New climate deal seen aiding GDP, lacking sanctions: U.N. chief

Reuters News
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Posted: May 13, 2015 2:35 PM

By Alister Doyle

OSLO (Reuters) - A U.N. deal to combat global warming due in December will seek to lift world economic growth and be based more on encouragement than threats of punishment for non-compliance, the U.N.'s climate chief said on Wednesday.

Christiana Figueres, laying out her recipe for a deal meant to be agreed by almost 200 nations at a summit in Paris, said it would be part of a long haul to limit climate change and not an "overnight miraculous silver bullet".

The looser formula is a sharp shift from the U.N.'s 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which originally bound about 40 rich nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions and foresaw sanctions that were never imposed even when Japan, Russia and Canada dropped out.

Figueres dismissed fears by many developing nations, which have no binding targets under Kyoto and fear that a Paris accord due to enter into force from 2020 could force them to cut fossil fuel use, undermining economic growth.

"The bottom line (is that) this is an agreement and a path that is protective of growth and development rather than threatening to growth and development," Figueres told an online news conference.

The deal would be "enabling and facilitating" rather than a "punitive-type" agreement, she said. The deal's main thrust would be to decouple greenhouse gas emissions from gross domestic product growth.

A U.N. report last year indicated that tough measures to combat climate change, shifting to renewable energies such as wind and solar power, could cut economic growth by 0.06 percent a year.

But it would bring big long-term benefits for everything from human health to crop growth by limiting damaging heat waves, floods, desertification and rising seas.

Overall, she said "good progress" was being made towards a Paris accord. On Tuesday, energy ministers from the Group of Seven industrial nations said three was unprecedented consensus among them on the urgency of tackling warming.

Senior officials will meet in Bonn, Germany, from June 1-11 to prepare for Paris.

Figueres said she expected that China, Australia and Canada would be among nations submitting plans for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020 in coming weeks to prepare for Paris.

So far, 37 nations including the United States, the European Union and Russia have submitted plans. But Figueres said she did not know when India, among the top emitters, would submit plans.

(Reporting by Alister Doyle; Editing by Tom Heneghan)