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Time for a deal on climate change?

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earthThe answer is in several parts: Yes it’s time for a binding and comprehensive international agreement on climate change; actually it’s way past time. Maybe there’s time to get it done before things become irreversible. Maybe it’s already too late. In any case the clock is ticking and that is where TckTckTck enters the picture.

TckTckTck is a recently formed umbrella group of individuals and organizations that’s pushing hard for results from what is likely to be a seminal event in achieving, at some point sooner rather than later in our lifetimes, a binding global agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

It could be that it’s too soon or already too late to expect a anything binding on the world stage; the record of achievement is not exactly stellar as the Oil Age morphs in to the Age of Stupid. Maybe there too many naysayers and “yes, butters” poised for action out there; maybe there are too many well-heeled political and corporate special-interests hard at work to expect anything really meaningful to come from the United Nations Climate Change Conference that starts Dec. 7 in Copenhagen.

This is one meeting that can’t be allowed to come and go without a major effort to stem the climate change tide. The forces on the side of getting real and getting something real done have banded together under the TckTckTck banner.

The group officially kicked-off its 100 days countdown to Copenhagen campaign last weekend.

“The time is now,” says the diverse TckTckTck alliance of about 22 partners (along with nearly 1 million individuals) comprising faith groups, trade unions, environmental and humanitarian organizations, including Greenpeace, Oxfam, Kofi Annan’s Global Humanitarian Forum, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Amnesty International, Brazil’s Vitae Civilis, the International Institute for Environment and Development and the World Wide Fund for Nature.

TckTckTck Chair Kumi Naidoo says the campaign is an “unprecedented alliance…we believe that only by working together in a broad alliance will we have the size, power and influence to ensure a good deal in Copenhagen.”

The idea is to build momentum to achieve a comprehensive and binding climate change agreement in Copenhagen.

“Today, millions of people are already suffering because of climate change,” Annan, a campaign co-founder and President of the Global Humanitarian Forum, says. “Although developing countries did not cause the climate crisis, poor nations are suffering the most as unpredictable weather patterns and the increase in natural disasters affects access to food, water and shelter. We must end the deathly silence around this crisis because it is a major impediment for international action. Those helping raise awareness of the crisis through journalism should be praised for doing so, especially as December’s international climate talks in Copenhagen approach.”

A  practice run will occur later this month during Climate Week in New York City, when the TckTckTck campaign will join the United Nations, the UN Foundation, the City of New York, The Climate Group and Carbon Disclosure Project in organizing Climate Week NYC, Sept 18-25. Climate Week NYC events “will demonstrate massive support for an ambitious, fair and binding international climate change treaty in Copenhagen in December,” says TckTckTck.

However Copenhagen ultimately unfolds the TckTckTck campaign could tip the balance to success. It’s more than worth the try. The impacts of climate change are mounting and the estimates of the economic costs of climate change are rapidly escalating.

Late last month scientists led by a former co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that United Nations climate change negotiations are based on “substantial” underestimates of what it will cost to adapt to global warming.

The real costs of adaptation are likely to be two to three times greater than estimates for the year 2030 made by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2007, say Professor Martin Parry and colleagues in a recent report published by the International Institute for Environment and Development and the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London.

The report, “Assessing the costs of adaptation to climate change: A review of the UNFCCC and other recent estimates,” finds that costs will be even greater when the full range of climate impacts on human activities is considered.

Parry and colleagues warn that this underestimate of the cost of adaptation could weaken the outcome of UNFCCC negotiations, which are due to culminate in Copenhagen.

“The amount of money on the table at Copenhagen is one of the key factors that will determine whether we achieve a climate change agreement,” says Parry, visiting research fellow at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London. “But previous estimates of adaptation costs have substantially misjudged the scale of funds needed.”

The UNFCCC has estimated the global costs of adapting to climate change to be US$40-170 billion each year.

But the report’s authors say that these estimates were produced too quickly and did not include key sectors such as energy, manufacturing, retailing, mining, tourism and ecosystems. Other sectors that the UNFCCC did include were only partially covered.

“Just looking in depth at the sectors the UNFCCC did study, we estimate adaptation costs to be two to three times higher, and when you include the sectors the UNFCCC left out the true cost is probably much greater,” warns Parry, who co-chaired the IPCC working group on impacts, vulnerability and adaptation between 2002 and 2008.

“Finance is the key that will unlock the negotiations in Copenhagen but if governments are working with the wrong numbers, we could end up with a false deal that fails to cover the costs of adaptation to climate change,” says Camilla Toulmin, director of the International Institute for Environment and Development, which co-published the report.

Parry acknowledges that the 2007 UNFCCC study was a preliminary one of the funding, especially public funding, estimated to be needed in the year 2030 to meet the challenge of climate change. “It is not a study of the full cost of avoiding all damage,” he wrote. “The authors suggest that their estimates are probably under-estimates and that much more study is needed.”

The Parry report also evaluates estimates of the costs of adaptation made by preceding studies by the World Bank, 2006; by Sir Nicholas Stern, 2006; by Oxfam, 2007; and by the UN Development Program, 2007.

The Parry report’s key findings include:

– Water: The UNFCCC estimate of US$11 billion excluded costs of adapting to floods and assumes no costs for transferring water within nations from areas of surplus to areas of deficit. The figure does not include an allowance for costs of adapting in other aspects of water resources management, such as managing increased flood risk, maintaining water quality standards and supporting instream economic and environmental uses. The underestimate could be substantial, the new report states.

– Health: The UNFCCC estimate of US$5 billion excluded developed nations, and assessed only malaria, diarrhea and malnutrition. This could cover only 30-50 percent of the global total disease burden, according to the new report.

– Infrastructure: The UNFCCC estimate of US$8-130 billion assumed that low levels of investment in infrastructure will continue to characterize development in Africa and other relatively poor parts of the world. But the new report points out that such investment must increase in order to reduce poverty and thus avoid continuing high levels of vulnerability to climate change. It says the costs of adapting this upgraded infrastructure to climate change could be eight times more costly than the higher estimates predicted by the UNFCCC.

– Coastal zones: The UNFCCC estimate of US$11 billion excluded increased storm intensity and used low IPCC predictions of sea level rise. Considering research on sea level rise published since the 2007 IPCC report, and including storms, the new report suggests costs could be about three times greater than predicted.

– Ecosystems: The UNFCCC excluded from its estimates the costs of protecting ecosystems and the services they can provide for human society. The new report concludes that that this is an important source of under-estimation, which could cost over US$350 billion, including both protected and non-protected areas.

The report calls for detailed case studies of what adaptation costs will be, and points out that the few that already exist suggest that costs will be considerable. It adds that the UNFCCC estimates do not include the cost of bearing ‘residual damage’ that will arise from situations where adaptation is not technically feasible or simply too expensive.

The experts say there is still time to put us on a path to a better world – but time is not on our side.



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Written by William DiBenedetto

3 September, 2009 at 4:19 pm

One Response

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  1. Thanks very much for writing about the project!

    Darren @ TckTckTck

    4 September, 2009 at 7:50 am


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