By Antonios Gkildakis
Cyprus’ carbon dioxide emissions per capita are higher than that of France, according to climate researcher François-Marie Bréon, who warned that people must change their ways immediately if they wanted more sustainable living standards.
Among the factors that contribute to climate change, carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas being emitted through human activity.
According to World Bank data, Cyprus’ CO2 emissions per capita are close to the EU average, they are however higher than that of bigger countries of the bloc, such as France.
The reason for this, according to Bréon, is that Cyprus produces energy by burning fossil fuels, while France uses nuclear power.
The data for 2011 show that Cyprus had emitted 6.7 tonnes per person, while France emitted 5.2 tonnes.
On the other hand, Germany, a country comparable in size and economic activity with France, had 8.9 tonnes, due to the use of coal.
The deputy director of the Laboratory for Climate and Environment Sciences visited the island recently and spoke the Cyprus News Agency about climate change, as the international community braces for difficult negotiations in Paris later this year, aiming to strike a new climate deal.
Bréon, who has been involved in drafting the last report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the scientific body that shapes knowledge on climate change, expects tough talks in Paris, before reaching a legally-binding agreement to reverse the effects of climate change.
Or else, higher temperatures and rising sea levels will be routine for the next generations, he warns.
Moreover, as an environmental activist committed to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, he believes people should vote for the politicians that are right for the environment.
After the failure of climate talks in Copenhagen, back in 2009, the international community has paved the way for the next global summit, where efforts will concentrate on reaching a new climate agreement.
This is expected to be adopted at the Paris climate conference, taking place from November 30 to December 11, 2015, and implemented from 2020 onwards.
The goal is to keep rising word temperature under 2 degrees Celcius by the end of the century, compared with pre-industrial temperature levels.
Bréon seems reserved over the outcome. “This is a difficult decision, because if you decide that you want to decrease your CO2 emissions by around 50 per cent, it means that you want to change completely your economy,” he said.
The French scientist expects policymakers to be preoccupied with the impact of their decisions in the standard of living of their people.
“If we want to do something about the climate, and decrease CO2 emissions, we will have to change the standard of living of people. It’s sad but it is a fact” he said.
The EU from its part has unveiled its commitment as a bloc quite early. Being a party to the conference, in addition to the individual member states, the EU has announced last March its collective target to an “at least” 40 per cent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. In addition, it pledged to boost renewable energy by at least 27 per cent, and improve energy efficiency by at least 27 per cent.
Asked about the EU commitment, Bréon notes that it will require a huge adjustment, not only on a state level, but also on individuals. The most significant part of emissions is produced by people in heating or cooling their houses, using their cars or travelling by plane, he says. In Cyprus for example, Bréon notes that a lot depends on how much people use their air conditioning and wonders if they are prepared to use it 40 per cent less.
Economic activity will be also affected, not always in negative terms, as he points out. There are areas of economic activity that will profit, like companies making buildings more energy efficient, or those installing solar panels. “This change will be bad for some, but it will be good for others” he notes.
Going back to international deliberations, inaction at a global level will cost dearly in the long term. Bréon explains that world temperature will increase and heat waves that are now the exception, will become the rule. Flat areas will also suffer from rising sea levels, and the problem is that “we know this will continue for centuries, even if we reach that agreement [in Paris]”.
There are other areas, however, where scientists have not a clear picture, such as precipitation levels. While some parts of the world suffer from floods, Cyprus needs all the water it can get. We don’t know for sure, but if there is a decrease of 10 per cent in rainfall “you are in bad shape” Bréon exclaims.
Asked about what people can do from their part, the French scientist replied in his capacity as an activist. “The first thing is to vote for the right person” he said, underlining the importance of electing politicians that deem climate action necessary.
This, he says, needs to be complemented with personal action, such as recycling, for example, or using the plane less or investing in building’ isolation, to make them more energy efficient.