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Individuals Must Take Personal Steps Against Climate Change

Fri, 11/30/2012 - 11:55am
Associated Press, Karl Ritter

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) attends the opening session of the United Nations Climate Change conference in Doha, Qatar. Image: AP Photo, Osama FaisalThe United Nations climate chief is urging people not to look solely to their governments to make tough decisions to slow global warming, and instead to consider their own role in solving the problem.

Approaching the half-way point of two-week climate talks in Doha, Christiana Figueres, the head of the U.N.'s climate change secretariat, said this morning, November 11, that she didn't see, "much public interest, support, for governments to take on more ambitious and more courageous decisions. Each one of us needs to assume responsibility. It's not just about domestic governments.”

Her comments came as negotiators from nearly 200 countries were struggling to prepare draft agreements on how to move forward on greenhouse emissions cuts and climate aid for poor countries.

Some delegates worried that gains made at last year's climate talks in Durban, South Africa, were at risk of unraveling, as rich and poor nations bickered over how to pull the world away from a path of potentially dangerous warming.

"There is a mutual mistrust that is very clear," Brazil's chief negotiator Andre Aranha Correa do Lago says. "We need to get back to the spirit of Durban."

The slow-moving U.N. process has failed to deliver a global pact to rein emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases.

Such emissions, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels, have grown 20 percent since 2000, according to a recent U.N. report, which showed the gap is growing between what governments are doing and what science indicates must be done to contain warming.

In Doha, delegates are expected to extend the expiring Kyoto Protocol, an agreement limiting greenhouse emissions of some industrialized countries. They are also supposed to agree on a work plan for a wider pact that would include all countries, including fast-growing economies like India and China, the world's top carbon emitter. It's supposed to be adopted in 2015 and take effect five years later.

Figueres predicts that the conference will end with countries agreeing on a package of compromise decisions, "fully recognizing that whatever comes out of Doha is not at the level of ambition that we need."

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