Global Environment

The Second Asia Pacific Seminar on Climate Change - Section 2

2.GLOBAL RESPONSE TO CLIMATE CHANGE: IPCC FINDINGS AND ACTIVITIES OF INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

(Item 4 of the agenda)

Introductory Statements on the Item

11. While introducing this item, the secretariat mentioned that the Second Asia Pacific Seminar on Climate Change was being organized in the wake of several important initiatives such as the development of Agenda 21 by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), the adoption of the Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the findings of IPCC's second scientific assessment on climate change. Despite efforts to improve methodologies, current predictions are still undermined by many uncertainties. It was emphasized that a detailed assessment of global warming implications at the regional level is still not fully developed. In any case, combating global warming requires a preventive and adaptive approach that is aimed at reducing emissions, increasing carbon sinks, and preparing and implementing effective adaptation strategies. Implementation of the Framework Convention on Climate Change would go a long way in addressing some of these concerns. It was hoped that the ADB study would contribute to improvement in our understanding of global warming implications and policy options for the countries of the region. ESCAP is attempting to develop a regional network of research centers intended to strengthen the present capabilities for monitoring, interpreting, synthesizing, and understanding models for climate scenarios in the region.

12. Mr. Bruce Callander of IPCC mentioned that while global warming caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions has not yet been "proved," the IPCC Working Group I (WGI) concluded that the accumulation of greenhouse gases poses a threat to mankind based on four chief lines of evidence: (a) the known radiative properties of the gases; (b) results from General Circulation Models (GCMs); (c) past variations in the Earth's climate; and (d) the observed 0.5ºC warming over the past century. The 1992 Supplement reported new findings concerning stratospheric ozone depletion and sulfate aerosols, which both act to cool the climate to a small extent, but found no reason to alter the major 1990 conclusions. The 1992 Supplement added little to the 1990 assessment of the major areas likely to be affected by climate change. However, the response strategy should, inter alia, focus on areas which are (a) beneficial for reasons other than climate change ("no-regrets" policies); (b) economically efficient; (c) flexible; (d) compatible with economic growth; (e) administratively practical; and (f) "fair." In preparing for a second full assessment report in 1995, the IPCC has merged its "old" Working Groups II and III into a new Working Group II (WGII) that will address the whole field of Impacts and Response Strategies. A new Working Group III (WGIII) deals with crosscutting economics and other issues. In addition to the second full assessment for 1995, IPCC has commissioned a preliminary 1994 report on radiative forces affecting climate change that includes global warming potential and an index of relative importance of different gases. Both WGI and WGII will address issues raised by Article 2 of the Climate Convention concerning the eventual stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations. WGI will continue development of IPCC Guidelines for the preparation of national inventories of net greenhouse gas emissions (Articles 4 and 12 of the Framework Convention on Climate Change), with the first version due for completion at the end of 1993.

13. Dr. Nay Htun, Director, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, United Nations Environment Programme, mentioned in his keynote address that there has been unprecedented growth all over the world in the last few decades. As a consequence, the rate of change as well as the change itself has assumed importance in monitoring socio-economic development and attendant environmental effects. It is a well-known fact that there have been some changes in climate over the millennia. However, climate variability has also become significant. This change has become more pronounced in the present century and is likely to be further aggravated over the next century. In order to deal with this challenge, UNEP, in accordance with its catalytic role, has been involved in four areas: promotion of tools and techniques for assessment of environmental and socio-economic impacts of climate change including incremental costs involved; support of scientific assessment of climate change; support for global observation systems and monitoring programs; and technical cooperation and assistance to the countries for assessing potential impacts and formulating appropriate strategies for combating climate change. The major issues of concern for climate change are agricultural production and food security; improvement of scientific databases; and provision of linkages between the three existing international conventions on ozone layer depletion, climate change, and biological diversity and the two proposed instruments of desertification and drought and some kind of forest principles that may emerge in the future. In elaborating the linkages between environment and development, Dr. Htun emphasized the need for more country-specific case studies; methodologies for assessing incremental costs; databases for national integrated economic and environmental accounting systems; harmonized energy development and environmental policies with particular emphasis on coal; the use of economic instruments to encourage and facilitate adaptation of green-house gas control strategies; and promotion of efficiency in resource use and education, training information and awareness. He expressed hope that all the above elements would be addressed while reviewing the national case studies and formulating regional strategies on climate change.

14. The Seminar recognized that IPCC's scientific assessments based on GCMs have been instrumental in raising awareness of the seriousness of the implications of climate change and have also stimulated a large number of scientific activities in this regard. However, there were not many studies at the regional and sub-regional levels to monitor the predicted climate change. It may be useful to promote regional, sub regional, and national studies with a view to having a better appreciation, interpretation, and understanding of the various models and their application in the region.

15. The Seminar noted that the assessments based on GCMs have a sound scientific basis but need further refinement. They have generally provided a benchmark for taking appropriate action in developing response and adaptive strategies on climate change. Some work has been done with limited area models in Europe and the United States. These models depend heavily on GCMs but have better resolution. Similar models need to be developed for the Asian and Pacific region. The Seminar felt that the strengths and weaknesses of various models used for predicting climate change should also be discussed in detail together with efforts to improve these models.

16. The Seminar also felt that several studies have attempted to analyze causes and benefits associated with measures for combating global warming. However, similar studies generally have not been carried out on the rise in sea levels. Consideration might be given to promoting studies in this area. At the same time, climate variability, in addition to climate change, should also be an important component of such studies. The increased frequency of storm surges and tropical cyclones should also be further highlighted within the realm of these predictions.

17. It was also stated that the major work on climate change was centered on reducing carbon dioxide emissions. It may be necessary to develop appropriate methodologies for reducing methane emissions and increasing sinks for greenhouse gases. The Seminar also encouraged countries to ratify the Framework Convention on Climate Change. However, in doing so, it recognized that the countries would require technical assistance in order to assess the implications and implementation of the provisions of the Framework Convention. It also suggested that measures to combat climate change should not be contingent only on the ratification of the Framework Convention, but action should be initiated in this area as early as possible so that adverse impacts can be contained. The Seminar, consistent with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, noted that energy consumption in developing countries would need to grow. Hence, emissions of greenhouse gases may increase. Efforts are therefore necessary to promote energy efficiency and energy conservation.

18. The Seminar noted that modern survey and topographic maps were available only with a maximum resolution of a one-meter contour. Further refinement would require surveys for most vulnerable areas, particularly for assessment of impacts of rising sea levels predicted to be in the range of only a few centimeters. In this connection, the view was expressed that current methods of interpolation were "fraught with major uncertainties." However, for storm surges, current maps with one-, two-, and five-meter contours can be used.

19. The representative of UNDP indicated that, as part of the worldwide effort to combat and reduce the effects of climate change, the UNDP has initiated a regional program on the Development of Least Cost Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Plan in Asia through the Global Environment Facility (GEF) with ADB as the executing agency. At the national level, the executive Committee of the Interim Multilateral Ozone Fund has recently approved a total amount of US$400,000 for the Institutional Strengthening Project for Thailand to be managed by UNDP Thailand. Furthermore, UNDP has also approved the financing of a Program for Asian Cooperation on Energy and the Environment (PACE-E) from its regional IPF. The Program includes one component for coal development and use that will train technicians, managers, and executives in the most advanced techniques for producing and using coal while minimizing adverse impacts on the environment.

20. The representative of CEC stated that European Community policy for climate change is presently directed towards achieving stabilized CO2emissions at the community level by the year 2000 based emission levels in the year 1990. The European Council on Environment has recently agreed to lay down the necessary instruments for the ratification of the Rio Convention on Climate Change by December 31, 1993. The European Community will seek to provide an initial amount of 600 million ECUs (European Currency Units) in the first year for this purpose. The environment has been listed as a priority area for cooperation in the region. At least ten percent of the resources for each development project must be allocated to environmental projects, and Environmental Impact Assessments are required in each case. Additionally, 50 million ECUs have been provided for tropical forests in 1993. CEC projects related to climate change cover a wide range of fields such as waste management and air pollution. The resources for cooperation on environment will be expanded in the future. The CEC will stand ready to cooperate with Asia and the Pacific countries both in international and bilateral forums.

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