Around 800 delegates representing some of the world’s leading environmental groups have walked out of the latest round of climate talks, being held in Warsaw, Poland. It’s not hard to see why they felt driven to it. It has taken a long time for the world’s scientists to agree that human activity – specifically our use of fossil fuels – has been a cause of accelerated climate change. However, that agreement has finally been reached and the evidence shows that emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) caused by human activities are causing climate change.
The Conference of the Parties (COP) in Warsaw should have been an opportunity to make some progress. And with the horror and devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan so fresh in everyone’s minds, you would have thought that the need for action had been made amply clear. Yet instead, there have been arguments over how much compensation the countries most likely to be affected by climate change will receive, while several developed countries have announced that they will be reducing their targets for reducing CO2 emissions down to 1990 levels.
Japan had been committed to reducing CO2 to 25% below 1990 levels. This reduction has now been revised to 3.8%, with the Fukushima disaster and the subsequent nuclear shutdown across Japan blamed for the moving of the goalposts. Australia has indicated that it will be weakening its targets for CO2 reduction, while Canada has pulled out completely from the Kyoto accord, to which it had previously been committed.
There is a simple point to be made here. Ignoring the need to reduce our CO2 emissions as a species is not an option. We have to take notice and we have to make greater efforts to address the problem. Our governments would usually be the drivers of this change, responding to the need by setting enforceable targets for reduction, investing in the new technologies we need to achieve emission reductions and making the reduction in CO2 emissions easier and cheaper for people to afford.
As we have seen in Warsaw, this isn’t happening at the moment. And the big problem is that this is the world’s problem. No country acting on its own could make much difference. We are all living on the same planet. We all need to make the changes required to reduce our CO2 emissions. Instead, we seem to be spending all of our time arguing over how much we’re prepared to cut and how much we’re prepared to pay for the damage that has already been done. I can fully understand the frustration, but ultimately, the environmentalists and the governments are going to have to get together again to set some realistic targets that all can commit to.