UN climate talks should stick with 2 degree goal: EU negotiator

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 11, 2012 11:51 AM
UN climate talks should stick with 2 degree goal: EU negotiator

By Nina Chestney

LONDON (Reuters) - United Nations' climate talks should continue pushing for more ambitious action to ensure global warming is kept under 2 degrees, an EU climate negotiator said on Tuesday, a month after the United States was accused of backtracking on the goal.

Almost 200 nations agreed in 2010 to limit rising temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) above pre-industrial times to avoid dangerous impacts from climate change like floods, droughts and rising sea levels.

To slow the pace of global warming, last year's U.N. climate talks in South Africa agreed to develop a new legally binding global climate deal by 2015 which would come into force no later than 2020.

However, experts have warned that the chance of limiting global temperature rise to below 2 degrees is getting smaller as global greenhouse gas emissions rise due to burning fossil fuels.

"It is very clear that we should push in the negotiations that the (2 degree goal) is not enough. The reason we are not doing enough is due to the political situation in some parts of the world," Peter Betts, the UK's director of international climate change and senior EU climate negotiator, told an all-party climate change group at the UK Parliament.

Last month, the United States was criticized for saying it supported a more flexible approach to a new climate deal - which might not necessarily guarantee the 2 degree limit was met - but it later added that flexibility would give the world a better chance to agree on a new deal.

Several countries, including some of the most vulnerable to climate change, have long said the 2 degree threshold is not enough and a 1.5 degree limit would be safer.


Emissions of the main greenhouse gas carbon dioxide rose 3.1 percent in 2011 to a record high. China was the world's top emitter, followed by the United States.

"The 2 degree goal is sensitive for China who needs more than anyone else to achieve that goal, but they would say privately they are not sure how to do that," Betts said.

Countries will meet in Doha, Qatar, at the end of November for two weeks of talks to continue work on a new climate treaty. A week of interim talks in Bangkok ended last week, with limited progress on the main stumbling blocks.

Uncertainty about changes in political leadership in the United States and China are making it unlikely that the most difficult climate decisions will be made this year.

"The challenging economic environment in the past couple of years has been a feeding ground for climate skeptics looking for excuses not to go down the low-carbon route," said UK energy and climate minister Greg Barker.

Holding this year's U.N. climate summit in Middle Eastern oil producer Qatar may be "a bit bizarre" but could help to convince other Middle Eastern oil giants of the benefits of moving to a low-carbon economy, he added.

"Integrating this agenda with the mainstream oil and gas economy, as we will be dependent on fossil fuels for many many years to come, is sensible. I see Doha is an opportunity to bring in countries who that have previously been antagonistic to our agenda...particularly Saudi Arabia," Barker said.

Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, has repeatedly been accused of blocking progress at past U.N. climate talks.

However, it announced plans in May to potentially build up to 41,000 MW of solar power plants within two decades at an estimated cost of over $100 billion.

"They do appreciate there are elements of this low-carbon agenda they can sign up to and we need to find ways of bringing people in," Barker said.

(Editing by William Hardy)