Print options

April 03, 2011

UN Climate Chief: Emission Reduction Targets Lacking

by Daniel Schearf

The United Nations says countries need to commit to higher reductions of greenhouse gas emissions before a global treaty expires in 2012.  Representatives from 173 countries are discussing emission-reduction targets and support for poorer nations at U.N. climate negotiations this week in Bangkok.  

U.N. climate-change chief Christiana Figueres told reporters national plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions fall short of what is needed to check climate change.

At talks in Mexico last year countries agreed they should cut emissions enough to prevent the global average temperature from increasing by more than two-degrees Celsius by 2020.

Representatives also agreed to establish a fund for helping poor nations adapt to climate change.

Figueres says while the global goals are commendable countries have yet to set the needed emission reduction targets or the funding mechanism.

"The sum of national promises so far equals only 60 percent of what science says is required to have a medium chance of staying below the two-degree goal," Figueres said. "Moreover, a coordinated system to manage and deploy enough resources to protect the poor and vulnerable from existing climate change is not yet adequate."

The United Nations says if global average temperatures increase by more than two degrees, up to 30 percent of plant and animal life is at increased risk of extinction.

Representatives are meeting in Bangkok this week for at the United Nations regional office to negotiate on emission reductions and funding for climate-change programs.

Figuerres says they need to agree this year on a successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the global emission reduction treaty.

It committed 36 industrialized nations, with the notable exception of the United States, to reduce emissions by an average five percent of 1990 levels.  But it is set to expire at the end of next year and no binding agreement is ready to take its place.

Tove Ryding, with Greenpeace international laments some industrialized countries’ new reduction targets are less than they pledged with Kyoto.

"So, not only do we have a problem when it comes to taking further action.  We actually have some governments, some developed country governments that are rolling backwards," said Ryding. "The same with the Kyoto Protocol. Some developed countries are more eager to get out of the Kyoto Protocol than to build on it and go forward."

Some scientists say rising temperatures are increasing incidents of erratic weather, such as flash floods and droughts.

At the talks in Bangkok, concern has been raised that Japan’s nuclear crisis may lead countries to scrap nuclear-power plans for coal-fired or other emission-heavy power production.

The United Nations and activists say countries that reconsider nuclear power should use the opportunity to invest in renewable energies because they are cleaner and safer.