Report will put pressure on delegates at Warsaw summit

Connie Hedegaard said ratifying Kyoto 2 “underlines the EU’s commitment to a legally binding and rules-based approach to international action on climate change”, as opposed to a framework based merely on “voluntary pledges”. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons /The Irish Times

Connie Hedegaard said ratifying Kyoto 2 “underlines the EU’s commitment to a legally binding and rules-based approach to international action on climate change”, as opposed to a framework based merely on “voluntary pledges”. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons /The Irish Times

Thu, Nov 7, 2013, 07:05

Michel Jarraud, the secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organisation, pulled no punches when he spoke about the “devastating consequences” for humanity and the planet if the growth in greenhouse gas emissions is not curbed soon.

His warning came as delegates from more than 190 countries prepared to travel to Warsaw for the UN’s 19th annual conference on climate change, which opens next Monday, to lay the groundwork for a new global agreement by the end of 2015.

Confirmation that monthly carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations exceeded the symbolic threshold of 400 parts per million at several Global Atmosphere Watch stations in the Arctic last year will put pressure on the negotiators to reach a credible deal to cut emissions.

Assessment report
As the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found in the recently published first volume of its Fifth Assessment Report, atmospheric concentrations of CO2, methane and nitrous oxide have now reached levels unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years.

The significance of 400 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere is that, if this remains on its current upward path, there would be almost no chance of limiting global warming at 2 degrees Celsius – the goal agreed by world leaders in 2010. It would be much higher.

Augustine Njamnashi, of the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance, said the Warsaw conference “comes at a critical time for international action on climate change”, with the science “clearer than ever” that the world will have to cut emissions or face “catastrophic consequences”.

The Third World Network is pressing for an “emissions budget” based on equity and historical responsibility for global warming. Otherwise, negotiator Meena Raman warned, we would “face a hellish future where the current litany of climate change-induced disasters will look mild.”

Yesterday, the European Commission – obviously with an eye on the Warsaw talks – proposed legislation for the EU to formally ratify the second commitment period (2013-2020) of the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, after the first commitment period ended last year.

The EU and its member states are committed to a 20 per cent reduction in their combined emissions by 2020, although environmentalists have consistently argued that this could be pitched higher – to raise the level of ambition of other parties, such as the US.

European Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard said ratifying Kyoto 2 “underlines the EU’s commitment to a legally binding and rules-based approach to international action on climate change” – as opposed to a framework based merely on “voluntary pledges”.