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Act fast to avert disaster, says UN climate panel (April)

  The countries of the world have dragged their feet so long on global warming that the situation is now critical, experts appointed by the United Nations reported on Sunday, and only an intensive worldwide push over the next 15 years can stave off potentially disastrous climatic changes later in the century.

It remains technically possible to keep planetary warming to a tolerable level, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found, according to a report unveiled here. But even in parts of the world like Europe that have tried hardest, governments are still a long way from taking the steps that are sufficient to do the job, the experts found. “We cannot afford to lose another decade,” said Ottmar Edenhofer, a German economist and co-chairman of the committee that wrote the report.

“If we lose another decade, it becomes extremely costly to achieve climate stabilisation.” The report is likely to increase the pressure to secure an ambitious new global climate treaty that is supposed to be completed in late 2015 and take effect in 2020. But the divisions between wealthy countries and poorer countries that are making such a treaty difficult, and have long bedevilled international climate talks, were on display yet again in Berlin. Some developing countries insisted on stripping charts from the report’s executive summary that could be read as requiring greater effort from them, while rich countries — including the US — struck out language implying that they needed to write big checks to the developing countries.

 Both points survived in the full version of the report, but were deleted from a synopsis meant to inform the world’s top political leaders. The report did find some reasons for cautious optimism. The costs of renewable energy like wind and solar power are now falling so fast that their deployment on a large scale is becoming practical, the report said. In fact, extensive use of renewable energy is already starting in countries such as Denmark and Germany, and to a lesser degree in some American states, including California, Iowa and Texas.

Moreover, since the intergovernmental panel issued its last major report in 2007, far more countries, states and cities have adopted ambitious climate plans, an indication that the political determination to tackle the problem is growing in many parts of the world. They include China and the US, which are both doing more domestically than they have been willing to commit themselves to in international

Financial Express, Delhi, Monday 14th April 2014