Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Africa: UN Climate Talks Need Fresh Ambition On Emissions

A week into the U.N. climate negotiations in Bonn - my first as the lead negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) - it has become abundantly clear to me that, at these talks, the devil is in the details.

This is particularly true when it comes to accounting for the reductions countries have pledged to make to the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming.

According to a recent United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report, total global emissions approached the equivalent of 48 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions (GtC02e) in 2010 and are on track to hit 56 GtC02e in 2020.

It also found that annual emissions must be reduced to below 44 GtC02e in 2020, and continue declining steeply thereafter to avoid warming of more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels - to say nothing of the more cautious temperature goal of "well-below 1.5 degrees Celsius" that is supported by over 100 vulnerable countries.

However, even if countries achieve the more ambitious end of their pledges, we would fall short of the scientifically determined mitigation requirement by 6 to 8 GtC02e in 2020, as was noted in the climate agreement reached in Durban last year.

Already, life-altering changes have been observed across our membership as a result of an average global temperature increase of less than 1 degree Celsius, including the loss of islands in parts of Kiribati and the Maldives, as well as more frequent and intense storms, heat waves, droughts and other climate impacts.

In other words, unless the emissions gap is closed in the near-term, the opportunity to avoid further - potentially catastrophic - damage may irrevocably be lost.

In Bonn, AOSIS presented our proposal to close the gap: what we're calling our "Workplan For Survival." More