National emissions plans too weak to limit climate change - study

National plans for limiting greenhouse gas emissions fall short of tough action needed to slow climate change under a United Nations agreement due in Paris in December, European researchers said on Wednesday.

The plans submitted so far to the UN by about 50 nations representing 70 per cent of world emissions are too weak to keep temperatures below an agreed ceiling of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times needed to avoid the worst effects of warming, they said.

The Climate Action Tracker (CAT), produced by four European research organisations, assessed 15 major nations’ strategies for the period beyond 2020 and found seven were “inadequate”, including those of Japan, Australia and Canada.

Six were “medium”, including those submitted by top emitters China, the United States and the European Union.

Only Ethiopia and Morocco put forward plans that were rated “sufficient” contributions to limit warming to 2C.

The national plans are meant as the building blocks of a Paris accord due to be reached at a summit from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11. Many countries, including India, have not yet submitted plans.

“It is clear that if the Paris meeting locks in present climate commitments for 2030, holding warming below 2C could essentially become unfeasible, and 1.5C beyond reach,” said Bill Hare, of Climate Analytics, one of the groups.

Senior government officials are meeting in Bonn this week for the second-to-last session of talks before Paris, struggling to cut an unwieldy draft 83-page text.

Almost 200 governments agreed in 2010 that a 2C rise was the maximum allowable to avert the heaviest impact of climate change, including floods, droughts and rising sea levels. About 100 developing nations favour a tougher ceiling of 1.5 degrees.

Tony de Brum, Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands, said that weak national plans would have disastrous impacts on people living in low-lying islands because of a rise in sea levels.

“Our islands cannot survive in a world in which the temperature rises more than 1.5 degrees Celsius,” he said in a speech in Fiji.

David Waskow of the World Resources Institute think-tank, which is not part of CAT, said there were some recent encouraging signs for stronger action such as a cooperation agreement reached between Brazil and Germany last month.

Both he and CAT said Paris should include a mechanism to oblige nations to review their pledges at regular intervals, with a view to strengthening them.

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