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Paris climate summit 2015

Wealthy nations must come up with the money to tackle climate change

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 June, 2015, 1:31am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 November, 2015, 2:53pm

One analyst has likened an accord among industrial powers to fight climate change by phasing out fossil fuel emissions this century to a new Apollo mission - or the once seemingly improbable vision of putting a man on the moon. It is even more challenging. The Apollo scientists knew it could be done. But analysts and experts remain to be convinced that several hurdles to a decarbonised global economy can be overcome. Their doubts have been reinforced by talks in Bonn this month to prepare a draft text for negotiations on a new global climate deal in Paris in December. The aim is simply to streamline an unwieldy draft, but officials made barely any progress in the first week over what should even appear in the final text.

The Group of Seven major industrialised nations called for global emissions cuts at the upper end of the 40-70 per cent range by mid-century compared with 2010 levels as part of the decarbonisation of the global economy over the course of this century. But the accord has been reached without a practical alternative at this stage to burning coal and gas to meet most energy needs, let alone a statement of how it is to be achieved. Nonetheless, climate campaigners said it set a positive tone for the Paris talks. Greenpeace went so far as to say a 100 per cent renewable energy future was beginning to take shape.

Despite gains by renewable energy sources, the world is still hooked on fossil fuels for two-thirds of its electricity and global-warming carbon emissions keep rising. A world where those emissions would be phased out by the end of the century doesn't just assume progressive transition to solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear and hydro power, and resolution of safety and environment questions over nuclear in particular. It also calls for policies that make them more price-competitive - such as bitterly controversial carbon taxes, which have been introduced and then repealed in Australia and blocked by the US Senate.

But the G7 goal is also an incentive to coal, oil and gas companies to invest in development of low-carbon technologies and carbon capture and storage. It was good to hear the G7 nations reaffirm a commitment to raise US$100 billion from public and private sources to help finance climate change efforts in poor countries. Without help, these emerging economies will frustrate the decarbonisation goal. By contributing, wealthy nations invest in achievement of it.