World News

World to fail in deep climate cuts this decade - U.N.

OSLO (Reuters) - The world is set to fail to make deep enough cuts in greenhouse gases in the next decade to tackle global warming, the U.N.’s top climate official said on Monday in a bleak assessment of the prospects for a U.N. deal.

Steam and other emissions are seen coming from funnels at a chemical manufacturing facility in Melbourne June 24, 2009. REUTERS/Mick Tsikas/Files

Despite his gloomy short-term outlook, Yvo de Boer, who will step down on July 1 after about four years in the job, expressed confidence governments would eventually enact sufficiently tough goals, such as an emissions cut by rich nations of 80 percent by 2050.

“I don’t see the process delivering adequate mitigation targets in the next decade,” de Boer told a news conference midway through two weeks of talks in Bonn among senior government negotiators from about 185 nations.

“Over the longer term we will get this issue under control,” de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, added in a webcast news briefing. Targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions are referred to as “mitigation”.

The U.N. panel of climate scientists has suggested that industrialised nations would have to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25-40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 to put the world on track to avoid dangerous global warming.

Under that scenario, developing nations led by China and India are expected to slow the growth of their emissions by 2020 in a first step to help avert more floods, droughts, desertification, heatwaves and rising sea levels.


De Boer said that promises so far by developed countries made at the U.N. summit in Copenhagen in December “take us to 13-14 percent below 1990 levels...and clearly we need to move beyond that.”

Environment ministers will meet in Cancun, Mexico, in late November for annual talks with some nations still hoping to reach a new binding climate treaty. De Boer has said in the past that a legally binding deal is out of reach for 2010.

Copenhagen ended with a non-binding accord to limit a rise in temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.

De Boer said that almost all industrialised nations at the summit had favoured an 80 percent cut in their emissions by 2050. “I think we are working towards that in the longer term and I do think that is adequate,” he said.

De Boer spent much of his time in the run-up to Copenhagen cajoling both rich and poor nations to be more ambitious. “I am confident that we will get there in the longer run. Having said that, I do believe it’s a longer journey,” he said.

He said that a first step had been agreement in 1992 on the U.N. Climate Convention, followed by the U.N.’s Kyoto Protocol in 1997 that binds all industrialised nations except the United States to cut emissions by an average of at least 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.

In the United States, legislation to cap emissions is stalled in the Senate.