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Opinions of Saturday, 19 December 2009

Columnist: Ampong, Charles Horace

Climate Change Summit – The Road Map to Success (Part 2)

In the first part of this article, the author talked about the causes and effects of global warming and the convoluted controversies surrounding the veracity of global warming as an environmental menace. Ultimately, the hullabaloo regarding these issues has made it difficult for world governments under the auspices of United Nations to devise and endorse effective consensual compliance-oriented mitigative measures for dealing with the threat. A clear manifestation of this episode is seen in the climate change summits where a compromise cannot be reached because of contention between nations and the berating of rich nations who are presumed perpetrators of climatic change causes. Now, in spite of the doubtful circumstances pertaining to the achievement of the objectives of the climate change summit presently, nations cannot downplay the significance of the link between political stability, environmental stability and economic stability and sustainability. The general acuity is that political stability is the precursor to economic stability and sustainability. Strangely, the impact of political stability is confounded with the impact of environmental stability on economic stability and sustainability. Consequently, the pursuit of economic growth and sustainability by countries must be tied up judiciously to environmental stability to ensure success. In the following compendium, reflections on the status quo of the Kyoto Accord principles and some recommendations would be made.

Reflections on Kyoto Accord and Some Recommendations

The world governing body (United Nations) for the climatic changes summit should come out with effective binding guidelines for all nations involved using the Kyoto Accord as the starting point. Basically, the Accord stipulates that rich and developed nations have bigger quota of emission cuts compared to developing nations. The primarily objective is to ensure the maintenance of permissible levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere ultimately decelerating climatic change. As at now, the Accord offers member nations a tactic of meeting the binding guidelines. They include but not limited to the emissions trading scheme and the clean development mechanism. In the emissions trading scheme, carbon is traded as a financial commodity on a carbon market. Accordingly, nations that have exceeded their assigned amounts of carbon emissions buy from nations that have not but have carbon units to spare under the Kyoto Protocol’s emissions trading scheme. As a matter of fact, this is a very commendable cost effective measure which would augment the level of sanity and accountability consciously changing the attitude of nations towards industrial activities and the environment. At least, having to pay for the amount of carbon emitted during production activities would rationalize ones level of consciousness towards the environment. Next, under the Accord, clean development mechanism (CDM) encourages nations to implement emission-reduction projects in developing countries. This mechanism culminates in environmentally friendly projects including but not limited to sustainable ways of producing electricity even in rural regions of the world. Apart from promoting the ways of meeting emission targets, the Accord has systems for monitoring the emission targets. They include registry, reporting, compliance and adaptation systems. The registry system tracks and records transactions by countries whilst the reporting system covers the annual emission inventories. Compliance system ensures quotas are being met whilst the adaptation system provides assistance to countries with regards to adapting to adverse effects of climate change [UNFCCC website]. Despite the definitive objective of the Kyoto Accord, the binding guidelines should be amended to encompass a new model of political stability, environmental stability and economic stability as discussed in the first part of this article. Again, the use of the Kyoto Accord modus operandi is just the beginning. For it to have the expected impact there is the need to amend cogently the guidelines to promote the significance of the association between environmental stability and economic stability and sustainability. For example, the Kyoto Accord may be amended to make room for changes in emission levels in future for countries that experience expected and unexpected accelerated economic growth. Substantiating this case is the economic growth of China. Now, when the Accord was signed and ratified in 2005 by the nations, China was then considered a developing nation and was given a modicum of emission cuts. Now, China is an economic force and undoubtedly its rapid pace of economic growth has contributed immensely to global warming. This presupposes that, the Accord must be amended to make room for eventualities like that of China. Next, there is the need for a magnitudinal shift in harnessing of energy from non-renewable resources to renewable resources. That is to say a shift from non-renewable energy (unsustainable and unreplenishable) to renewable energy (sustainable and naturally replenishable). Thus, reducing the pressure on non-renewable resources and slowing down the climatic changes. Fossil fuels are non-trivial examples of non-renewable resources for energy production. A greater percentage of the world’s energy is obtained from burning of fossil fuels which includes energy production from coal, natural gas, petroleum e.t.c. With the world’s population expected to grow, dependence on fossil fuel energy is expected to grow as well and one wonders if energy production from fossil fuels is sustainable considering its impact (that is production of carbon and other toxic substances) on the environment. Additionally, overdependence on non-renewable energy suggests dependence on oil aggravating the situation when oil prices rise. Hence, there is the need for a shift primarily to renewable energy production. As at 2006, renewable energy accounted for only 18% of world energy production which means there is still room for improvement [Global Status Report, 2007]. Now, renewable energy includes wind energy, solar energy, bio-energy, geothermal energy and tidal energy. They are better because they are pioneered by natural resources such as the wind, sunlight, biomass, heat from the earth’s crust and water tides. In addition, renewable energy production tend to have moderate - high starting cost but lower operating cost. Unlike renewable energy, non-renewable energy has higher starting cost as well as higher operating cost even in the absence of environmental issues cost. Now, following is some engineering economics of renewable energy production. Wind energy uses the power of airflows to run vanes and turbines converting wind power into electrical energy. Solar energy uses solar panels or thermal collectors that are installed to collect the Sun’s energy (rays) and convert it into electrical energy or heat energy respectively for homes and offices. Geothermal energy uses harnessed steam or heat from the earth’s crust through heat pumps and some sophisticated accessories to produce heat and electrical energy and this makes it suitable for heating offices and homes. One may argue that geothermal energy generation may be suitable for cold regions of the world and not the warm regions. However, its generation in warm regions can find other uses reducing the pressure on non-renewable energy resource. Truly, wind and geothermal energy technologies are currently being used pervasively in Scandinavian countries like Denmark and Iceland. Also, several places in the world are endowed with suitable geologic units whose heat power can be harnessed for geothermal energy production. There are also abundant wind (airflow) and Sun in places like Africa and South America that would be suitable for production of wind and solar energy. Regarding bio-energy, chemical energy from biomass (animal waste, landfill or plant materials) or fermentable material is converted into heat or electrical energy. Bio-fuels energy is also obtained through ethanol fuel production from fermentable substances such as sweet sorghum, sugar cane and corn similarly converting chemical energy into heat or electrical energy. In fact, there is abundance of these resource materials in many places in the world today available for conversion into energy. If the world governing body would want to support funding programs which promotes mechanized or sustainable irrigation systems in the developing and under-developed world then it might as well as support massively production of renewable energy so as to reduce dependence on energy from non-renewable resources. Coincidentally, promotion of renewable energy would stimulate economic growth through the creation of more green jobs besides ensuring sustainable growth. Next, countries (predominantly developing and under-developed) would at this time be seeking for compensatory funding for these programs that are pioneered towards mitigating threatening environmental instability in their respective countries. However, such gesture should call for extra graveness, accountability and probity by the recipient governments and communities. Again, if the rich nations are making pledges to the needy nations or developing nations at the summit to help curb the deteriorating climatic changes, it should be conditional on graveness, accountability and probity to avoid embezzlement of funds and a fiasco. Meanwhile, developing countries and under developed countries instead of asking for funding should manage their business environment well to create favorable investment climate that would attract Direct Foreign Investment into the renewable energy sector. Also, the world governing body (UN) should encourage developing and under-developed world to embark on tax-breaks and if possible government rebates for foreign and local investors who invest in the renewable energy sector in their economies. Likewise, developed countries governments should encourage investments into the renewable energy sector in their economies through tax breaks incentives for this sector so as to stimulate economic growth and promote environmental stability. Countries with budget surpluses can embark on meticulous spending in the renewable sector of their economies. Technically, these action plans would stimulate job growth in the renewable energy sector which has a chain reaction of sustainable economic growth and environmental stability. Also, with much investment in the sustainable energy sector in developing and under-developed countries, education about the impact of deforestation and other environmental unsound practices can be effective. Remember, deforestation is prevalent in this set of countries. For example, firewood creation a real contributor to deforestation has been a source of energy provision in some indigenous communities in Africa, South America and Asia. Finally, it is not what happens at the summit that is important but what happens afterwards. Whether nations are reluctant to adhere to the guidelines and agenda laid down (using the Kyoto Accord as the foundation) and how the world governing body is going to enforce that without violating a country’s sovereignty.

Conclusion

The world’s climatic changes problems continues to be a matter of concern. Governments, research scientists are at the crossroads because of the differences in perception of each with regards to the real causes of these problems. In spite of the diffuse perspectives, a consensus may have been reached that emissions of carbon and other gases are primarily the driving force for these climatic changes. Regrettably, past encounters on this issue were accompanied by passive response from nations supposedly signaling nations indifferent attitude to climatic changes. Nevertheless, there is a new sense of awareness and urgency on this issue and new strategies are being drawn under the auspices of the world governing body the United Nations. Whatever the outcome, policies that are conducive to attainment of environmental stability and sustainability are needed under the Kyoto Accord. Such policies must reconcile political stability, environmental stability and economic stability. Additionally, the policies would call for new direction in the production of energy favoring renewable energy a candidate for job growth, real economic growth and sustainability.

Source: Charles Horace Ampong [MSc(Eng), MBA(finance)] GLG Councils Consultant Remember “We are the world, we are the children…this is a choice we’re making we saving our own lives...”