UNITED NATIONS -- The chief of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change criticized the Group of Eight summit participants for ignoring the IPCC's scientific findings and the declaration that emerged from the 2007 U.N. climate conference in Bali, Indonesia, in which leaders agreed to work toward a new treaty limiting average global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius.
Though simultaneously praising the 2-degree commitment as "clearly a big step forward" in international talks, IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri told reporters here yesterday that G-8 leaders failed to heed warnings that global greenhouse gas emissions levels must peak by 2015. Nations must also start to come up with concrete plans for rapidly slashing emissions afterward, Pachauri said.
"They have clearly ignored what the IPCC came up with," he said. "If the G-8 leaders agreed on this 2-degree increase as being the limit they will be accepting, then I think they should have also accepted the attendant requirement of global emissions peaking by 2015."
Outlining his assessment of the current state of international negotiations to replace the Kyoto Protocol treaty when it expires in 2012, Pachauri added that leaders gathered in Italy two weeks ago also failed to categorically state that "by 2020 they are going to implement the very clear language of the Bali plan of action, which stated that by 2020 there will have to be deep cuts in emissions."
Pachauri's review echoed those of other observers, who criticized the G-8 meeting for sidestepping the details of how the rich world would achieve greenhouse gas cuts.
Pachauri acknowledged the tough state of international negotiations leading to climate talks in Copenhagen in December. The talks appear to be bogged down as the industrialized world presses for large developing countries to commit to action, with developing nations firing back, as First World emitters have thus far failed to prove that they can live up to promises they have already made, including many of the targets spelled out in the Kyoto Protocol.
Mixed signals about prospects for Copenhagen pact
Nevertheless, the IPCC chief expressed confidence that a strong agreement can be reached in Copenhagen. Fresh from a weeklong meeting in Vienna last week, where hundreds of scientists launched the panel's work on a fifth assessment report on adaptation, Pauchari admitted that the talks appear deadlocked at the moment, but said he sees an agreement eventually coming together.
Pachauri's expression of optimism comes at an interesting time in the buildup toward a landmark global warming treaty. There is increasing speculation among the carbon trading and diplomatic communities that governments will fail to reach a concrete deal in Copenhagen, pushing work on a detailed treaty off to next year.
Yet a slew of activity last week and recent moves in the global carbon markets suggest that optimism is rebounding in some quarters.
Last week, Jonathan Pershing, the United States' deputy special envoy for climate change, told a Platts reporter that the Copenhagen summit will likely produce "inadequate" results, with delegates postponing work on details to a gathering scheduled for 2010 in Mexico.
A poll taken last month by the International Emissions Trading Association shows that the majority of carbon traders believe no international agreement is possible until next year at the earliest, and Pershing's comments seemed to confirm their suspicions.
But several other promising signs for climate activists emerged last week, in addition to the launch of the IPCC's fifth assessment project, scheduled for completion in 2014.
Carbon prices stronger; IMO cuts ship emissions
Carbon prices rebounded some after weak trading in June. Prices for E.U. allowances (EUAs) slid by about 13 percent overall last month, but research by Barclays Capital shows that EUA prices rose by 9 percent in the first two weeks of July, a surprisingly strong showing given the relative lack of positive economic indicators and falling oil prices.
Also last week, a committee of the International Maritime Organization gave initial approval for a push by the United States and Canada to adopt stricter emissions regulations on ships entering their ports. The regulations are primarily aimed at slashing other air pollutants, most notably nitrogen and sulfur oxides. But that move and the release of a set of voluntary guidelines for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from ships offer "compelling proof that IMO can, indeed, be entrusted with the regulation of international shipping on the issue of climate change," said IMO chief Efthimios Mitropoulos in a statement.
In another step forward, the Executive Board of the United Nations' Clean Development Mechanism, wrapping up work at a gathering in Grenada on Friday, approved the registration of the first "program of activities" for greenhouse gas mitigation. Under the policy, an array of programs can be registered to receive emission reduction credits under a single administrative structure, and the approval of a project in Mexico for distributing more energy-efficient light bulbs to households could see the CDM expanding in scope and range.
But concern lingers that the Copenhagen talks will fall short. Small island nations are now pushing for the Montreal Protocol to be expanded to regulate hydrofluorocarbons, as they fear international climate change action will fail to rein in the spread of the potent greenhouse gas.
Although internationally coordinated action on climate change in general, to date, has been "unfortunately not very successful," Pachauri said he is cautiously optimistic that negotiators will pull through at the last minute and achieve a concrete replacement to the Kyoto Protocol by the end of the year.