UN official seeks to set expectations for Paris climate talks

UN official seeks to set expectations for Paris climate talks
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The head of the United Nations’ agency for climate negotiations is trying to redefine how success at the Paris climate talks is measured.

Christiana Figueres, who leads the U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, said it is not useful to measure next month's talks based strictly on whether it limits global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

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That is the goal that world leaders set going into the talks. But Figueres and other leaders have been backing away from that standard as it is becoming clear that the talks will not directly lead to greenhouse gas emissions reductions that limit warming to 2 degrees.

“I have already been clear about the fact that if I get one question in Paris that says, ‘You didn’t get us onto 2 degrees,’ then I will chop the head off the person who asks that question,” Figueres said Tuesday at a Washington, D.C., event hosted by The Christian Science Monitor.

“I have been saying for at least a year, if not more, that that is impossible,” she added.

“You cannot turn an economic development model that we have been using and that some in this world have benefitted more from of 150 years and then turn around in one or even in 23 years,” Figueres continued, citing the amount of time she has been working with the U.N.’s climate agency.

The 2-degree target is one that scientists and leaders have endorsed as the way to avoid the most catastrophic results of climate change.

Carbon Action Tracker, a nongovernmental group, estimates that the climate pledges submitted by 157 countries will lead the Earth to about 2.7 degrees of warming by 2100.

Instead, Figueres said the deal finalized in Paris would be an important milestone when nearly all countries in the world commit to fight climate change.

With that, along with advances in technology and in capital going to help poorer nations, the 2-degree target is in reach.

“This question now is one of speed and scale,” she said. “It is not a question of whether we will get to 2 degrees.”