News / Science & Technology

UN Report: Many Nations Not on Track for Promised Emissions Cuts

Mexico's new climate law promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020, which should make a difference in Mexico City, among the most polluted cities in the world.
Mexico's new climate law promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020, which should make a difference in Mexico City, among the most polluted cities in the world.
Rosanne Skirble
The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a record high in 2012, according to figures from the World Meteorological Organization. Emissions from power plants, cars and buildings are the principal drivers of climate change.

Climate talks in Warsaw next week address the task of creating a treaty aimed at reducing those emissions. The agreement, expected by 2015, will replace the Kyoto Protocol that expired last year.

The U.N. Environment Program’s annual Emissions Gap Report, released this week, reviews how each nation is meeting its pledge to reduce the release of greenhouse gases. UNEP Climate Change Coordinator Merlyn van Voore warns the opportunity to control those emissions is slipping away. “The emissions gap is still growing. UNEP believes that it is still possible to close the gap, but it will be tough.”

The scenarios described in the report find that delay will be costly, but the situation will get even costlier if nations continue with business as usual.

Not all large emitters on track to meet pledges

According to the report, five of the largest emitters - China, India, Australia, Russia and the European Union nations - are on track to meet commitments made in international forums. Other major emitters, including the United States, Canada, Japan, Mexico and South Korea, fall short.

Co-author Taryn Fransen, a senior scientist with the World Resources Institute, said that while the news is not great, she is encouraged that some of those nations have recently put policy changes in place. She points to a new climate law in Mexico, an emissions trading scheme in South Korea and the U.S. Climate Action Plan announced by President Barack Obama in June. “[That] identifies a number of measures that if they are fully and ambitiously implemented, it could do a lot to put the U.S. back on track, measures such as regulating emissions from power plants, improving appliance and building energy efficiency increasing renewable energy and so on,” said Fransen.

Warming above 2 degrees Celsius is danger to planet

Fransen said even if the United States and every other nation fulfilled their pledges, however, emissions by the end of the decade still would be 18 to 27 percent above where they need to be to keep global temperature rise less than two degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels.

Climate scientists say breaking the two degree Celsius threshold would put the planet in danger with increased ice sheet melt, sea level rise, forest fires, and extreme weather.

Fransen said that while it is imperative for countries to deliver on pledges and go beyond them, “ultimately delivering on the existing pledges will not be enough and countries must formulate more ambitious solutions.”

Agricultural practices, higher pledges, partnerships curb warming trend

The report recommends nations strengthen emissions pledges, initiate or scale up agricultural practices that mitigate climate change, and engage in private and public programs that promote energy efficiency, fossil fuel subsidy reform and renewable energy.

UNEP’s van Voore said the Emissions Gap Report underscores the urgency to move away from fossil fuels. She says for every dollar invested in renewable energy, five are spent in subsidies for fossil fuels. “And if we can start shifting the economics that underlie that, then perhaps we do see a more positive picture emerging.”
    
The Emissions Gap Report quantifies country pledges. Now, Van Voore says, nations must step up and take action that makes a difference for the planet.

You May Like

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid