Ministers arrive in Warsaw to break deadlock at UN climate conference
New report predicts CO2 emissions will reach record 36bn tonnes this year
European Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard (right) talks with Kenyan delegate Alice Akinyi Kaudia as they attend the Convention on Climate Change conference at the National Stadium in Warsaw. Photograph: Kacper Pempel / Reuters
Environment ministers from all over the world, including Ireland’s Phil Hogan, began arriving here today for the UN’s 19th climate change conference as a new report predicted global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will reach a record 36 billion tonnes this year.
The estimate by 49 researchers from 10 countries, published in London, suggested that CO2 emissions in 2013 would be just over 2 per cent higher than last year’s figure and 61 per cent higher than they were in 1990 – the baseline year for the UN’s Kyoto Protocol.
The Global Carbon Project, which compiles data from research institutes worldwide each year, said the latest figures showed that governments had failed to curb the rise in emissions and needed to do so urgently if global warming is to be capped at 2 degrees.
The daunting challenge facing ministers here was also underlined by another report from the UN Environment Programme, which predicted the costs for Africa of adapting to climate change could reach $35 billion annually by 2040 if governments fail to close the “emissions gap”.
The report, Africa’s Adaptation Gap, said the continent was already facing adaptation costs of $7-$15 billion per year by 2020. “Missing the two degree window will not only cost governments billions of dollars, but will risk the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people,” it warned.
Ministers will hold a special meeting today on how to break deadlock over climate finance, which was meant to be one of the key issues dealt with in Warsaw. Currently, however, the Green Climate Fund remains empty three years after the Cancun climate summit agreed to set it up.
UN climate chief Christiana Figueres has said developing countries needed to feel confident that a commitment to mobilise $100 billion by 2020 “is still on the table despite current financial circumstances”. But there is no indication when – or how – these funds will be made available.
“The finance issue is creating a lot of anger here,” said Alden Meyer, strategy director of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“Hopefully the ministers can come in now and start working on some on the political elements . . .”
The US and other developed countries have been blocking progress on the issue of “loss and damage” from climate change, based on their historical responsibility for CO2 emissions, fearing it would mean paying compensation for disasters such as Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.
Its chief climate change negotiator, Yeb Sano, yesterday delivered an online petition supported by more than 590,000 people , calling on all countries to take urgent action. “New realities require new politics,” he said.
European commissioner for climate action Connie Hedegaard said the EU was committed to achieving a “real outcome” at the UN climate conference in Paris at the end of 2015, to achieve the two degreetarget.
She said the commission would directly contribute €1.7 billion in climate finance over the next two years, in addition to what EU member states would provide to poorer countries, and was formulating targets for 2030, with a view to having them agreed before a UN summit next September.
Former president Mary Robinson asked “high-level leaders” to follow an intergenerational approach.