UN says climate catastrophe is looming

GOVERNMENT’S ARE falling far short of their commitment to keep global average temperature rise below the accepted 2°C goal, putting the world on the brink of climate catastrophe.

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The UN Environment Program’s Emissions Gap Report 2012 identifies a huge gap between current pledges to cut polluting greenhouse gas emissions for 2020 and the benchmark of 44 gigatonnes that offers a credible pathway to staying below 2°C.


Last year, UNEP put the gap between pledges and what’s needed at 6-11 gigatonnes – but has now increased this estimate to an alarming 8-13Gt. In context, annual emissions from the US and China are currently around seven and 10 to 11 Gt, respectively.


“There are two realities encapsulated in this report,” said UNEP’s executive director, Achim Steiner. “Bridging the gap remains doable with existing technologies and policies [and yet] the sobering fact remains that a transition to a low-carbon, inclusive green economy is happening far too slowly and the opportunity for meeting the 44 Gt target is narrowing annually.”


Greenhouse gases will feature prominently on the agenda of the UN Climate Change Conference beginning on Monday in the Qatar capital of Doha, and which brings together the 195 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.


The Protocol is the only international agreement to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases from industrial countries, but it expires this year.


Samantha Smith, head of WWF’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative, said UNEP’s assessment confirms that the world is standing on the brink and by far the biggest barrier to delivering solutions is “the collective and individual failure of political will”.


“In the face of such sobering assessments by some of the world’s largest institutions, we have to ask – what will it take for our leaders to listen and act?,” she added.


It is six years since David Cameron took a trip to the Arctic and pledged leadership on climate change. However, environmental groups are becoming increasingly concerned that the Prime Minister has “lost his voice” on the issue. The recently published details of the Energy Bill have not helped his cause.