* Rapid shift to low-carbon energy needed to meet UN goals
* Delays to 2030 would mean sucking carbon from the air
(Adds details, quotes)
By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent
BERLIN, April 13 A United Nations report said on
Sunday that governments must act faster to keep global warming
in check and delays until 2030 could force them to use
little-tested technologies to extract greenhouse gases from the
The study, drawing on work by more than 1,000 experts, said
a radical shift from fossil fuels to low-carbon energy such as
wind, solar or nuclear power would shave only about 0.06 of a
percentage point a year off world economic growth.
"It does not cost the world to save the planet," Ottmar
Edenhofer, a German scientist who is co-chair of a meeting of
the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),
told a news conference in Berlin.
The report, endorsed by governments, is meant as the main
scientific guide for nations working on a U.N. deal to be agreed
in late 2015 to rein in greenhouse gas emissions that have hit
repeated highs this century, led by China's industrial growth.
"We don't have the luxury of time," Rajendra Pachauri, chair
of the IPCC, told Reuters, saying costs would rise sharply if
strong action was delayed to 2030. "We will have to move quickly
and with an unprecedented level of international cooperation."
Governments have promised to limit temperature rises to a
maximum 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial
times to avert ever more heatwaves, floods, droughts and rising
sea levels that the IPCC says are linked to man-made warming.
Such levels were still attainable, it said, but policies in
place so far put the world on target for a temperature rise of
up to 4.8C (8.6F) by 2100. Temperatures have already risen by
about 0.8 C (1.4F) since the Industrial Revolution of the 18th
and 19th centuries.
IPCC scenarios showed world emissions of greenhouse gases,
mainly from burning fossil fuels, would need to peak soon and
tumble by between 40 and 70 percent from 2010 levels by 2050,
and then to almost zero by 2100, to keep rises below 2C.
The IPCC said that natural gas, which emits fewer greenhouse
gases than coal, could get a boost until about 2050.
"Ambitious mitigation may even require removing carbon
dioxide from the atmosphere," the IPCC said. Delay in acting to
cut emissions until 2030 would force far greater use of such
technologies, a 33-page summary for policymakers said.
One method would be to burn wood, crops or other biomass to
generate electricity, capture the greenhouse gases from the
exhaust fumes and bury them underground, it said.
The experimental technology would reduce the amount of
carbon in a natural cycle of plant growth and decay. But there
are risks, such as the need for vast land areas to grow biomass,
which would displace crops and push up food prices.
A simpler method to remove these gases from the air is to
plant trees that soak them up as they grow, the IPCC says.
The report did not mention "geo-engineering" options, such
as placing giant mirrors in space to bounce sunlight away from
the Earth. "At this point in time, it's not a policy option,
Many world leaders welcomed the IPCC report, even as it
underscored they were not doing enough. "This report makes very
clear we face an issue of global willpower, not capacity," U.S.
Secretary of State John Kerry said.
European Union Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said:
"The report is clear: there really is no plan B for climate
change. There is only plan A: collective action to reduce
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hoped world leaders would
bring "ambitious announcements and actions" to a summit in New
York in September to map out ways to fight global warming.
The IPCC report is the third and final part of a massive
United Nations series, updating science for the first time since
2007. A summary of findings will be issued in October.
The IPCC says it is at least 95 percent probable that
man-made emissions are the main cause of warming. But many
voters are doubtful, suspecting that factors such as the natural
vagaries of the weather or sunspots might be to blame.
Low-carbon energies, which accounted for 17 percent of world
energy supplies in 2010, would have to triple or quadruple their
share by 2050, displacing conventional fossil fuels as the top
source of energy, IPCC scenarios showed.
Low-carbon energy can include coal-, natural gas or
oil-fired power plants if they use carbon capture and storage
(CCS) to bury emissions underground. That technology, however,
is mostly experimental, and costly.
(Reporting by Alister Doyle; Editing by Tom Heneghan)