Environment deal gets low-key endorsement

OSLO – Nations accounting for most of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions have restated their promises to fight climate change, meeting a deadline yesterday in a low-key endorsement of December’s «Copenhagen Accord.» Experts say their promised curbs on greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 are too small so far to meet the accord’s key goal of limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times. The UN Climate Change Secretariat plans to publish a list of submissions today. That may put pressure on all capitals to keep their promises. Countries accounting for at least two-thirds of emissions – led by China, the United States and the European Union – have all written in. Smaller emitters, from the Philippines to Mali, have also sent promises or asked to be associated with the deal. The Secretariat says the January 31 deadline is flexible. «Most of the industrialized countries’ (promises) are in the ‘inadequate’ category,» said Niklas Hoehne, director of energy and climate policy at climate consultancy Ecofys, which assesses how far national commitments will help limit climate change. «The US is not enough, the European Union is not enough. For the major developed countries, it’s still far behind what is expected, except for Japan and Norway,» he said. Some developing nations, such as Brazil or Mexico, were making relatively greater efforts, he said. Floods and droughts The accord’s goal of limiting warming to below 2 degrees Celsius – meant to help limit floods, droughts, wildfires and rising seas – is twinned with promises of $28 billion in aid for developing nations from 2010-12, rising to $100 billion a year from 2020. Ecofys reckons that the promised curbs will set the world toward a 3.5-degree Celsius rise in temperatures, not 2. PricewaterhouseCoopers said that on current projections the world would exceed an estimated «carbon emissions budget» for the first half of this century by 2034, 16 years ahead of schedule. The European Union plans to cut emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and 30 percent if others make deep cuts. The United States plans a cut of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, or 4 percent below 1990 levels. «Carbon prices look set to remain relatively low until economic growth picks up or until a more ambitious target is adopted,» Richard Gledhill, a climate expert at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said of the EU goal. «This will continue to delay major capital investment in low carbon technology,» he said in a statement. The Copenhagen Accord, reached after a summit on December 18 in Denmark, was not adopted as a UN plan for shifting from fossil fuels after opposition by a handful of developing nations, such as Venezuela and Sudan. One possible complication is that some countries, including China and India, have written to the United Nations giving 2020 targets but without explicitly backing the Copenhagen Accord. The UN has asked all to take sides by January 31. An Indian document sent to the UN Secretariat does not mention the accord, for instance, but says it is giving details of plans to 2020 «in view of the current debate under way in the international climate negotiations.»

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