The United Nation’s top official on climate change, Christiana Figueres. Photo: Brendan EspositoThe world remains on course to exceed dangerous temperature increases even if nations carry out pledges they make at next month’s global climate summit in Paris, the United Nations says.
An assessment by the UN of 146 national goals and those of the European Union covering about 86 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions found they would cut average per capita pollution by as much as 8 per cent by 2025 and 9 per cent by 2030 compared with the current trajectory.
So-called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) represent a big step forward from the 2009 Copenhagen summit but still fall short of keeping temperatures to within two-degrees warming on pre-industrial levels that scientists say would trigger dangerous climate change.
“The INDCs have the capability of limiting the forecast temperature rise to around 2.7 degrees by 2100, by no means enough, but a lot lower than the estimated four, five, or more degrees of warming projected by many prior to the [pledges],” Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said.
Just weeks to go before the summit, global heat records continue to tumble. Vrendendal in South Africa recorded 48.4 degrees on Tuesday, the hottest recorded temperature in October anywhere.2015 remains odds on to smash annual records after September was the most unusually warm month in 1629 monthly records kept by US agencies.
This month is also likely to be Australia’s hottest October as the powerful El Nino adds to be background warming from climate change.
Australia has promised to cut 2005-level emissions 26-28 per cent by 2030 – a target that while relatively ambitious on a per capita basis would still leave the country with the highest pollution per person among rich nations.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is expected to attend the opening day of the Paris conference, joining world leaders expected to call for bolder action to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
A climate meeting of negotiators in Bonn, Germany earlier this month made little progress, with the draft text of the Paris agreement swelling out to 55 pages.
The final agreement is expected to contain few specific numbers, in part to enable US President Barack Obama to impose regulatory measures to curb emissions in the world’s second largest polluting economy without the need to seek approval in the hostile Republican-dominated Senate.
Key differences, though remain between rich and developing nations. The latter want to see a firm commitment to increase the combined public and private financial aid from a goal of $US100 billion ($141 billion) a year beyond 2020, while the former want greater transparency and accountability for national emissions.
A worst-case scenario could a very minimalist agreement “with a bow-tie put around the INDCs”, one source said.
The negotiations at Paris are also likely to focus on the durability of any pact and whether nations will be obligated to lift their commitments at each future review, possibly set at five-year intervals.
With the Paris pledges falling short of the two-degree target, many observers are arguing the event will likely be the start of a new process to reduce emissions rather than the end of the road.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt is expected to attend the first week of the conference with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop likely to attend at least three days in the second week.
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