Weather, economy may spur climate "tipping point"

BONN/LONDON Wed Jun 15, 2011 1:00pm EDT

BONN/LONDON (Reuters) - More weather disasters and economic recovery could bring a "tipping point" that jolts governments into far tougher action to combat climate change, the U.N. climate chief said on Wednesday.

Christiana Figueres also told Reuters that government efforts so far to combat global warming were nowhere near enough to avert heatwaves, droughts, mudslides and rising sea levels projected by the U.N. panel of climate scientists.

"I do remain confident that at some point we will have a tipping point at which countries will be able to move faster, much more," she told the Reuters Global Energy and Climate Summit during June 6-17 climate talks in Bonn.

She declined to say when but said she could not rule out that it happened "very soon."

Asked about possible triggers, she mentioned extreme weather, new technology and economic revival.

"More weather disasters -- if there is one thing we can count on we can count on that. We will definitely get more weather disasters," she said.

Clean technologies could help cut costs of fighting climate change, she added. "And then of course the financial crisis that many economies are barely coming out of. We need to move beyond that to a more stable financial situation."

"All of these things need to come together at the same time," said Figueres, a Costa Rican who is head of the Bonn-based U.N. Climate Change Secretariat.

"CREATIVE THINKING"

For the time being, however, she said that progress in addressing climate change was too slow. "It's very clear that the political process is not working at the pace or the scale that is required by science," she said.

And she noted that data from the International Energy Agency showed carbon dioxide emissions rose 5.9 percent last year to a record high despite promised cuts.

She said governments in Bonn were having "creative thinking" about the future of the Kyoto Protocol, the existing U.N. pact that obliges almost 40 developed nations to cut emissions by at least 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.

Japan, Russia and Canada say they will not take part in an extension beyond 2012, arguing that all countries should instead sign up for a new, binding global deal. Developing nations say Kyoto countries must take the lead and extend the pact.

Asked how the standoff would be broken, Figueres said: "It is way too early to identify what path is going to be taken here because they are not at the point of establishing a path. They are opening up the menu of possibilities."

She also said that it was impossible to say when a binding U.N. climate deal might be reached. Negotiations have lost momentum since the Copenhagen summit in 2009 failed to reach a binding U.N. deal as planned.

She also said that she "pretty confident" that governments would put up cash to arrange another meeting before environment ministers meet for annual talks in Durban in late November.

Many governments have been reluctant to put up new cash with so scant progress in 2011.

Last year, they agreed to a goal of limiting global warming to a maximum of below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times, but have yet to decide sufficient cuts in emissions.

Figueres said that governments were working as planned to design a green climate fund, due to channel $100 billion a year to developing nations from 2020, a new mechanism to share clean technologies and a system to aid the poor adapt to impacts of climate change.

"I expect that in Durban countries will be able to adopt the designs of all of these mechanisms," she said. "Having said that, despite all of these huge advances, we are nowhere where we should be in the context of the scientific information we have."

Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.