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UN says countries must do more to combat climate change

UN says countries must do more to combat climate changeAn unprecedented slew of climate change plans from nearly 150 countries over the past seven months should make a “significant dent” in the growth of warming greenhouse gas emissions, a UN report has found.

But the pledges will not be enough alone to keep global temperature rises to less than 2C, an internationally-agreed goal scientists say should be met to avoid risky changes in the climate.

That means the new global climate agreement to be finalised in Paris in six weeks must deliver tougher action later, said UN officials in Berlin as they released the first official assessment of the national pledges due to form the building blocks of the accord.

More than 150 countries, led by China, the US and the EU, have published voluntary plans to cut their greenhouse gas pollution this year, known in UN jargon as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs.

“Fully implemented, these plans together begin to make a significant dent in the growth of greenhouse gas emissions,” said Christiana Figueres, the UN’s top climate change official.

“The INDCs have the capability of limiting the forecast temperature rise to around 2.7C by 2100, by no means enough but a lot lower than the estimated 4C, 5C or more degrees of warming projected by many before the INDCs,” she said.

Temperatures have already risen by nearly 1C since the industrial revolution amid increasing greenhouse gas emissions that mostly come from burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas.

The UN has been holding climate negotiations for more than 20 years to try to curb a steady rise in emissions that reached the equivalent of 49bn tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2010.

The plans set out for the Paris accord would mean emissions rising to 56.7bn tonnes by 2030, the UN says.

That is nearly 4bn tonnes less than it would have been without the pledges, but still about 15bn tonnes more than what the latest scientific report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests is needed to have a reasonable chance of avoiding 2C of warming.

“The 2C goal is definitely still within reach,” said Niklas Höhne, a lead author of the IPCC report, explaining the plans most countries have submitted for the Paris accord negotiations were based on what governments think they can safely offer.

“I think countries can do more and will do more than what you see now,” he added.

The gap between what countries are promising for the Paris accord and what scientists say is needed to curb dangerous global warming has already been forecast by independent researchers, including those who produced the FT’s climate calculator earlier this month.

The UN report assesses plans from 146 countries, including the 28 members of the EU, that were tabled before an informal cut-off date of October 1.

Together these countries account for 86 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, nearly four times the level covered by the 1997 Kyoto protocol climate treaty, which only required industrialised countries to cut emissions.

More countries have published their plans since October 1, but some climate change activists said the UN’s new report showed how much more each needed to do.

“While this round of pledges is a step in the right direction, they only take us from a 4C catastrophe to a 3C disaster,” said Tim Gore, head of food and climate policy at Oxfam.

Source: Financial Times
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