Carbon dioxide emissions reachest highest point in three million years

Developed countries to come under pressure at Bonn conference to fulfil pledges of funding for poorer nations to cope with climate change

Greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise and atmospheric concentrations of CO2 are exceeding levels never experienced in human history, the Bonn conference on climate change was told. Photograph: John Giles/PA Wire

Greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise and atmospheric concentrations of CO2 are exceeding levels never experienced in human history, the Bonn conference on climate change was told. Photograph: John Giles/PA Wire

 

As global carbon dioxide, emissions teetered on the threshold of 400 parts per million (PPM) for the first time in three million years, delegates from countries all over the world yesterday started another round of talks on how to tackle climate change.

Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory recorded CO2 levels of 399.72ppm last week. “It looks like the world is going to blow through the 400ppm level without missing a beat,” said Ralph Keeling of the US Scripps Institution of Oceanography, which runs Mauna Loa.

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres told the opening session of the Bonn talks – officially the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) – that the disturbing news from Hawaii gave the meeting “a heightened sense of urgency”.

Ireland’s David Walsh, speaking on behalf of the EU and Croatia, recalled that the Durban summit in December 2011 had “reaffirmed our shared goal of keeping the global temperature increase below 2° Celsius [to avoid] potentially devastating impacts.”

Yet greenhouse gas emissions continued to rise and atmospheric concentrations of CO2 “are exceeding levels never experienced in human history”, he said. “The EU is ready to work with all parties to move quickly into focused discussions on the issues at hand.”

Mr Walsh said all parties had agreed to “work towards a single, fair and comprehensive legally binding agreement” in 2015, to come into force in 2020, as well as adopting a “practical and results-orientated approach” to increasing levels of ambition in the meantime.

“Raising ambition through existing and new pledges is essential,” he told delegates. “We need to work on identifying concrete actions that will help us close the gap between what science tells us is required and the pledges put forward by parties to date.”

ADP co-chair Jayant Moreshver Mauskar, of India, said parties needed to develop a “strong and coherent response to climate change post-2020, and the gap between the present level of ambition and the requirements of science must be addressed with urgency.”

The negotiations are split into two “workstreams” – one aimed at achieving a comprehensive accord in 2015, at a climate change summit scheduled to be held in Paris, and the other focused on increasing the level of ambition by all parties between now and 2020.

Ambassador Marlene Moses, from the tiny Pacific island state of Nauru, described the imminent 400ppm level of CO2 as an “ominous milestone” and warned that “the time we have to act is rapidly slipping away” if the world was to limit warming below 2°.

Speaking for the 44-strong Alliance of Small Island States, she said the Bonn talks and a further negotiating session in June to prepare for the Warsaw climate summit in December – needed to achieve concrete outcomes. “Failure for us is a direct threat to our very existence,” she said.

But the Umbrella Group (Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Ukraine and the US) talked in terms of a looser “global regime for national actions” under which all countries would “act in a way that’s compatible with their circumstances”.

Meena Raman, of the Third World Network, said it was clear “some developed countries” wanted to rewrite the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to “eliminate their historical responsibilities” instead of negotiating a “fair, just agreement”.

Developed countries will come under pressure this week to fulfil their pledges of significant funding for poorer nations to cope with climate change, following the release of OECD figures showing that the amount of aid fell to a relatively minuscule €1.38 billion in 2011.