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Leading Italian NGO Says Copenhagen Conference Last Chance to Save Planet

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The Copenhagen conference on climate change is the last chance to secure the planet's future, Andrea Cocco, climate director of Italy's leading NGO Legambiente, told Xinhua on Monday.

According to Cocco, world leaders meeting in the Danish capital next week should strike a deal on two crucial points: concrete emission reduction targets and an increase in public funding to developing countries.

"It is essential that world leaders reach a binding agreement on at least a 40 percent cut in CO2 emissions by 2020 and funds to developing countries are boosted in order to help them mitigate the impact of climate change through the use of green technologies and renewable energies," he explained.

"At least 110 billion euros a year are needed in the form of additional public funding to developing countries, that means other than traditional assistance aid."

For Cocco, the world is running out of time and either the Copenhagen conference turns into a success or the price to pay will be extremely high.

"The stalemate in climate change talks has been going on for too much time, we need a post-Kyoto treaty to be implemented by 2012 in order to keep world temperatures below a 2 percent increase. If we fail in doing so our planet and the future generations will be at risk," he warned.

The UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), he highlighted, estimated that the delay in the implementation of a new global deal had an economic impact of 500 billion dollars a year. Cocco thus called on world nations to rapidly move forward and overcome the differences in their approach with regard to global warming that procrastinate the forging of a post-Kyoto treaty.

"If we don't act today, tomorrow's human and social costs will be unbearable, especially in the developing world with more and more environmental refugees," Cocco warned.

Reaching a global deal to combat global warming is very complicated because there are many issues at stake, he said, such as different national policies on energy and natural resources. "Some industrialized countries, but not all, have undergone an energetic revolution by investing in sustainable development and green technologies. In the same way, nations such as Spain and Germany have understood the importance of supporting the developing world through the promotion of investments in the green economy."

Italy, unfortunately, had so far done little in the fight against global warming, he said, first by delaying the implementation of the Kyoto agreement and then by undoing numerous environmental-friendly laws and incentive-schemes.

Cocco went on saying that the real challenge of the future is striking a good balance between industrial growth needs and environmental protection in both industrialized and developing nations. He praised China on this.

"China has disclosed the hidden opportunities of the economic crisis with regard to climate change mitigation by launching a green-industrial revolution," he said, highlighting that the Chinese government had chosen to invest in new technologies and renewable energies as the key to a long-term sustainable economic growth.

Cocco welcomed China's recently announced plan to cut its greenhouse gas emissions per unit of economic output by 40-45 percent by 2020. "Despite previous talks with the U.S. government, this ambitious plan issued ahead of the Copenhagen summit represents an important sign of commitment by China to reach a global climate deal. It's the first time China sets forth a concrete emission reduction target," he said.

However, Cocco expressed his fear that the world's nations might not strike a satisfactory agreement at the Copenhagen conference.

"So far there are no indications of securing the planet's safety, not even the European Union's (EU) apparently ambitious program guarantees a return of world temperatures to the levels of the 1990s.".

Legambiente climate director concluded by urging a burden-sharing approach. "Global warming is a collective challenge and each nation must do its part," Cocco said.

(Xinhua News Agency December 1, 2009)

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