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Costs of cutting greenhouse gases expected to take center stage at climate talks

Costs of cutting greenhouse gases expected to take center stage at climate talks

The costs of cutting greenhouse gases and who will pay for it are likely to be the key issues at a major climate change meeting of scientists and diplomats in the Thai capital this week, participants said Sunday.
Some of the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitters like the U.S. and Australia and top oil exporters such as Saudi Arabia will try to water down language in a draft report, obtained by The Associated Press earlier this month, that suggests reducing emissions could cost less than 3 percent of annual global economic activity, environmental activists said.
Much can be done in the near future to cut greenhouse gas emissions, such as investing in energy efficiency and reforming the agriculture sector, the head of world's top climate change agency _ the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change _ said Sunday.
"I think there are a lot of things doable in the short term," R.K. Pachauri told AP. "Whether the world agrees will depend on what they see as cost of the alternative, which is doing nothing."
Environmentalists say the price of keeping the status quo far outweighs the cost of tackling global climate change now.
"Cost will be on everybody's mind," said environmental protection group WWF International's Martin Hiller of the five-day meeting that starts Monday in Bangkok. "Changing the energy system is costly but we can still afford to do it. The cost for doing nothing is staggering and could be up to 20 times more expensive."
Michel Petit, a member of the French delegation, said he feared some countries _ including Saudi Arabia, China, and the United States _ will say the costs of near-term action are greater than the report suggests, and the moves it proposes to reduce emissions would be hard to implement.
"Some countries may challenge these figures," said Petit. "Some countries always put forward the argument that it is very difficult and expensive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."
The IPCC, a network of more than 2,000 scientists, will finalize the report on how the world can mitigate rising levels of carbon dioxide, methane and other heat-trapping gases.
The draft report, which will be amended following comments from dozens of governments, says emissions can be cut below current levels if the world shifts away from carbon-heavy fuels like coal.
Developing countries are likely to demand that richer countries help them adapt to warming global temperatures, which are expected to cause widespread flooding, droughts and rising sea levels.
Two previous IPCC reports this year painted a dire picture of a future in which unabated greenhouse gas emissions could drive global temperatures up as much as 6 degrees Celsius (11 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100. Even a 2-degree-Celsius (3.6-degree-Fahrenheit) rise could subject up to 2 billion people to water shortages by 2050 and threaten extinction for 20 percent to 30 percent of the world's species, the IPCC said.
The third report makes clear the world must quickly embrace a basket of technological options _ already available and being developed _ just to keep the temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
Making buildings more energy-efficient, especially in the developing world, through better insulation, lighting and other steps, could also lead to significant cuts as would converting from coal to natural gas, nuclear power and renewable energy such as wind.
"We believe that you can reduce emission by 50 percent by 2050 using renewable energy technology and energy efficiency," said Stephanie Tunmore, a climate campaigner for Greenpeace International. "Hopefully, energy efficiency will come out strongly in the report because that is really important. For the most part, it's a negative cost."
Over the next century, the report says, such technology as hydrogen-powered fuel cells, advanced hybrid and electric vehicles with better batteries, and carbon sequestration _ whereby carbon emissions are stored underground _ will become more commercially feasible.
The report says taking "optimal" mitigation measures might by 2030 stabilize greenhouse-gas concentrations in the atmosphere at 445 to 534 parts per million, up from an estimated 430 ppm today.
Achieving the 445-534 ppm range might cost less than 3 percent of annual global gross domestic product (GDP) over two decades, the draft says.
Global GDP has grown by about 3 percent a year since 2000.
The damage from unabated climate change, in contrast, might eventually cost the global economy between 5 percent and 20 percent of GDP every year, according to a British government report last year.
The upbeat cost assessment runs counter to the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, which has rejected the mandatory cuts stipulated by the Kyoto Protocol because it fears that doing so would slow U.S. economic growth too much.
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On the Net:
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Updated : 2021-04-13 01:54 GMT+08:00