UN climate talks start in Doha

 

Qatar

Modest expectations marked the start of UN climate talks Monday, as negotiators and experts all warned that the two-week session would only lay the groundwork for a potentially ambitious global-warming pact by the end of the decade.

This is "a transitional climate conference," said Todd Stern, U.S. special envoy for climate change: It will end the negotiations of the past five years and inaugurate a new phase in which major emerging economies will be called on to play a larger role in curbing their greenhouse-gas emissions.

The session, taking place in Doha, Qatar, under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), includes representatives from nearly 200 countries.

Aiming for the end of the decade may not be soon enough, say scientists, environmental activists and many of the world's poorest nations. The world's governments must commit to deeper carbon cuts now in order to avert dangerous climate impacts. Last week, the World Bank issued a report suggesting that a temperature rise of 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100, which scientific forecasts say is possible, could cause widespread crop failures, malnutrition and significant sea-level rise.

World leaders have pledged under the UNFCC to keep warming from exceeding 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.

A recent U.N. Environment Programme report projected that the emissions trend could produce a global temperature rise of between 5.4 and 9 degrees Fahrenheit by the century's end.

"Time is running out," the UNFCC executive secretary, Christiana Figueres, told reporters at a news conference in Doha. "The door is closing fast on us because the pace and the scale of action is simply not yet where it must be."

On Monday, a coalition of 100 countries, including the Alliance of Small Island States, the Africa Group and the Least Developed Countries, called upon industrialized nations to commit to legally binding carbon cuts.

"This conference comes in the wake of disasters that offered an alarming glimpse at what life on a warming planet looks like," the group said.

But much of the ongoing negotiations will focus on more procedural matters, such as determining which countries will commit to a second round of emissions cuts under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Any new Kyoto agreement will cover less than 15 percent of the world's carbon output: While developing countries say a second round is critical, it will fail to change the global emissions trajectory.

China's chief climate negotiator, Xie Zhenhua, recently said China's emissions could peak when its per capita gross domestic product reaches roughly half of what it was when developed countries' emissions peaked. According to an HSBC Bank analysis, that would be around 2030, more than a decade later than scientists say would be required to meet the world leaders' temperature goal.

Pennsylvania State University professor Michael Mann, who directs the Penn State Earth System Science Center, said policymakers have assumed if they kept atmospheric carbon concentrations at 450 parts per million they'd have a 50 percent chance of limiting temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius. But new research suggests the estimates were too optimistic about uncertainties such as the extent to which future cloud cover will reflect sunlight.

"So often uncertainty is offered as a reason for inaction," Mann said. "It can really break against us. It's an argument for why we need to take action."

While this year's round of talks is not expected to produce any major breakthroughs, the fact that the United States is on track to meet its goal of reducing its greenhouse-gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and has provided $7.46 billion in international climate assistance over the past three years may give it some leverage with other countries.

Michael Wolosin, who directs research and policy at the consulting firm Climate Advisers, said the funding amounts to a "very real and sustained increase in international climate finance by the United States . . . even in a time of difficult fiscal pressures."

Still, Michael MacCracken, chief scientist for climate change at the Climate Institute, said the U.S. will have to make deeper cuts in emissions in order to show economic growth and reconcile low carbon emissions. "Developed countries need to show a modern economy can prosper on low greenhouse-gas emissions," he said.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

Maths Teacher

£22000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A West Yorkshire School i...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week