Seize the chance to change

As new rounds of heavy rain hit China’s southern provinces, thousands of people have been forced to evacuate their homes. Within weeks, the death toll has climbed to over 100, with dozens still missing in the floods and landslides caused by the torrential rain.

Only a month ago, some of the regions now being flooded suffered the worst drought in a century. The abrupt change from prolonged drought to fatal floods is a warning that the threat of climate change is becoming ever more imminent.

Globally, extreme weather events also wreak havoc, causing loss of lives and property and igniting a wider public unease.

But when it comes to curbing manmade greenhouse gas emissions, which scientists say are stoking global warming, countries are still reluctant to take the urgent and dramatic actions necessary to address the challenge.

Representatives from more than 180 nations have been in Bonn, Germany, to set the agenda for this year’s climate conference in December in Durban, South Africa.

The global climate negotiations, which suffered a major setback in 2009 in Copenhagen, are gradually losing momentum as the hope of securing a binding agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol vanishes.

The first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, the only international treaty that binds almost 40 industrialized countries to emissions cuts, is set to expire at the end of 2012.

Christiana Figueres, the official responsible for overseeing United Nations organized climate negotiations in Bonn, has admitted that a gap in enforcing the emission reduction regime is already unavoidable. Even if countries are willing to sign up to new reduction targets in December, they will still require legislative ratifications by governments around the world, which is unlikely to be completed by 2012.

The discrepancy between the stance adopted by developed and developing nations makes reaching an agreement extremely uncertain. While poor nations have put a high priority on renewing the Kyoto Protocol, some industrialized countries, such as Japan and Canada, have voiced a clear intention to walk away and build up a new architecture for global emission cuts, and the United States, the world’s largest economy and carbon polluter, did not ratify the protocol in the first place.

But the time we have to save the planet from the disastrous consequences of global warming is fast ticking away.

A recent report by the Paris-based International Energy Agency estimated that in 2010 emissions from global energy generation reached record highs, representing a sharp rebound from the effects of the financial crisis.

Scientists predict that if no drastic measures are taken to reduce carbon emissions, there is only a 40 percent chance of limiting the global temperature rise within the 2 C, the threshold at which society can cope with climate change.

It is time that all nations, rich and poor, take a more realistic and cooperative attitude to the climate talks. It is even more important for each country to honor their commitments at such negotiations, and realize substantial emission reductions.

All countries need to move, and move faster.

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