Climate Feedback

Countdown to Copenhagen

Keith Kloor

So if Copenhagen doesn’t produce a global warming treaty next month, which now seems likely, what about setting up a global environmental body? The environmental ministers for Italy and Kenya float this idea in a Guardian op-ed. They note that Chancellor Merkel of Germany and President Sarkozy of France are lobbying to have the idea taken up at Copenhagen:

“In a letter to the UN secretary general [Merkel and Sarkozy] emphasised that we must overhaul environmental governance and use Copenhagen climate talks in December to progress the creation of a world environmental organisation.”

In their op-ed, the two environmental ministers argue:

“History has proven that strong international institutions are the precondition for building any successful international cooperation. The global financial crisis and the collaboration through the G20 and the International Monetary Fund are recent examples.”

Anyone familiar with the bad environmental press Canada has been receiving of late will be surprised to learn that the country has agreed to preserve vast tracts of its Boreal Forest from development, which will helpfully soak up huge amounts of carbon. The action, as the Guardian notes:

“is somewhat of an anomaly for Canada, whose government has been accused of sabotaging the global climate change talks by its development of the Alberta tar sands and its refusal to make deep cuts in its greenhouse gas emissions.”

Three days of hearings on climate legislation in the U.S. Senate’s Environment and Public Works committee concluded on Thursday. The big story to emerge, according to Politico, is a key moderate Democrat’s “serious reservations” about the bill. Recalcitrant Republicans, meanwhile, heard about the national security implications of climate change from retired military brass and former Republican Sen. John Warner, who is a close ally of the military. He cautioned:

“We are talking about energy insecurity, water and food shortages, and climate-driven social instability. We ignore these threats at the peril of our national security and at great risk to those in uniform.”

Committee Republicans, for their part, seem more interested in winning additional time to study the bill’s cap-and-trade program.

The African Union takes up the issue of “climate refugees” in a new treaty that addresses the plight of displaced people. According to IRIN, a U.N. news service:

“the inclusion of displacement by natural disasters was informed by the global debate on the need to develop a framework for the rights of ‘climate refugees’ – people uprooted from their homes and crossing international borders – because the changing climate threatened their survival.”

Such episodes of displacement seem somewhat inevitable, judging by the predictions made by Professor Sir Gordon Conway, the outgoing chief scientist at the UK’s Department for International Development As the Guardian reports, Conway asserts that Africa

“is already warming faster than the global average and that people living there can expect more intense droughts, floods and storm surges.”

In the meantime, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been forging ahead this week, trying to get the European Union to sign off on actual dollar amounts to aid adaptation in countries such as Africa that will be hardest hit. The latest word out of Brussels, after the conclusion of a two-day EU summit, is that some type of financing agreement has been struck.

On a lighter note, have you ever given much thought to the carbon footprint of your pet? Oh, you had to figure somebody would eventually get around to that one. Well, there’s a slew of studies and a new book that reveals some inconvenient truths about fido’s puppy chow, all of which is covered in this New Scientist article. By the way, even your child’s goldfish has “an ecological fin-print equal to two cellphones.”


  1. Report this comment

    Californiality said:

    I have never given much thought to the carbon footprint of our pets, but it does make sense. I must have a meeting about this with my dog!

  2. Report this comment

    Paul Bernal said:

    In the run up to the Copenhagen climate change conference, it is vital the following information be disseminated to the public as well as to our political leaders.


    A widely cited 2006 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Livestock’s Long Shadow, estimates that 18 percent of annual worldwide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are attributable to livestock….however recent analysis by Goodland and Anhang co-authors of “Livestock and Climate Change” in the latest issue of World Watch magazine found that livestock and their byproducts actually account for at least 32.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year, or 51 percent of annual worldwide GHG emissions!



    The main sources of GHGs from animal agriculture are: (1) Deforestation of the rainforests to grow feed for livestock. (2) Methane from manure waste. – Methane is 72 times more potent as a global warming gas than CO2 (3) Refrigeration and transport of meat around the world. (4) Raising, processing and slaughtering of the animal.


    Meat production also uses a massive amount of water and other resources which would be better used to feed the world’s hungry and provide water to those in need.


    Based on their research, Goodland and Anhang conclude that replacing livestock products with soy-based and other alternatives would be the best strategy for reversing climate change. They say “This approach would have far more rapid effects on GHG emissions and their atmospheric concentrations-and thus on the rate the climate is warming-than actions to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy.”

  3. Report this comment

    JEONG cHUN PHUOC said:

    " Malaysia must take initiative to re-define Climate Change Roadmap at the upcoming Copenhagen Conference Dec 2009"

    The article “Dark Cloud over Climate Talks” by martin Khor (The Star, 12.10.2009) painted a rather dark pessimistic color to the mood at the recently concluded Climate talks in Bangkok, Thailand.

    Developed nations perceived abandonment of their current commitment under Phase One of the Kyoto Protocol (KP) is a clear indication that there is a need for a more conducive approach in addressing climate change specifically relating to greenhouse gas emissions(GGE) dilemma.

    This perception must not be viewed with pessimism or seen as a negative change of attitude by developed countries. Developing countries are also part of the problematic GGE equation apart from the Kyoto Protocol’s perceived rigid implementation platform.

    There is no denying that the Kyoto Protocol imposed binding obligations upon developed bloc. However, corresponding non-commitment/inactions by developing countries are also a collective issue.

    All signatories to the KP must therefore take the cue that if co-operation cannot be effected under the current KP, there is an urgent need to modify the ‘mitigation commitments’ by developed countries vis-vis the ‘mitigation actions’ on the part of developing countries. Such modification can be perceived as fair as it takes into view national interests and acceptable GGE achievement.

    What is of crucial importance is the underlying commitment by all members towards total, if not gradual reduction, of GGE emissions on a global scale so that 2nd Phase of the KP can be initiated without major glitch in 2013.

    Malaysia as a developing country, having achieved several milestones in its effort to implement GGE objectives, must therefore take the initiative to promote, re-ignite and re-define those ‘commitments’ in a form that are mutually acceptable to both developed and developing countries within the KP framework which is in fact, open to international modification and national interests alignment.


    Jeong Chun Phuoc


Comments are closed.