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UN Climate Deal Doesn’t Force Countries To Set CO2 Targets

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Ben Webster, The Times

More than 190 countries yesterday agreed a deal to tackle climate change, paving the way for a global treaty. The agreement was watered down, however, after many developing countries refused to sign earlier drafts. During a tense final 40 hours of negotiations in Lima, Peru, a loophole was inserted into the climate change deal that allows countries to avoid the tough, economy-wide emissions targets already adopted by Britain.

The deal sets the framework for a treaty to be signed in Paris next December to limit global warming to 2C above pre-industrial times. Yet the final text noted with “grave concern” that there was a “significant gap” between existing pledges to cut emissions and the reductions needed.

Countries “may” announce detailed new emissions targets next year, the final draft said; an earlier version said that all countries “shall” announce such targets. Many developing nations objected to this, saying it was unfair to ask them to make commitments that could hamper their economic growth.

A proposal to allow countries to review each other’s targets was scrapped after China objected. There will be no official assessment next year of whether targets are fair and comparable.

Key issues remain unresolved, including how responsibility for reducing emissions by the required amount should be divided between developed and developing countries.

Ed Davey, the energy and climate change secretary, played down the significance of the loophole, saying that large countries would adopt targets because they would be exposed if they did not. “It’s about political pressure.”

He admitted that the national targets, which countries are due to submit to the UN by June, were unlikely to be enough to meet the 2C target.

Alden Meyer, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, an American lobby group, said: “It’s definitely watered down from what we expected.

It’s now totally voluntary whether countries choose to provide information [about their emissions targets]. Any comparison is left to outside bodies, such as think-tanks, weakening the ability of countries to scrutinise each other.” […]

Lord Lawson, the former chancellor and chairman of the Global Warming Policy Forum, a climate sceptic think-tank, said the weakness of the deal meant Britain should rescind a law binding itself to cut emissions.

“The UK’s unilateral Climate Change Act is forcing British industry and British households to suffer an excessively high cost of electricity to no purpose,” he said.

“Following Lima, it is clearer than ever that the Act should be suspended until such time as a binding global agreement has been secured.”

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