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Up to the challenge

Agreement needs to be reached on new and more effective measures to combat climate change

Delegations from 190 countries are currently meeting in Warsaw with one unavoidable objective: establishing a new agenda on climate change that will go beyond the 1997 Kyoto agreement, and at the same time gain the endorsement of the highest-polluting countries. The meeting is taking place against the backdrop of data from the latest report of a panel of UN experts, which confirm the predictions formulated in 2007, and warn that the effects of global warming are being seen more intensely and rapidly than predicted. Although no direct causal relation has been established between global warming and phenomena such as the typhoon that has just devastated the Philippines, the fact is that these cyclonic storms are formed when the sea reaches a certain temperature, while in recent years an increase in their frequency and intensity has been observed.

The scientists say that there has to be action, and of a more determined kind, even in the knowledge that it is already too late to prevent some of the effects of global warming; but we can still stop them from being quite as devastating as they might otherwise be. This is a struggle against the clock, in which there is no time to be lost. The year 2012 saw the end of the first phase of the protocol, and now, as well as ratifying the terms of the second phase, it is necessary to agree on a new agenda, a much more ambitious one, to be ready for approval by 2015 and for entry into effect in 2020. The objective is that the agreement be a binding one, with a firm commitment from all the most polluting countries. The United States, the country that emits most greenhouse gases per capita, never signed the Kyoto accords; Japan, Canada and Russia have dropped out of the agenda that was agreed upon. It is very important for emerging countries currently in the process of quick industrialization, such as China and India, to accept the need to reduce emissions.

This objective will be very difficult to achieve, especially in the case of China, whose main source of energy is still coal and whose pollution is not only the principal avoidable risk to the health of millions of its inhabitants, but has also been spreading dangerously into neighboring countries. Measurements made on Mount Fuji in Japan show high concentrations of mercury, tellurium and arsenic deriving from the burning of coal in China.

The Durban agreement of 2011 to create a Green Climate Fund endowed with $100 million dollars was a very important step, being a vital instrument for overcoming the reticence of the emerging countries, who do not wish to make their development conditional upon the application of environmental restrictions. The challenge now is to determine where these funds will come from and how they are going to be distributed. The struggle against climate change is one of the few global scenes in which Europe has continued to play a central role. It must go on doing so, but by itself it cannot change the degenerative course of a damaged environment that is crying out for statesmen who are up to the challenge.

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