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Global Efforts To Combat Climate Change Could Fail

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UNEP Report Warns


Global efforts to prevent dangerous levels of climate change are on course to fail, says a UN report released November 5, 2013.

The UN Environment Programme says current pledges to reduce emissions are inadequate, and likely to see options to limit warming to 2C above pre-industrial levels fade by 2020.

The 64-page report, compiled by 44 scientific groups in 17 countries, highlights the challenge faced by envoys participating at two weeks of UN talks in Poland , which start on Monday.

In this report, the UNEP has called on governments to step up action to prevent catastrophic climate change.

Jessica Shankleman for BusinessGreen, part of the Guardian Environment Network, reported in on November 5, 2013 :

As world leaders prepare to meet in Poland for the latest UN summit on climate change, the new report has warned that the chance to limit global temperature rises to below 2C is swiftly diminishing.

The UNEP's annual "Gap report" aims to highlight the efforts needed by governments and businesses to avoid catastrophic climate change.

The report shows that even if nations meet their current climate pledges, greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 are likely to be eight to 12 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2e) above the level needed to have a good chance of remain below 2C by 2020 on the lowest cost pathway.

The report shows that emissions should peak at 44 GtCO2e by 2020 and fall to 22GtCO2e by 2050 to stay within a 2C target, but under a business-as-usual scenario, which includes no emissions pledges, emissions would reach 59 GtCO2e in 2020.

Even if countries deliver policies and investments that allow them to meet their current emissions targets, emissions would be just 3-7GtCO2e lower than the business-as-usual scenario, the report warns.

UNEP is now warning that rising emissions means it is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to limit warming to safe levels. However, it finds that it concludes it is still possible to meet a 2C target if leaders agree more ambitious targets for 2020.

The report found governments could go half way to closing the emissions gap if they tightened rules governing existing pledges in the climate negotiations, achieved the top end of their current reduction pledges and further expanded the scope of their current commitments.

The remaining gap could then be bridged by further international and national action. Energy efficiency measures, for example, could narrow the gap by a further two GtCO2e by 2020, while renewable energy initiatives could cut up to three GtCO2 from the gap. Fossil fuel subsidy reform could also reduce emissions by 0.4 to two GtCO2e by 2020, the report says.

UNEP also highlights agriculture as an industry that could slash emissions by 1.1 GtCO2e to 4.3 GtCO2e through adopting more environmentally sustainable methods, such as no-tillage practices to reduce emissions from soil disturbance and farm machinery.

Commenting on the study, Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, urged world leaders to use this year's Conference of the Parties (COP) to make progress on reaching a global deal to tackle climate change.

"Delayed action means a higher rate of climate change in the near term and likely more near-term climate impacts, as well as the continued use of carbon-intensive and energy-intensive infrastructure," he said.

"However, the stepping stone of the 2020 target can still be achieved by strengthening current pledges and by further action, including scaling up international cooperation initiatives in areas such as energy efficiency, fossil fuel subsidy reform and renewable energy."

The report comes just days after consultancy giant PwC warned the world was on track to burn through the available "carbon budget" that would allow it to remain on track for less than 2C of warming by 2034.

A release by UNEP has put the issue in the following way:

“But are the pledges for 2020 enough to keep the world on track to meet the 2°C target? Or will there be a gap between ambition and reality?

“Since 2010, the United Nations Environment Programme has convened scientists from all over the world to answer these two questions.”

While discussing the issue Oliver Milman report in on November 5, 2013 said:

Last week, the Climate Change Authority said that Australia 's 5% emissions reduction goal is “not a credible option” and should be increased, possibly to 15% or 25%.

A separate analysis by WWF found that Australia has already burned through two-thirds of its share of a “carbon budget” that would keep the temperature rise under 2C.

Christiana Figueres, the UN climate chief who was recently accused of “talking through her hat” by Tony Abbott for linking bushfires to climate change, added: “As we head towards Warsaw for the latest round of climate negotiations, there is a real need for increased ambition by all countries: ambition which can take countries further and faster towards bridging the emissions gap and a sustainable future for all.

“However, increased national ambition will not be enough to meet the scientific realities of climate change, which is one reason why a universal new agreement – able to catalyse international co-operation – is urgently needed by 2015.”

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