February 23, 2010

UN: Emission Cuts Will Not Be Enough

New modeling released on Tuesday by the United Nations says emission cuts pledges made by 60 countries will not be enough to keep the average global temperature rise at 2 degrees Celsius or less, Reuters reported.

For devastating climate change to be avoided, scientists say temperatures should be limited to a rise of no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) above pre-industrial times.

The new modeling from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) suggests that yearly greenhouse gas emissions should not be more than 40 and 48.3 gigatons of CO2-equivalent in 2020 and should peak between 2015 and 2021.

The report, which was based on modeling by nine research centers, said keeping within that range and cutting global emissions by between 48 percent and 72 percent between 2020 and 2050 will give the planet a "medium" or 50-50 chance of staying within the 2 degree limit.

The same study, incidentally, found that the world is likely to go over those targets. The pledges were made by nations that signed up to the Copenhagen Accord.

The report said the expected emissions for a 2020 range between 48.8 to 51.2 gigatons of CO2-equivalent, based on whether high or low pledges will be fulfilled.

Therefore, the total amount of emissions produced would still be between 0.5 and 8.8 gigatons over what scientists see as tolerable even in a best-case scenario where all countries implement their promised cuts.

Achim Steiner, UNEP's executive director, said the bleak prediction should motivate countries to make more ambitious cuts.

He told reporters in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian island of Bali, which is hosting a major U.N. environment meeting, that the message is not to sit back and resign and say, "We will never make it".

"But it's not enough at the moment and there are other options that can be mobilized," he added.

One such option was more investment in a scheme called reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD), in which poor countries are paid to preserve and enhance their forests, Steiner said.

UNEP released a state of the environment assessment on Tuesday called the UNEP Year Book 2010, which also advocated more investment in REDD.

The report said it has been estimated that putting $22 billion to $29 billion into REDD would cut global deforestation by 25 percent by 2015.

Scientists say forests soak up large amounts of planet-warming carbon dioxide and cutting them down and burning the remains releases vast amounts of the gas, exacerbating global warming.

Last December, the Copenhagen climate summit ended with a political accord that was not formally adopted and offered no clarity on the shape of a new climate pact to succeed the current Kyoto Protocol.

"A deal has become more difficult than in Copenhagen. Let's be very frank. The world has moved away, rather than closer, to a deal," Steiner told reporters.

"The politics of international negotiation and the economics, the momentum that built up toward Copenhagen will not be there for Mexico."


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