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Meeting the Climate Challenge

Core Elements of an Effective Response to Climate Change

SOURCE: AP/Elizabeth Dalziel

Windmills operate at the Da Bancheng Wind Farm, about 25 miles south of Urumqi city, in Xinjiang, China.

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Achievable gains in energy efficiency, renewable energy, forest conservation, and sustainable land use worldwide could achieve up to 75 percent of needed global emissions reductions in 2020 at a net savings of $14 billion. These actions, along with additional investments in climate adaptation, would deliver a wide range of economic, security, and environmental benefits in developed and developing countries. Greater international support for these core elements would make an immediate contribution to solving the climate problem and help to achieve a new international climate agreement.

Negotiations toward a new global agreement on climate change have entered a critical stage. Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change will gather in Copenhagen in December to seek agreement on a new international regime to take effect after the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period ends in 2012. Leaders at this summer’s G-8 Summit agreed that global average temperature should rise by no more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels and that global greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced 50 percent by 2050 to accomplish this goal.1 Nearly 100 world leaders joined the U.N. Secretary-General for a Summit on Climate Change in September to underscore the urgency of completing a new agreement. CEOs of private sector companies and nongovernmental organizations from around the world joined this call for action.

A new agreement must include:

1. Ambitious emissions reduction targets by developed countries.

2. Nationally appropriate mitigation actions by developing countries to advance low-carbon development.

3. New and additional financial assistance from developed countries to developing countries.

4. Mechanisms for technology cooperation with developing countries.

The negotiations are challenging. Among developed countries, the United States has not offered a near-term emissions reduction target, and legislation that would support such a target is still under debate in Congress. China, India, and other developing countries have announced low-carbon growth initiatives in their national plans and policies, but they are not prepared to accept internationally binding obligations. Countries have proposed needs and institutional options for financing and technology cooperation, but these have not been negotiated.

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