World set to bust global warming goal, but U.N. cool on threat from Trump

GENEVA (Reuters) - Greenhouse gas emissions are on course to be about 30 percent above the 2030 global target, but there are signs of a move away from fossil fuels that not even U.S. President Donald Trump can stop, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

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Trump has announced he will pull out of the Paris climate agreement under which 195 countries pledged to try to keep global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.

An annual U.N. audit of progress toward that goal showed emissions are likely to be 53.0-55.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year by 2030, far above the 42 billion ton threshold for averting the 2 degree rise.

But U.N. Environment chief Erik Solheim hailed signs of progress, with an apparent three-year plateau in carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels, cement production and other industrial processes, largely due to slower growth in coal use in China and the United States.

“We all know the bad news. In my view however we are at a turning point where the good news is taking precedence from the bad news,” he told an event to launch the report in Geneva.

“We are at a watershed moment where we have stopped the rise in CO2 emissions, there is every reason to believe we can bring them down, and we see great news coming from all over the world every day,” Solheim said by video link from Nairobi.

He said the question he was asked wherever he went was: “What about Donald Trump?”, to which he answered that the momentum was now with private sector efforts to combat climate change which Trump would not be able to stop.

“In all likelihood the United States of America will live up to its commitments not because of the White House but because of the private sector,” he said. “The train is on the right track, but our duty is to speed it up.”

The U.N. says greater efforts will be needed because temperatures are set to rise by 3.0-3.2 degrees Celsius this century. Ministers will work on guidelines for the Paris agreement in Bonn next month.

Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International, said climate-fueled hurricanes, floods and drought would rapidly worsen unless ministers committed to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

“Paris was just the starting point,” she said.

“Faster, bolder action is needed. Leaders must emerge in Bonn and use the platform to take stronger action and hold others to account if they fail to live up to their obligations. We can still achieve 1.5 degrees Celsius if we all work together.”

Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Robin Pomeroy