Bali climate change summit emissions to be fully offset

17 December 2007

The announcement on Wednesday took one week of arduous debating to be agreed, according to inside sources. Twenty UN agencies, funds and programmes present at the Bali climate negotiations in Indonesia have agreed to offset their emissions from the conference which closes on Friday.


In another announcement, three nations committed to become "climate neutral" in the coming years. This came as climate change negotiations kicked off in earnest with the arrival of ministers and heads of states from nearly 200 countries on Wednesday.


The UN estimates that the equivalent of 3370 tonnes of carbon dioxide will be released into the atmosphere as a result of its staff travelling to and from the Bali summit. This is worth $100,000 at the current price of carbon on the European Union emissions trading scheme.


That money will be deposited into a fund – known as the Adaptation Fund – that is destined to help developing nations adapt to the effects of climate change.


The pledge was not an easy one to agree on. A source inside the UN told New Scientist that had not been agreed prior to the conference and the issue took seven days of discussions to finally be settled.


Many national delegations may still leave the conference without offsetting their emissions, as the announcement today concerns just UN staff and officials.


In the past, "a certain nation", most likely the US, hinted the source, has attempted to block efforts to use UN funds to offset agency emissions.


Also today, three nations – New Zealand, Costa Rica and Norway – announced their goals to become climate neutral in the years to come. The UN Environment Programme said it would become climate neutral in January 2008.


New Zealand wants to be the world's first climate neutral country, achieving that aim by 2025.


David Parker, minister responsible for climate change issues, says that by then 90% of his country's electricity will be generated from renewable sources, there will be a moratorium on the production of further fossil fuels, and the nation will have an emissions trading scheme. What measures cannot be eliminated using these and other measures will be offset, he adds.


"If a comparatively wealthy nation with a low population like New Zealand cannot do this, there is little hope for the rest of the world," Parker says.


Costa Rica received plaudits from Parker and Achim Steiner, executive director of UNEP, for its extensive programme to become climate neutral by 2021, to mark the 200 th anniversary of its independence from Spain.


Costa Rica imposed a tax on fossil fuels in 1996. In its new "Peace with Nature" initiative, 3.5% of the proceeds will go to a fund which, along with several others, will pay landowners to manage their forests sustainably.


Norway says it plans to become climate neutral by 2050.


These announcement came as ministers and heads of state arrived from nearly 200 countries for the final, high-level segment of climate negotiations opened by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.


For the next three days, they will make final decisions on matters which their representatives have been discussing over the past 10 days.


A number of symbolic events marked the day. Chief among them, the new Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd ratified the Kyoto protocol.




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