The pledges by countries to cut emissions under the Copenhagen Accord, hammered out in the dying hours of last year’s UN climate summit, will not be enough to limit global warming to 2˚C, researchers warned yesterday.
A new report said “weak” ambition by major players such as Europe and the US, and the absence of an overall target for cutting global greenhouse gases by 2050, could lead to temperature rises of 4.2˚C and the loss of coral reefs.
The accord, which is non-binding, was drawn up by world leaders last December amid the failure of the mainstream climate talks among more than 190 countries to secure a comprehensive deal on tackling climate change.
It aims to keep temperature rises to no more than 2˚C above pre-industrial levels but, in the face of fierce disagreement among countries, did not include a target for cutting global emissions by 2050.
The study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters said the pledges of many developed countries to cut emissions by 2020 fall far outside the level needed to ensure industrial nations as a whole delivered cuts of 25 to 40 per cent – the kind of reductions required to ensure the world meets the 2˚C goal.
Only Japan and Norway’s targets fall within the 25 per cent to 40 per cent range, while other signatories including the EU provide a range of possible targets depending on action taken by others.
If the least ambitious goals are achieved in each case, the world will be on track for temperature rises of 4.2˚C by 2100.
And levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will be such that the seas will be so much more acidic the coral reefs dissolve and die, the researchers warn.
Even if countries agreed to slash global emissions by half by mid-century, there would be only a 50 per cent chance of keeping temperature rises from exceeding 2˚C.
The researchers wrote: “It is clear from this analysis that higher ambitions for 2020 are necessary to keep the options for 2°C and 1.5°C open without relying on potentially unfeasible reduction rates.
“In addition, the absence of a mid-century emission goal – towards which parties as a whole can work and which serve as a yardstick of whether interim reductions by 2020 and 2030 are on the right track – is a critical deficit of the overall ambition levels of the Copenhagen Accord.”
Responding to the research, Mike Childs of Friends of the Earth, said: “This report reconfirms warnings that climate campaigners were making before the ink was even dry on the Copenhagen Accord – that the weak voluntary targets in the accord set us firmly on a path to catastrophic climate change.
“The best chance we have of preventing dangerous climate change is by agreeing strong and fair international action at the UN – the longer this is delayed, the more expensive and higher risk the effort of tackling climate change will be.”
Mr Childs called for rich countries to fulfil obligations under the previous climate treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, and commit to new targets of at least 40 per cent reductions by 2020.
Developed nations should also provide funds to poor countries to help them develop without polluting and to adapt to the effects of climate change such as floods and droughts, he urged.
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