Sidelining science is undermining emission cuts
But agreements coming from the COP15 (Conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) meeting in Copenhagen in 2009 effectively removed science as the guide of national emissions goals, and with it any hope of an effective global climate agreement.
This is according to Soumya Dutta, a convenor for the Beyond Copenhagen Collective, an umbrella organisation for civil society groups.
The problem, he said, is that discussions in Denmark ushered in a ‘pledge-and-review’ system in which countries suggest their own subjective, and often politically motivated, mitigation targets — a model now being used in the COP19 negotiations in Warsaw, Poland.
Scientific evidence is decoupled from the political process, which opens the floodgates to countries adapting their pledges to convenient and wholly insufficient figures, he told SciDev.Net after speaking at a side event in Warsaw last week.
“The pledge-and-review system is completely inadequate as you are not really looking at what is needed but what you are willing to do. If we stick to this system, there is no hope of reaching a meaningful climate agreement in 2015.”
Soumya Dutta, Beyond Copenhagen Collective
“The pledge-and-review system is completely inadequate as you are not really looking at what is needed but what you are willing to do,” he said. “If we stick to this system, there is no hope of reaching a meaningful climate agreement in 2015.”
Dutta’s concerns are reinforced by recent news from the Japanese delegation that it will be scaling back its original target of 25 per cent reductions based on 1990 levels by 2020.
The country — blaming the closure of its nuclear power network following the Fukushima disaster — is now aiming for a 3.8 per cent cut based on 2005 levels.
As pledge and review is too politically convenient at a time when economically squeezed nations do not want to commit themselves to significant emissions reductions, Dutta is not hopeful that any change will occur any time soon.
It is easy to blame politicians, but scientists also have their part to play, he added.
That scientists should be impartial providers of facts, and not advocates, is a dangerous premise for excusing them from actively participating in the political process, he said.
“One way that the scientific community is failing is they are pointing out dangers, but they are not willing to step out and risk their careers to putting more pressure on governments.”