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Developing nations are first in line to experience extreme weather events like drought, floods, and rising sea levels. (Photo: World Bank Photo Collection/flickr/cc)

UN Report Shows World's Pledges for Paris Are Recipe for Climate 'Disaster'

New analysis by UNFCCC finds wealthiest countries must step up efforts to decrease greenhouse gas emissions to stave off extreme warming

Nadia Prupis

The latest United Nations (UN) analysis of the climate pledges of world governments reveals the commitments are not enough to avert "climate catastrophe," green groups warned on Friday.

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres and German State Secretary Jochen Flasbarth presented in Berlin on Friday their report (pdf) on the effects of 146 participating countries' Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)—representing 86 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions—submitted ahead of the UN's upcoming COP21 climate talks in Paris.
"While this round of pledges is a step in the right direction, they only take us from a 4 C catastrophe to a 3 C disaster."
—Tim Gore, Oxfam

Their conclusion: the pledges will not be sufficient "to reverse by 2025 and 2030 the upward trend of global emissions. Furthermore, estimated annual aggregate emission levels resulting from their implementation do not fall within least-cost 2°C scenarios levels."

"The INDCs have the capability of limiting the forecast temperature rise to around 2.7C by 2100, by no means enough but a lot lower than the estimated four, five, or more degrees of warming projected by many prior to the INDCs," Figueres said.

In fact, if emissions continue to go unchecked, current trends indicate that the global temperature rise could be by as much as 4.5°C by 2100, the UN reported—well above the threshold climate experts say would bring catastrophic floods, droughts, and other extreme weather events.

A 2°C goal is still within reach, the report said. But climate activists warned that meeting such a goal will require much more aggressive action by wealthy nations, many of which have recently come under fire for their lackluster pledges and attempts to evade financial obligations to developing countries.

"We're going to need to see more ambition in Paris," 350.org strategy and communications director Jamie Henn said on Friday. "The targets currently on the table still aren't enough to prevent climate catastrophe. To close the gap, politicians must settle on a clear mechanism to increase ambition, make real financial commitments, and agree to a unifying goal of completely decarbonizing the global economy."

However, the current inadequate pledges are "still enough to send a clear signal to investors that the age of fossil fuels is over—there's no way to meet these targets, let alone the stronger ones necessary, without a full scale transition to renewable energy," Henn said.

Tim Gore, head of food and climate policy at humanitarian aid group Oxfam, added, "The UN's verdict reveals that, while the world is making progress, much more needs to be done. While this round of pledges is a step in the right direction, they only take us from a 4 C catastrophe to a 3 C disaster."

"The targets currently on the table still aren't enough to prevent climate catastrophe."
—Jamie Henn, 350

The Least Developed Countries (LDC), a coalition of frontline nations taking part in the climate talks, were even more critical of the findings, which come just days after preliminary negotiations in Bonn ended without a concrete plan for rich countries to step up their part.

"Today's analysis shows the urgent need to address the lack of ambition within the INDCs," said LDC chair and Angolan diplomat Giza Gaspar-Martins. "Governments must do more in Paris, but the work does not end there. For the INDCs to succeed they must be adjusted before 2020 and reviewed in five year cycles from 2020 to ensure national actions quickly and rapidly progresses, or we all face a grim and uncertain future."

Small island nations are particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels, Gaspar-Martins continued. "For 48 of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries, economic development, regional food security and ecosystems are at risk in this 2C 'safe zone'. So we once again call on the world to grow its ambition for a 1.5C target," he said.


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