OSLO (Reuters) - Major nations should set clear and ambitious goals for 2050 cuts in greenhouse gas emissions this week as a step toward a new U.N. climate pact, the U.N.’s top climate change official said on Monday.
“These are the countries that can make the difference...it’s certainly the time to make the difference,” Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, told Reuters of a meeting of 17 major emitters during a July 8-10 Group of Eight summit.
He said the “Major Economies Forum” (MEF), which includes China, India and Brazil alongside G8 nations, had a “moral responsibility” to show leadership in working out a U.N. climate treaty due to be agreed in Copenhagen in December.
MEF nations, which account for 80 percent of world greenhouse gas emissions largely caused by burning fossil fuels, will consider a goal of cutting world greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2050, according to a draft text.
“The yardstick (for success) for me is a clear — not a fuzzy — long-term goal,” de Boer said.
Last year the G8 outlined a “vision” of halving emissions by 2050, without setting a base year. Major developing countries did not sign up for a 2050 goal, arguing the rich first had to set deep cuts in their own national emissions by 2020.
A recent MEF draft added the word “aspirational” for 2050 goals after U.S. insistence, according to Tobias Muencheyer of environmental group Greenpeace. It also omits a base year.
Among other yardsticks, de Boer said it was “important that the industrialized country members of the MEF set ambitious national goals for 2020.”
He also urged developed nations to work out plans to provide developing nations with short-term finance to help them cope with ever more floods, heatwaves, storms and rising sea levels.
De Boer said 2050 goals could help investors choose, for instance, between building a cheaper coal-fired power plant that could risk penalties in future for high greenhouse gas emissions or a more costly but cleaner solar power plant.
“The man or woman in the street may wonder why you are asking for something for 2050,” he said. “I think it’s important, if gives a clear investment signal to business — provided it’s ambitious.”
And he said there were several ways to formulate a long-term goal for combating climate change.
The European Union, for instance, wants to limit a rise in global temperatures to a maximum of 2 Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times. Temperatures rose about 0.7 Celsius in the last century.
Other goals are targets for deep cuts in emissions, favored by President Barack Obama, or setting a maximum for greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.
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Editing by Tim Pearce