Next chance to cool our simmering planet

Next chance to cool our simmering planet

31 March 2008

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Bangkok environment conference picks up from where Bali left off on tackling climate change

Bangkok, Thailand — This week, more than 1,000 participants from more than 190 countries are scheduled to attend an international conference in Bangkok to find ways to save the planet from global warming. The meeting will be a follow-up to the Bali summit in December when the members of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) tried to reach an agreement on the global pact to protect the earth from greenhouse gas emissions.

Kasemsan Chinnavaso, secretary-general of the Office of Natural Resources and Environment Policy and Planning (ONEP), said that the Bangkok meeting would take over from where they left off in Bali.

Countries are expected to focus on ways to save the world’s environment. The meeting marks a step forward for countries to reach out with a common stance on the global pact to protect the planet from climate change.

Countries will have to discuss the new global environment pact until late 2009, giving them time to ratify it before their commitments on slashing harmful emissions under the existing Kyoto Protocol expire in 2012.

Officials expect the Bangkok meeting to suggest practical steps to spell out the commitments on how countries should follow the requirement to cut global emissions.

Europe and developing countries want rich nations to set a binding target to cut emissions by between 25 and 40 per cent by 2020 compared with their 1990 levels, but under US pressure the final Bali Roadmap did not include explicit goals.

Global warming deserves special attention. Scientists have warned that global warming could lead to drastic climate changes, large reductions in the Greenland West Antarctic Ice, severe droughts and extinction of many animal and plant species. The timing of the meeting could not be more relevant to Thailand. It should help raise the awareness of locals to the negative impact on the environment due to human irresponsibility, unbalanced industrial growth and excessive consumption.

For instance, the burning of forests in the North has resulted in smog in the northern province of Chiang Mai and some northern provinces. Some farmers burn parts of the forest to earn their livelihood but, unknowingly, they are causing forest fires. The haze was so severe that the Air Quality Index in Chiang Mai was measured at 106, higher than the safety level of 100. The haze has not only affected the economic well-being of the province but also the people’s health.

The recent rise in oil prices has led to a campaign for energy efficiency and the development of clean energy. However, the campaign will not be very effective if the government decides to subsidise the oil price, instead of letting the consumers realise the real value of oil consumption.

The government should use the opportunity of hosting this meeting to raise public awareness about the negative impact from the failure to preserve the environment. At the same time, the government should also implement coherent policies to make the public realise the value of energy and the benefits of sufficiency in energy consumption.

The United Nations Development Programme recently reported that Thailand’s carbon emissions have climbed to 22nd highest in the world.

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