A confidential UN analysis obtained by the Guardian reveals that the emissions cuts offered so far at the Copenhagen climate change summit will lead to global temperatures rising by an average of 3C.
analysis seriously undermines the statements by governments that they
are aiming to limit emissions to a level ensuring no more than a 2C
temperature rise over the next century, and indicates that the last 24
hours of negotiations will be extremely challenging.
rise of 3C would mean up to 170 million more people suffering severe
coastal floods and 550 million more at risk of hunger, according to the
2006 Stern economic review of climate change for the UK government - as
well as leaving up to 50% of species facing extinction. Even a rise of
2C would lead to sharp decline in tropical crop yields, more flooding and droughts.
paper was drafted by the UN secretariat running the Copenhagen summit
and is dated 11pm on Tuesday evening. It is marked "do not distribute"
and "initial draft". It shows a gap of up to 4.2 gigatonnes of carbon emissions
between the present pledges and the required level of 44Gt, which is
required to staying below a 2C rise. No higher offers have since been
"Unless the remaining gap of around 1.9-4.2Gt is
closed and Annexe 1 parties [countries] commit themselves to strong
action before and after 2020, global emissions will remain on an
unsustainable pathway that could lead to concentrations equal or above
550 parts per million, with the related temperature rise around 3C," it
The goal of keeping the increase in global average
temperatures below 2C, relative to pre-industrial levels, has become
the figure that all rich countries have committed to trying to achieve
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However, 102 of the world's poorest countries are holding out for emission cuts that would result in a temperature increase of no more than 1.5C.
Anything below that, they say, would leave billions of people in the
world homeless, unable to feed their people and open to catastrophic
"Further steps are possible and
necessary to fill the gap. This could be done by increasing the
aggregated emission reductions to at least 30% below the baseline
levels, further stronger voluntary actions by developing countries to
reduce their emissions by at least 20% below business as usual and;
reducing further emissions from deforestation and international
aviation and marine shipping," says the internal paper.
campaigner Joss Garman said: "This is an explosive document that shows
the numbers on the table at the moment would lead to nothing less than
climate breakdown and an extraordinarily dangerous situation for
humanity. The UN is admitting in private that the pledges made by world
leaders would lead to a 3C rise in temperatures. The science shows that
could lead to the collapse of the Amazon rainforest, crippling water
shortages across South America and Australia and the near-extinction of
tropical coral reefs, and that's just the start of it."
talks remained on a knife edge on Thursday, with world leaders meeting
for the first time this evening at a dinner hosted by the Queen of
Denmark. One great obstacle - the fate of the Kyoto treaty - was solved
today with China and the developing world seeing off attempts to kill the protocol. But the row caused much time to be lost and whether enough time remains to salvage a strong deal is still in question.
biggest remaining obstacles that remain are who pays for the fight
against climate change and how much, emissions cuts and how promises of
cuts are verified. Earlier, US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton,
pushed the negotiations forward by committing the US to contribute to a $100bn (£62bn) a year fund from 2020. Indonesia today followed China's lead in softening its opposition to international monitoring of carbon cuts.
Earlier this week, Rajendra Pachauri,
who heads the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),
told the Guardian that even with 1.5C rises, many communities would
suffer. "Some of the most vulnerable regions in the world will be worst affected.
These will be the largest countries in the developing world. They have
little infrastructure that might protect them from climate change. The
tragedy of the situation is that those countries that have not at all
contributed to the problem of climate change will be the ones that are
most affected," he said.
"Some parts of the world, which
even with a 1.5C rise, will suffer great hardship and lose their
ability to lead a decent and stable form of existence. If we are going
to be concerned about these communities, then maybe 1.5C is what we
should be targeting. But if we can find means by which those
communities can be helped to withstand the impact of climate change
with substantial flow of finances, then maybe one can go to 2C."