WASHINGTON, Oct 2 (Reuters Point Carbon) - The U.N. climate chief said Monday that countries have not backed off what they had agreed in climate talks in Durban last year but said current actions and pledges are not enough to avert a dangerous rise in global temperatures.
Speaking at the Carbon Forum North America in Washington, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said although both developing and developed countries are making "good progress in the right direction" toward a legal agreement, current global efforts are insufficient.
"We are increasing the scope and coverage of emissions and also increasing the legal nature of those reductions because we are going from voluntary pledges to a legally based agreement," Figueres told a press conference on the sidelines of the conference.
"However, even if that goes into effect, the fact is that all of those efforts actually represent 60 percent of the global effort that needs to be made if we are to keep to a 2 degree (global temperature) rise," she added, referring to the threshold scientists have said would stave off dangerous climate change.
Last year, negotiators in Durban agreed to formalize a new legally binding emission reduction agreement by 2015, which would go into force by 2020 in which both rich and poorer countries would participate.
Figueres said that despite some reports after Durban that some major emerging economies, such as China and India, have backtracked on accepting a legally binding agreement, she does not "see any moving-away from where Durban left us."
"No comments I have heard after Durban surprise me or concern me. I am actually very grateful that the countries are taking the Durban text very seriously," she said.
The climate chief said that the Durban Platform, like other internationally negotiated texts, was left "creatively ambiguous" to serve as a starting point for the next round of negotiating.
She said that one principle that will play a role in the new agreement would be the concept of "common but differentiated responsibilities (CBRD)," a line between developing and developed countries drawn in 1992 that enabled countries such as Brazil and China to escape mandatory carbon cuts.
Brazil's climate change negotiator told Reuters last week that his country and fellow emerging economies China, India and South Africa, that a new climate agreement must contain the principle, which the U.S. has said created an unwelcome "firewall" between developed and developing countries.
"What is important… is while recognizing the (rich countries') clear responsibility we also need to move forward," Figueres said, adding that CBRD will remain a principle but will also be joined with a new concept of ensuring that all countries have equitable access to sustainable development.
She said the U.S., the world's second biggest greenhouse gas emitter after China, needs to increase its current target to cut emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and risks falling behind developing countries that are making greater advances in cleaner energy.
"This is an enormous lost opportunity to the United States, and particularly to the United States manufacturing industries, if they do not take advantage of the opportunities that are given to them with the explosion in green technologies that could be one very important way for the United States to move out of its fiscal cliff," Figueres said.
Reporting by Valerie Volcovici