Report: Climate protection goal slipping away

Scaled-back global warming initiatives in Japan and Australia are moving the world further away from preventing the most dangerous effects of climate change, three research groups said in a joint analysis released Wednesday.

The Climate Action Tracker report concludes that weakened government action put global temperatures on pace to rise 3.7 degrees Celsius by 2100, compared to 3.1 °C if the world's 24 biggest emitters met national pledges made at the 2009 United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen.

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The analysis released alongside the latest UN climate talks in Warsaw, Poland also warns that temperatures could rise even further past the 2 °C target that nations set at the fractious 2009 talks.

“We are seeing a major risk of a further downward spiral in ambition, a retreat from action, and a re-carbonisation of the energy system led by the use of coal,” said Bill Hare, director of Climate Analytics, one of three research groups behind the Climate Action Tracker project.

Japan, pushed away from nuclear power in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, recently backed away from its pledge to cut emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. Officials replaced it with a pledge to cut them 3.8 percent compared to the higher 2005 baseline.

The new report is the latest to warn of a big gap between national-level pledges and the emissions cuts needed to limit the global temperature rise to 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, which scientists say would help avoid some of the most severe effects of warming.

The United Nations Environment Program warned in a Nov. 5 report that even if nations meet their existing pledges, emissions will be far above the level needed in 2020 to get on the “least-cost pathway” to stay within the temperature target.

And the International Energy Agency warned on Nov. 12 that despite stepped-up efforts by the U.S. and some other nations, the world is “on a trajectory consistent with a long-term average temperature increase of 3.6 °C, far above the internationally agreed 2 °C target.”