Pledges for Paris Signal Breakthrough in Global Warming Fight

  • *Commitments may limit growth of temperatures to 3 degrees C
  • *New climate deal could encourage further emission cuts

Climate pledges by nations across the world signal a breakthrough in efforts to step up the fight against global warming, according to the United Nations Environment Program.

Commitments by 146 countries submitted to the UN for a new climate agreement next month put the world on track to cut greenhouse gases by 4 gigatons to 6 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year in 2030 compared with current trajectories, according to a report by the UN Environment Program. The pledges cover 88 percent of global emissions in 2012.

While that would not suffice to limit the growth of temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius by the end of this century -- a level recommended by scientists to avoid catastrophic climate changes -- the international deal that envoys aim to reach in Paris in December may encourage further reductions.

The pledges “represent a historic step in the direction of decarbonizing our economies,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. “In order to close the gap it is essential that the Paris Agreement adopt a dynamic approach in which ambitions, the mobilization of climate finance and other forms of cooperation can be adjusted upwards at regular intervals.”

The UN climate gathering is set for Nov. 30-Dec. 11. Envoys from almost 200 nations aim to reach a deal that would wrest commitments for the first time from both the developed and developing world to tackle the kind of pollution blamed for more frequent heat waves, hurricanes and floods.

Together with actions already taken by governments, full enactment of the pledges submitted so far could cut projected emissions by up to 11 gigatons by the end of the next decade. That would put the world on track to slow down the rise of temperatures to 3 degrees by 2100 -- still a scenario with significant climate impacts, according to UNEP.

Global emissions are currently projected to be at 56 gigatons in 2030 compared, with the 42-gigatons recommended as the least costly pathway to reach the 2-degree Celsius goal. Should all the commitments for the Paris deal be implemented the gap would shrink from 14 gigatons to 12 gigatons, according to UNEP. If countries that haven’t submitted their plans yet were to reduce their emissions at the same percentage, the difference would narrow by a further 1 gigaton by the end of the next decade.

Such a scenario may be avoided if negotiators in Paris agree to review and deepen emission-reductions in subsequent years. Envoys consider a five-year revision period to accelerate the pace of pollution cuts.

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