China Environmental News Digest

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

US, China 'must act to avert disaster'

Theage.com.au



Justin Bergman


February 18, 2007



THE world faces a global warming disaster if the US and China do not take decisive action to cut greenhouse gas emissions, leading economists said at the United Nations yesterday.

Jeffrey Sachs, speaking with British economist Sir Nicholas Stern, said the commitment of the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases to make more serious efforts to cut carbon dioxide emission was fundamental to forging a comprehensive agreement on global warming. "It's a mistake to let either China or the US think they are doing a lot," said Professor Sachs, head of the UN Millennium Project.

"We have to look at the numbers all the time, not just the direction, not the sentiment, not the announcements. We have to look at the numbers because that's all that counts in the end."

Sir Nicholas said, however, that both the US and China were doing more to cut carbon dioxide emissions than the other believed.

He said many US states and cities had set target reductions for themselves, and China had imposed heavy taxes on things like sport utility vehicles and energy-intensive industries.

Sir Nicholas wrote a 700-page report last year that said unabated climate change would eventually cost the equivalent of between 5 and 20 per cent of global gross domestic product each year. The report challenges the US Government's wait-and-see policies.

The US is the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide and other gases blamed by scientists for global warming, but President George Bush has kept the US out of the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gases, saying it would harm the US economy.

Under the Kyoto pact, 35 other industrial nations have agreed to cut their global-warming gas emissions by 5 per cent on average below 1990 levels by 2012.

The Bush Administration has said it is committed, instead, to advancing and investing in new technologies to combat global warming.

China announced this month it would spend more to research global warming, but said it lacked the money and technology to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Last Monday, the country's environmental watchdog said it had failed to reach any of its pollution control goals for 2006.

Professor Sachs said the two countries needed to take more forceful action quickly, especially in light of a key meeting of environmental ministers scheduled for December in Bali to begin talks on what action the world must take after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

He said he expected global warming would be a key issue in the 2008 US presidential election.

"I see it as impossible in our current political environment for a candidate not to have a clear and strong position on limiting greenhouse gases in the US," he said.



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