WARSAW (Reuters) - World governments meeting in Poland from Monday are likely to make only modest progress in reaching a 2015 deal to fight climate change, with concern over economic growth at least partially eclipsing scientists’ warnings of rising temperatures.
“We can’t expect a grand agreement that solves the problems in one fell swoop,” said Elliot Diringer, executive director of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, a U.S. think-tank.
The best hope, he said, was for a 2015 accord in which countries would agree limits on emissions of greenhouse gases with a mechanism to compare and strengthen them over time.
The outline of a deal, to be discussed by negotiators in Warsaw from November 11-22, is emerging that will not halt a creeping rise in temperatures but might be a guide for tougher measures in later years.
Environmentalists warned about the dangers of delaying action to avert more floods, heatwaves and rising sea levels.
They point to super typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 10,000 people in the Philippines last week, as a reminder of the risks of extreme weather. A U.N. scientific panel says cyclones may become more intense in some regions by 2100 as the planet warms.
Global average temperatures have risen by 0.8 degrees Celsius (1.4 Fahrenheit) since the Industrial Revolution and are set to exceed 2C - a target ceiling agreed at a previous U.N. summit - on current trends, despite a hiatus in the pace of warming so far this century.
In September, the U.N. panel of climate experts raised the probability that mankind is the main cause of recent warming to 95 percent or “extremely likely” from 90 percent “very likely”.
The World Meteorological Organisation said this month atmospheric volumes of greenhouse gases reached a new record in 2012, driven up by growth in emerging economies led by China.
Developed nations are putting most emphasis on spurring economic growth after the financial crisis, rather than making big investments in renewable energies such as wind or solar power. Economic slowdown has - at least temporarily - cut greenhouse gas emissions in many nations.
The U.S. shale boom helped push U.S. carbon emissions to an 18-year low last year, but also shifted cheap, polluting coal into Europe where it is used in power stations.
Many governments, especially in Europe, are concerned climate policies, such as generous support for renewables, push up energy bills for consumers, a major political issue in countries such as Britain.
The Warsaw meeting will also seek ways to raise aid to help developing nations cope with climate change. They have been promised $100 billion a year by 2020, from $10 billion a year from 2010-12.
On Monday, aid charity Oxfam estimated that climate aid totaled between $7.6 billion and $16.3 billion in 2013, but said “murky accounting and a lack of transparency by rich countries” made it hard to know.
Christiana Figueres, the U.N. climate chief, said Warsaw was a “pivotal moment” when it was still possible to limit rising temperatures to 2C above pre-industrial times. “Global greenhouse gas emissions need to peak this decade,” she said.
Hosts Poland said a climate deal should allow countries to define their own emissions targets - from power plants, factories and cars - rather than try to impose them in a global diktat.
“We need flexibility between the countries, that they will promote their own strategies, their own goals,” Environment Minister Marcin Korolec said.
Poland uses coal to generate 90 percent of its electricity and has upset some delegates by planning a “world coal summit” about how to cut emissions from coal during the climate talks.
Environmental group Greenpeace projected messages on six Polish coal-fired power plants on Sunday saying: “Climate change starts here!” and “Storms start here!”.
Reporting By Alister Doyle, Agnieszka Barteczko and Ilze Filks; Editing by Janet Lawrence