Cuts in climate pollution so far promised by countries around the world will fail to prevent floods, droughts, heatwaves and other catastrophic changes, according to the latest analysis by the United Nations (UN).
Current commitments to reduce carbon emissions in the run-up to the crucial Paris climate summit at the end of the month are only about half of what’s needed to reduce the risk of disaster, creating a widening “emissions gap” over the next 15 years, the UN has warned.
Environmentalists, experts and politicians fear that the summit of world leaders – the most important since Copenhagen in 2009 - could end in failure unless major polluters agree further reductions. Some insist they are still optimistic about the outcome, but others are distinctly pessimistic.
“Paris is obviously going to be a failure,” said Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland. “The proposed targets fall far short of the effort needed to deliver the 2ºC world that world leaders have promised, let alone the 1.5ºC temperature limit which is needed to protect the most vulnerable people, nations and wildlife.”
The world is aiming to limit global warming to an average of less than two degrees centigrade above pre-industrial temperatures. Scientists say that this is the limit beyond which the impacts of climate change are likely to become catastrophic and irreversible - though some also suggest that a rise of 1.5 degrees could have serious consequences.
Most countries have now set out in reports to the UN for the Paris summit the cuts in emissions they plan to achieve. An analysis by the UN Environment Programme has added them all together and concluded out that they will only result in a reduction of around 11 gigatonnes of carbon by 2030 – less than half of that required to give the world a good chance of staying within the two degree limit (see table below).