Africa: Doha Talks Not Coming to Terms With Science - Jagger

Photo: Argaw Ashine/Oxfam
Elders speak about changing climate patterns to a journalist.

Governments need to step up their ambition on cutting emissions and come up with more money to help poor countries tackle climate change if the U.N. climate talks in Qatar are not to be remembered as the "COP with gaps that couldn't come to terms with the science", human rights campaigner Bianca Jagger said on Sunday.

The international negotiations in Qatar - known officially as COP18 - should extend the Kyoto Protocol, the world's only legally binding pact for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, for a second commitment period of eight years, Jagger told AlertNet on the sidelines of a conference on protecting forests.

With the first Kyoto Protocol commitment period expiring at the end of December, that would avoid a gap until a planned new global climate pact, due to be negotiated by 2015, comes into force from 2020.

"Most people who are here, and who are really well informed, realise that to wait until 2015 ... may be too late," Jagger said.

"We need leaders who come here to really understand what the science requires to keep us under 2 degrees Celsius (of temperature increase). The changes that anything beyond 2 degrees will bring to the world are very disturbing and very worrisome to all of us," she added.

A recent World Bank report warned that extreme weather will likely become the "new normal" if world temperature rises by 4 degrees Celsius, which could happen by the end of this century if not all countries comply with pledges they have made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Even if they do, the world will still warm by more than 3 degrees Celsius by 2100, it said.

Last month, the World Meteorological Organisation said the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 390.9 parts per million (ppm) in 2011, or 40 percent above the pre-industrial level of 280 parts per million.

"We are supposed to be at 350 ppm if we want to keep the temperature increase under 2 degrees - so what the hell are we doing when we are already at (391) ppm? How can we not be reacting, and why are leaders not signing the Kyoto agreement beyond 2012, December 31?" Jagger asked in a speech.

Recent extreme weather may be raising awareness about climate change in North America, and could push the public to support greater action by Washington, she added.

"My hope is that what people saw during Hurricane Sandy may give them insight as to what is necessary, to understand that climate change is a reality, that the United States needs to lead the world," she said.

She told AlertNet she hoped Arab countries would pledge money to the fledgling U.N. Green Climate Fund at the talks, which are due to end on Friday, and that the United States would be generous too. A first three-year period of climate aid runs out at the end of this year, and rich states have yet to give firm pledges for the coming few years.

'PLANT A PLEDGE' CAMPAIGN

The Nicaraguan-born former actress and model, who was married to Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger in the 1970s, is also a goodwill ambassador for "Plant a Pledge" - an online campaign to mobilise public support for a major land restoration initiative led by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The campaign, launched at the Rio+20 conference in Brazil in June, aims to restore 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2020, equal to 15 percent of the estimated area of degraded forests worldwide.

According to the IUCN, achieving this would inject more than $84 billion annually into local and global economies and cut the climate change "emissions reduction gap" - the difference between what countries have pledged to do and what is needed to keep temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius - by 11 to 17 percent.

Jagger said pledges of landscape restoration so far this year have reached around 18 million hectares of land - 15 million by the U.S. Forest Service, 2 million by Rwanda and 1 million by a Brazilian coalition - which is far above a target of 7 million.

She said she hoped to announce firm plans by India to pledge 10 million hectares, together with additional contributions by Central American nations, at a press conference at the climate talks on Thursday.

"This is not simply about planting trees - this is about a mosaic of different things that are done, which include restoring water sources and agriculture, which will bring benefits to people," Jagger said.

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InFocus

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Elders speak about changing climate patterns to a journalist.

Governments need to get serious about reducing greenhouse gases emissions and find the financing to help poorer countries adapt, according to activists at the Doha climate change ... Read more »