U.N. report: Copenhagen climate pledges a far cry from cuts needed

The report notes that in order to have a strong shot at cost-effectively keeping the increase at — or under — 2 degrees this century, global emissions must peak within 10 years and be about 44 gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent in 2020.

The report concludes that under a “business-as-usual” scenario, annual global emissions could be around 56 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2020.

The Copenhagen pledges will take a bite out of that, but it’s not enough, the UNEP finds.

“Fully implementing the pledges and intentions associated with the Copenhagen Accord could, in the best case identified by the [scientific] group, cut emissions to around 49 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2020,” a summary of the report states. “This would leave a gap of around 5 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent that needs to be bridged over the coming decade — an amount equal to the emissions of all the world’s cars, buses and trucks in 2005.

“In the worst case identified in the report — where countries follow their lowest ambitions and accounting rules set by negotiators are lax rather than strict — emissions could be as high as 53 gigatonnes in 2020, only slightly lower than business as usual projections,” it adds.

The report comes ahead of the next big U.N. climate summit in Cancún, Mexico, that begins Nov. 29.

The Copenhagen talks produced only a limited, nonbinding accord that fell far short of expectations. But U.N. officials say the new “emissions gap” report shows that it nonetheless provides a foundation for continued progress.

“The results indicate that the U.N. meeting in Copenhagen could prove to have been more of a success than a failure if all the commitments, intentions and funding, including fully supporting the pledges of developing economies, are met,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, in a prepared statement Tuesday.

“There is a gap between the science and current ambition levels. But, what this report shows is that the options on the table right now in the negotiations can get us almost 60 per cent of the way there. This is a good first step,” Steiner said.

And here’s Christiana Figueres, the top U.N. climate change official:

“The report underlines both the feasibility of emission reductions and the importance of international cooperation to raise the current inadequate level of ambition. Governments meeting at the U.N. Climate Conference in Cancún will need to both anchor the pledges they made in Copenhagen in the U.N. context and to work swiftly to agree ways to reduce emissions so that the world has a chance of staying below a 2 degrees Celsius temperature rise.”

The Cancún summit is not expected to produce a binding treaty, but advocates hope for progress in areas such as funding for developing nations’ efforts to battle climate change.