EU, UN steps up call for 2020 climate plan

2014-06-04 19:15

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Bonn - UN members launched a new round of climate talks Wednesday with Europe demanding early action to tame carbon emissions, two days after the United States unveiled a longer-term plan.

"Although we are already looking beyond the current decade, it is also crucial to step up action before 2020", the European Union's climate commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, said.

The EU is on track to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in 2020 by about 24% over 1990 levels, more than its targeted cut of 20%, she said.

The "over-achievement" amounts to a saving of some 5.5 billion tons of carbon overall.

"We are making a significant contribution to closing the 'ambition gap' between what the world needs to do and what countries intend to do by the end of this decade", Hedegaard said.

"We ask other major economies to come forward with concrete ways to step up their ambition."

The Bonn meeting, to be attended by several dozen ministers on Thursday and Friday aims at clearing some roadblocks to a post-2020 global pact on dangerous man-made carbon emissions.

The 12-day session under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is also supposed to ramp up pledges for tackling emissions before 2020.

Carbon plan

In March, the UN's top scientific panel warned that action in the next few years may dictate whether the target of limiting warming to 2°C will be met easily and affordably, or at greater economic pain and human cost.

Key components of post-2020 and pre-2020 action are to be fleshed out in Lima in December, preceded in September by a special summit at the UN in New York hosted by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

On Monday, US President Barack Obama unveiled his most ambitious action yet on climate change.

He proposed ordering cuts of up to 30% in emissions from power plants by 2030 compared to levels in 2005, a benchmark far higher than that of Europe, which uses 1990.

An analysis by specialists in Germany said Obama's plan, if implemented, would be a boost towards meeting pledges the US made in 2010, but would still leave it far short of the goal.

Much of the reduction from power plants would likely be offset by increases in emissions in transport, industry and agriculture.

"While the proposal is welcome, it is insufficient to meet the US's pledges of 17% reduction of all greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and is inconsistent with its long-term target of 83% below 2005 level by 2050", said Niklas Hoehne of Ecofys, which crunched the numbers.

The new, global climate deal to be finalised next year, will have to deliver very deep cuts to meet the 2°C target, the analysis added, reaching zero greenhouse emissions somewhere between 2060 and 2080.

"For the energy and industry sectors, the deadline for reaching zero CO2 emissions should be faster, as early as 2045 as and no later than 2065", it warned.

Although the UN community generally agrees on the risks from climate change, action to tackle the peril has sparked bitter fights. Reducing carbon pollution carries an economic cost in energy efficiency and conversion to non-fossil sources, and countries are deeply divided over who should shoulder most of the bill.

The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that by 2100 the planet could be up to 4.8°C warmer and sea levels 26-82cm higher.

Conflict, hunger, floods and mass displacement from coastal erosion could be the likely result, it says.

Representatives of the world's poorest countries and small island states, considered to be the most vulnerable to climate change said the Bonn talks represent a chance to forge ahead on the 2015 deal, which they want to peg warming to 1.5°C.

The Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) called for progress on a framework of financial help for countries at risk.

"It is still technically and economically feasible to limit temperature increases to below 1.5°C, but only if we all work together to resolve the climate change problem", the Least Developed Countries group said.

"If some countries advance their own interests and ignore the need for international cooperation, then we are doomed."
Read more on:    un  |  ipcc  |  eu  |  us  |  environment  |  climate change  |  pollution

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