LIBG Climate Change Forum report

10 Nov 2009

There can be a perception that developing countries undergoing rapid industrialisation are not greatly interested in action against climate change, seeing it as something that threatens their drive to prosperity.

Not so, LIBG members heard at their November forum from representatives of the Indonesian and Chinese embassies.

Both countries recognise that climate change poses a threat and have initiated actions to reduce carbon emission.

Tumpal MH Hutagalung, counsellor for economic affairs at the Indonesian embassy, pointed out that his country is an "archipelago surrounded by the ocean" menaced by rising sea levels.

He hoped for an effective agreement to arise from the Copenhagen talks, pointing out that "we cannot ask the climate to allow us more time, we have to act".

Indonesia hosted the UN's 2007 climate change conference in 2007, which Mr Hutagalung said had reached somewhat vague initial conclusions after which negotiations had continued leading to the adoption of an action plan. Copenhagen need not therefore be an end to a process even if the initial agreements reached is underwhelming, he suggested.

He said Indonesia would seek to reduce carbon emissions by 26% by 2020. Much of its emissions come from forestry fires and the country intends by 2030 "to reverse this and turn our forests from an emitter of carbon into a carbon sink".

Changhua Fu, first secretary for political affairs at the embassy of the People's Republic of China, joked that he had "expected lots of under-35s because they are the most concerned", instead of LIBG's somewhat older audience.

He said China was acting on climate change since the country had a "very fragile ecological environment". Desertification is an issue in a country one-third covered by desert, he noted.

China seeks a 20% improvement in power generation and greater use of solar heating and photovoltaic power, aiming to reach 15% non-fossil energy by 2020.

Liberal Democrat shadow energy and climate change secretary Simon Hughes told the meeting that he favoured a new treaty arising from Copenhagen, rather than an adaptation of the Kyoto one.

He stressed that it would be important to secure an agreement by the early part of 2010, since the USA would be essential to the effectiveness of any plan.

Mid-term elections due there in November 2010 would mean that if Copenhagen dragged on into next Spring the US government would be unlikely to support anything radical, since it would fear that the Republicans would turn this into an election issue.

Hughes also called for international agreement to tax aviation and shipping fuel but warned, "some other name is needed, a levy or contribution or something since no politician will want to be seen imposing a new tax on something the public likes".

Mark Smulian