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Espinosa: Urgent action needed to avoid catastrophic climate change

04 September 2018 | Mitigation

As UN climate negotiators gather in Bangkok, UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa calls on governments to urgently step up efforts to meet Paris Agreement goals

The UN's climate chief Patricia Espinosa has warned the world is heading for "catastrophic" climate change unless governments do more to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Ahead of crunch climate talks taking place this week in Bangkok, Espinosa said the world is unlikely to meet its collective target of limiting global warming to "well below" 2C without more ambitious national goals.

Analysis has shown that current pledges from countries to curb emissions will put the world on track for around 3.4C of warming above pre-industrial levels by 2100 - an increase that scientists warn delivers a heightened risk of irreversible damage including the collapse of global ice sheets, the drowning of small island states and major disruption to global food and water supplies.

"1.5C is the goal that is needed for many islands and many countries that are particularly vulnerable to avoid catastrophic effects. In many cases it means the survival of those countries," Espinosa said. "With the pledges we have on the table now we are not on track to achieve those goals."

Espinosa will be hoping her words will help galvanise diplomats  and ministers gathering this week in Thailand to thrash out more progress on how the Paris Agreement will work in practice when it enters force in 2020, after talks earlier this year in Bonn stalled.

Negotiators must reach some kind of agreement on the treaty's so-called 'rulebook' before the UN's annual climate conference COP24 kicks off in Katowice, Poland in December.

Ministers will be expecting to sign off the rulebook during the COP24 summit, but observers remain concerned that major sticking points in the negotiations remain. There are also fears that the US plan to quit the accord could make it harder for other major polluters to agree to measures that require them to strengthen their own decarbonisation plans.

Espinosa insisted progress towards the finalisation of the rulebook at this week's meeting was of vital importance.

Speaking at a press conference earlier today, she warned it "will be critical for negotiators in Bangkok to produce solid text-based output that can function as the basis for the concluding negotiations in Katowice and be turned into the final implementation guidelines of the Paris Agreement at COP24".

"The texts capturing progress to date are not yet refined enough for this purpose," she added.

One of the major outstanding issues is climate funding. Rich countries have promised to provide $100bn of climate finance for poorer nations by 2020 - a pledge that proved key in unlocking support for the Paris Agreement in 2015. But the total collected to date still falls well short of the $100bn goal, and there is still no clear plan to ensure it is met by 2020. Moreover, since the Paris Agreement was struck the US has refused to assign more money for climate finance, while some other nations, such as Australia, are said to be wavering in their support for climate action.

But Espinosa said the summer's spate of extreme weather events, including deadly fires, heatwaves and floods, should focus governments' minds on doing more to tackle climate change. "It really does make the evidence clear that climate change is having an impact on the daily lives of people," she told Reuters. "I do believe that this will create a bigger sense of urgency."

 

 

Source: Business Green