Rich nations cut carbon

Climate chaos0

“It is an encouraging sign that emissions decreased in 2006 in some major developed economies,” Michael Raupach, leader of the Earth Observation Centre in Canberra, said.

“However, we have scarcely begun,” he said, adding that the world would need far tougher action to stabilise emissions at levels to avert “dangerous” climate changes of ever more heatwaves, food shortages, floods, droughts and rising seas.

Emissions by the United States, Japan, Germany, Canada, France, Britain, and Italy were all down in 2006 – by between 2.5 per cent for France and just 0.02 per cent for Germany.

Russia’s emissions, which fell sharply after the collapse of the Soviet Union’s smokestack industries, went against the trend with a gain of 3.1 per cent in line with strong economic growth.

Emissions by so many nations in the G8 have not previously fallen together any year since 1990, the UN benchmark for efforts to combat climate change including the Kyoto Protocol.

Overall, emissions by the G8 fell to 14.04 billion tonnes in 2006 from 14.12 billion in 2005, according to a Reuters calculations based on submissions to the UN Climate Change Secretariat.

G8 environment ministers meet in Kobe, Japan, from May 24-26 to prepare a July summit meant to map out future actions to curb warming.

Some experts said the 0.6 per cent decline was not a sign that G8 nations were really getting to grips with the problem.

“One would expect higher oil prices to reduce demand for oil … and a relatively mild winter would reduce power consumption and hence emissions from power stations,” said Knut Alfsen, research director of the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo.

“Unfortunately, it is difficult to discover policy actions in any of these countries that would explain the reduced emissions,” he said.

“I’m fairly pessimistic with regard to whether the countries are ‘starting to get to grips’ with the climate change challenge.”

He said it would be interesting to see if heightened awareness among many people about climate change in 2007, linked to factors such as a movie by former US Vice President Al Gore and reports by the UN Climate Panel, would curb emissions.

Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, looks at scientific evidence on the causes and likely impact of a warming world.

“It’s hard to generalise across all the economies,”  Jennifer Morgan, a director of the E3G think-tank in London, said.

“In the United States it doesn’t have a lot to do with climate factors, it has more to do with other factors such as the winter weather.”

The United States is outside the Kyoto Protocol, embraced by all other G8 nations.

Still, the fall in emissions came despite 2006 economic growth of an average of 3.0 per cent for advanced economies, estimated by the International Monetary Fund. That may mark progress at least in decoupling emissions from growth.

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