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Environmentalists hope that the UN’s 19th Climate Change Conference in the capital Warsaw this week will mark a dramatic shift from the previous 18 meets and produce a mechanism to effectively curb CO2 emissions, which have been steadily rising.
The UN itself is pushing industrialised nations, emerging economies and developing countries to move toward a global climate change agreement that sufficiently reduces carbon emissions to offset increase in the Earth’s temperature by the end of the century; increases financing for developing nations to work toward effecting environment-friendly policies; address issues of loss and damage as a result of any policy change; and creates a road map that will see a concrete agenda by 2015.
Christiana Figueres, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s executive director, believes that the time is critical and that the Warsaw meeting is being held at a pivotal moment.
“We still have time and the means to limit warming to the internationally agreed two degrees Celsius target. But to meet this international commitment, we must respond to what science is telling us,” Figueres told the media last week.
Her warning came in the wake of two reports, both of which appear to signal that the best efforts will not be able to limit global warming to 2C by the end of this century.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said in its report last week that carbon emissions will reach 59 billion tonnes by 2020 – 25 billion tonnes above the threshold for a 2C global rise in temperature.
Meanwhile, a report from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) says that the level of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere hit record levels in 2012.
“The World Meteorological Organization’s annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin shows that between 1990 and 2012 there was a 32 per cent increase in radiative forcing – the warming effect on our climate – because of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other heat-trapping long-lived gases such as methane and nitrous oxide,” the report said.
WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud citing data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its recent 5th Assessment Report says that the levels of CO2, methane and nitrous oxide have reached their highest in the past 800,000 years.
“As a result of this, our climate is changing, our weather is more extreme, ice sheets and glaciers are melting and sea levels are rising,” Jarraud says.
He warned of devastating global climate changes – as a result of at least a 4C rise in the Earth’s temperature – if drastic measure are not agreed soon.
But consensus on such measures may prove untenable in the interim. Many industrialised nations have been trying to balance economic cost with the implementation of strict emissions quotas.
Poland, the host country for the current round of climate talks, as well as some other European countries like Germany believes recent EU efforts to change formerly agreed reduction targets are overambitious, particularly when it comes to automotive emissions.
Poland, which generates most of its electricity from coal and is considered one of the continent’s worst polluters, has refused to comply.