just 11 months' time, more than 180 countries are expected to reach agreement on how to tackle global warming at the 15th UN Climate Change Conference.

Even though Barack Obama takes over from George Bush as US president on January 20th, ushering in a more positive era of engagement with the issue by the world's biggest emitter of CO2, it is by no means certain a deal will be struck in Copenhagen.

Yet the crisis we face demands urgent action. Last year is likely to be one of the warmest on record worldwide, as well as one of the most turbulent for "extreme weather events". Ten of the 12 hottest years ever recorded have happened since the mid-1990s.

To limit the increase in global temperatures to 2 degrees, carbon emissions must start falling by 2015 and be cut by at least 80 per cent by 2050 (based on 1990 levels), according to the most recent assessment by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

What's needed, as Oxfam put it, is for countries to reduce their emissions in line with their historic responsibilities for the build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere and their capacity to tackle climate change.

At last month's UN Climate Change Conference in the Polish city of Poznan, delegates agreed to kickstart an adaptation fund to help developing countries cope with the impacts of global warming. But they put only $80 billion (€58 billion) in the kitty; Oxfam extimates $50 billion (€36 billion) a year will be needed.

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