UN climate chief: National carbon pledges are good start, but not enough

Some 150 nations have made plans to curb emissions, but the UN says they need to do more. To prevent the worst effects of climate change, the global temperature needs to stay within two degrees of pre-industrial levels.

Michel Euler/AP/File
United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres, gestures as she speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Paris, France, July 22. Emissions-cutting pledges made by governments ahead of a December conference are a good step toward achieving an international global-warming goal, but they aren't yet enough, Secretary Figueres said on Friday.

Some 150 countries are setting plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions and slow climate change this century. But hey will likely need to do even more to prevent global temperatures from rising to catastrophic levels, the United Nations said on Friday.

The current national strategies in place would restrict world emissions to 56.7 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide per year by 2030, four billion fewer than expected. 

“It is a very good step... but it is not enough,” UN Climate Change Secretariat Christina Figueres said during a presentation in Bonn, Switzerland, according to Reuters.

Scientist caution that any increase in temperatures above 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century will result in floods, droughts, and higher sea levels. In order to avoid the worst effects of climate change, the world will need to keep the temperature rise under 2 degrees. The current target of 56.7 billion metric tons could still result in more drastic temperature increases. 

In 2010 nearly 200 governments agreed to keep global warming to 2 degrees. Temperatures have already increased about .9 degrees Celsius. Independent studies show that, at the current rate, temperature likley will rise 2.7 degrees by the end of the century. 

The 150 plans currently in development, known as the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, will become the framework for a broader pact to be hashed out during climate talks in Paris on Nov. 30. The focus of that event will be fighting global warming after 2020. The Paris talks will have to decide on further action to be taken to meet the 2 degree limit.

"Many countries have been healthily conservative about what they have put forward," Figueres said. Many countries, particularly China, have the potential to achieve much larger emissions reductions, she added.

With the framework of national plans established, many see the Paris meeting as the best chance to establish a lasting agreement on climate change.

"We insist that the Paris Agreement sets up a mechanism to get countries to further drive down emissions, without delay," said Martin Kaiser, the head of international climate politics at Greenpeace, according to Reuters.

Others hope that the Paris talk will accelerate the proliferation of alternative methods to limit climate change.

This report includes material from Reuters.

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