Japan nuclear crisis to impact U.N. climate talks - EU

BANGKOK Sun Apr 3, 2011 4:34pm IST

Activists from Jubilee South-Asia/Pacific Movement on Debt and Development (JSAPMDD) shout slogan near a banner during a demonstration in front of the United Nations building, the venue of climate talks, in Bangkok April 3, 2011. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom

Activists from Jubilee South-Asia/Pacific Movement on Debt and Development (JSAPMDD) shout slogan near a banner during a demonstration in front of the United Nations building, the venue of climate talks, in Bangkok April 3, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Chaiwat Subprasom

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Japan's nuclear crisis will affect U.N.-led talks to fight climate change because it is prompting nations to rethink energy policies and investment costs, the European Union said on Sunday.

But top EU climate negotiator Artur Runge-Metzger doubted the increased worries over nuclear will lead to a drop in nations' will to fight climate change or a lowering of existing pledges to curb planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

"Whether it's going to reduce the level of ambition, I don't think so," he told reporters in the Thai capital Bangkok on the sidelines of a U.N. climate meeting. "Because you look ahead in terms of two kinds of evils."

"On one hand you might say I can't use nuclear because we might have nuclear disasters but I think everybody around the table is also saying we can't have climate change because it is also going to lead to disasters," he said.

But he said the radiation crisis at the quake and tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex in northeast Japan would have repercussions on international climate negotiations.

Delegates from nearly 200 countries began a six-day U.N. meeting in the Thai capital Bangkok on Sunday on crafting a tougher climate pact that boosts global efforts to curb emissions from industry, farms and deforestation.

The meeting is the first major U.N. climate gathering since talks in Mexico last December agreed on a climate fund and other steps to put the fraught negotiations back on track.

The U.N. says rich nations' commitments to cut emissions fall far short of what is needed to keep global average temperatures below a rise of 2 deg C, a level scientists say is needed to stand a good chance of avoiding dangerous climate change.

"I think there will be a lot of political considerations and they have repercussions in Bangkok and during the year because we haven't seen the end of what is going to happen in Fukushima," Runge-Metzger said.

"So certainly it is something that has an impact on climate negotiations."

EU ENERGY REVIEW

After the Japanese nuclear crisis began, Germany and Switzerland said they would either shut older reactors or suspend approvals. China put a hold on approvals for proposed plans, while Taiwan said it was studying cutting nuclear output.

Long term, analysts say the increased unease towards nuclear could be a boost for renewable energy but in the short to medium-term could lead to rising emissions from burning more coal, oil and gas.

Runge-Metzger said the crisis could lead to a rethink of the EU's 2050 roadmap on low-carbon growth released last month that envisions cutting emissions between 80 and 95 percent by that date.

He said there would be a much more detailed energy road map for 2050 in the autumn. That analysis would now look at low-nuclear scenarios, he said.

Rich nations came under pressure at the talks to deepen their emissions cuts pledges and make clear how the steps are comparable to efforts by other nations in terms of doing their fair share.

"We need to have greater clarity on what is the domestic effort that countries are presenting within their pledge," said a Brazilian delegate representing the G77 group of developing nations and China.

Rich nations such as the United States, Japan, Australia as well as the 27-member EU have made a variety of pledges to cut emissions by 2020 by differing amounts and using different base years. The base year for the Kyoto Protocol, the main climate change treaty, is 1990.

The United States, which never ratified Kyoto, has pledged to cut emissions by 17 percent by 2020 based on 2005 levels and questions have been raised about how it will achieve this given the failure to pass a climate bill. The EU has pledged a 20 to 30 percent cut by 2020 on 1990 levels and is already close to meeting a 20 percent reduction.

"We stand by our commitment," senior U.S. climate negotiator Jonathan Pershing told delegates but added that based on current pledges the world would fall "wildly short" of staying under 2 deg C.

He said it was more important to focus on a trajectory of emissions reductions and that the U.S. government would use a variety of policy and regulatory steps, such as a planned energy bill, to meet its pledge.

Developing nations say the United States, the world's number 2 carbon polluter, needs to do more to fight climate change, although a weak economy and a resurgent Republican party mean ramping up its pledge seems unlikely in the short term.

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