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Thursday, 23 November, 2000, 15:00 GMT
Climate treaty 'almost irrelevant'
Storms in Switzerland December 1999
We can expect more flooding and more storms
By BBC News Online's environment correspondent Alex Kirby in The Hague

As the UN climate conference here inches towards a deal, a UK expert has said it is going nowhere fast.

He is Dr Andrew Dlugolecki, director of general insurance development at CGNU, one of the world's six largest insurance groups.

Dr Dlugolecki told a briefing that climatic instability would inevitably worsen for at least another 40 years.

And he said the developed countries had scarcely begun to see its effects.

At the moment we are going nowhere fast, and we have to be far more radical

Dr Andrew Dlugolecki
Dr Dlugolecki has contributed to the report due out early in 2001 from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the group of several thousand scientists whose findings have prompted governments to take the issue so seriously.

"Property damage is rising very rapidly, at something like 10% a year," he said.

"We've still not yet really begun to see the effects of climate change in the West. What we are seeing so far is largely the result of more people living in areas which are becoming more dangerous.

"But once this thing begins to happen, it will accelerate extremely rapidly, as the IPCC report makes clear."

Low-carbon future

Dr Dlugolecki told BBC News Online the European storms of December 1999 and the terrible wet weather in the UK over recent weeks were just two examples of what could happen.

"Both are absolutely typical of what we should expect. And I think we'll also get some surprises. Remember how Auckland in New Zealand was affected during a heatwave - the central district lost power for six weeks."

He said: "There's no way we can prevent things getting worse for at least the next 40 or 50 years. But we can prevent them getting far worse."

Petrobras oil platform in Brazil
Companies know oil is going to run out in 30 or 40 years
Dr Dlugolecki said there would be massive demand for low-carbon and no-carbon fuel in the future.

"We meet the oil companies privately," he said.

"They know the oil is going to run out in 30 or 40 years. We will steer our investments in the future towards firms which are energy companies, not oil companies."

Dr Dlugolecki said the Kyoto Protocol, the international climate change treaty under negotiation here, was becoming "almost irrelevant".

He said a concept known as contraction and convergence "has the potential to break the deadlock".

Radical approach

It is an idea promoted by a small London-based group, the Global Commons Institute.

It argues that while global emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas caused by human activities, must be reduced drastically, everyone in the world should have an equal right to use the fuels which emit carbon.

We can't avoid climate change for ourselves, but we can make improvements for our children and grandchildren

That would mean reducing the amount of pollution caused by people in countries like the US and the UK by a huge amount, and allowing a corresponding rise to the people of developing countries.

The idea is so radical it is not even on the agenda at the climate conference. But it has some influential supporters.

The latest convert appears to be President Jacques Chirac, who told the conference on Monday:

"France proposes that we set as our ultimate objective the convergence of per capita emissions."

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See also:

22 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Prescott skips climate talks
11 Nov 00 | Sci/Tech
'Massive' pollution cuts needed
28 Oct 00 | Sci/Tech
Global warming 'worse than feared'
07 Aug 00 | Sci/Tech
The dangers of climate change
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