Deals at climate meeting advance global solution
WARSAW, Poland — Two weeks of U.N. climate talks ended Saturday with a pair of last-minute deals keeping alive the hope that a global effort can ward off a ruinous rise in temperatures.
Delegates agreed to the broad outlines of a proposed system for pledging emissions cuts and gave their support for a new treaty mechanism to tackle the human cost of rising seas, floods, stronger storms and other expected effects of global warming.
The measures added momentum to the talks as U.N. members look toward a 2015 conference in Paris to replace the moribund Kyoto Protocol.
“I think this is what they needed to move the ball forward,” said Jennifer Morgan, director of the climate and energy program at the World Resources Institute, “even if you can’t say that it provided a lot of new ambition.”
The conference, known as the 19th annual meeting of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, got underway two weeks ago in the shadow of the giant Philippine typhoon.
The United States hailed the agreement on calculating emissions reductions, which was along lines proposed by Todd S. Stern, President Barack Obama’s climate envoy. Stern had called for each nation to make a public offer early enough to be evaluated for the Paris summit meeting. He argued that peer pressure was the best hope for concerted action after the 2009 Copenhagen meeting showed a binding top-down approach could not succeed at the international level.
Negotiations ended a full day later than originally planned and delegates, who had gone days with little sleep, were nodding exhaustedly.
The language grew heated at times by diplomatic standards, with Stern on Saturday reminding China that it had agreed two years ago that climate action would be “applicable to all parties,” and expressing surprise “that China would be assuming no commitments under the future agreement.”
Lead negotiators eventually worked out compromise language — changing the word “commitments” to “contributions” — for 2015 to allow some wiggle room.
—David Jolly, The New York Times
Japan answers China’s warnings over islands’ airspace
TOKYO — Matching China’s rhetoric with warnings of his own, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan vowed Monday to defend his nation’s airspace after China declared an air defense zone over a disputed group of islands in the East China Sea.
Speaking in Parliament, Abe called China’s move an unacceptable effort to change the status quo with threats of force. He described it as a dangerous ratcheting up of tensions in the standoff over the uninhabited islands, which are administered by Japan but also claimed by China.
“We are determined to defend our country’s air and sea space,” Abe said. “The measures by the Chinese side have no validity whatsoever for Japan.”
China and Japan have been locked in an escalating war of words and nerves over the islands for more than a year. China’s declaration Saturday that it would identify and possibly take military action against aircraft flying near the islands follows a long period of frequent dispatches of Chinese coast guard ships and aircraft to the area to challenge Japan’s control.
Abe’s effort to draw a line in the sand reflects his promises to lead his nation in standing up to China, which has eclipsed Japan as Asia’s top economic power. Since taking office in December, Abe, an outspoken conservative, has raised defense spending for the first time in a decade and has increased military ties with the United States.
—Martin Fackler, The New York Times
Emissions of methane exceed estimates
Emissions of the greenhouse gas methane due to human activity were roughly 1.5 times greater in the United States in the middle of the last decade than prevailing estimates, according to a new analysis by 15 climate scientists published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The analysis also said that methane discharges in Texas and Oklahoma, where oil and gas production was concentrated at the time, were 2.7 times greater than conventional estimates. Emissions from oil and gas activity alone could be five times greater than the prevailing estimate, the report said.
The study relies on nearly 12,700 measurements of atmospheric methane in 2007 and 2008. Its conclusions are sharply at odds with the two most comprehensive estimates of methane emissions, by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and an alliance of the Netherlands and the European Commission.
The EPA has stated that all emissions of methane, from both man-made and natural sources, have been slowly but steadily declining since the mid-1990s.
Only last April, the agency reduced its estimate of methane discharges from 1990 through 2010 by 8 to 12 percent, largely citing sharp decreases in discharges from gas production and transmission, landfills and coal mines.
The new analysis calls that reduction into question, saying that two sources of methane emissions in particular — from oil and gas production and from cattle and other livestock — appear to have been markedly larger than the EPA estimated during 2007 and 2008.
One of the study’s principal authors, Scot M. Miller of Harvard University’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, said its higher estimates underscore methane’s significant contribution to rising temperatures.
“These are pretty substantial numbers we’re dealing with, and an important part of greenhouse gas emissions,” he said on Monday. “Our study shows that there could be large greenhouse gas emissions in places in the country where we may not necessarily have accounted for them.”
—Michael Wines, The New York Times