UN Envoys Consider 2050 Carbon Target in Climate Deal Talks

Envoys at United Nations global warming talks are considering whether to adopt a target for carbon emissions around 2050 as they struggle to work toward a deal to limit climate change that they aim to agree on in 2015.

The delegates from about 190 nations meeting this week in Bonn are discussing whether they could tighten targets by adopting a worldwide goal for the middle of this century backed by interim measures proposed by national governments, said Alden Meyer, policy director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, which is following the talks.

“The fear is countries would pick their own criteria to put their own plan in the best light,” Meyer said in a telephone interview.

The measures would feed into the agenda for the annual round of global warming involving environment ministers and heads of state starting in November in Warsaw. Meyer said he’s concerned the efforts fall short of goals to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial levels.

“If no one does anything on mitigation, there may be a huge cost on adaptation, and with the little money you put in you might not be able to cover that cost,” Artur Runge-Metzger, climate negotiator for the European Union, said today in an interview in Bonn. “So maybe that’s not going to work out, that kind of thing.”

Adopting Goals

Delegates to the talks already have agreed that they would work toward a new pact on limiting emissions in 2015 that would take affect in 2020. They’re seeking to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted in 1997 and limits greenhouse gas pollution from industrial nations.

Pushing the goal back to 2050 would help bridge the difficulty of nations agreeing more ambitious targets this decade. The U.S. submission to this week’s discussions said countries may not have in place even by 2015 their “full range” of post-2020 measures and “will need to have the flexibility to update their contributions.”

Global emissions in 2020 will be at least 52 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, or 18 percent more than the 44 billion-ton limit needed to meet the 2 degrees target, the UN said in a report on Nov. 21.

National Plan

The proposals being discussed in Bonn would include measurable criteria and would be scrutinized by other nations. They could be adjusted over time to help ensure the country was doing its fair share, Meyer said.

Each national plan may include efforts to mitigate the effects of global warming and help nations adapt to rising sea levels and more violent storms predicted as a result of increasing carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere, said Tara Shine, head of research and development at the Mary Robinson Foundation on Climate Justice, a Dublin advocacy group. Shine made a presentation at the talks on April 29.

The new measures would allow governments to tell voters the world is moving toward a climate goal over the next few decades, Shine said. Such steps would preserve governments’ control over programs within national capitals, and ensure reviews of adequacy of country actions at international level.

“You’ve got to give the politicians a story they can tell their electorates,” such as how cutting emissions now will reduce costs in the future, she said. Cuts alone are a difficult policy to sell, she said.

Nations may be able to participate in emissions trading, while targets set in country plans can cut investment risk in the absence of global limits, Shine said.

India has been arguing for a climate agreement that goes beyond emission cuts and covers requirements outlined in the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said Mira Mehrishi, the nation’s lead negotiator.

“It has to include all the elements that are there in the convention,” Mehrishi said in an interview at the talks. “Currently we are all going around. Let’s see how it develops in June perhaps.”

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