From: Fred Pearce, Yale Enviornment360.
Published September 14, 2015 11:37 AM

Climate talks in Paris may not make enough of a difference

It’s Paris or bust. Climate diplomats are preparing for a United Nations climate conference in the French capital in December that scientists say is probably the last realistic chance for the world to prevent global warming going beyond 2 degrees Celsius. Some kind of a deal will probably be done. But will it be one more diplomatic fudge or a real triumph for the climate? 

In the run-up to Paris, governments have been asked to deliver pledges to cut emissions of the greenhouse gases known to cause climate change. The pledges, covering the period between 2020, when the agreement should enter into force, and 2030, are known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDCs in the U.N. jargon. 

Major nations including the United States, China, the European Union, and Russia have submitted their INDCs. But unlike the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, which only set targets for industrialized nations, all countries are expected to make pledges before Paris. 

Many of the pledges sound ambitious, but analysis suggest they fall far short of what is likely to be needed to prevent warming beyond 2 degrees C (3.6 F) later this century — a goal set by nations at the Copenhagen climate negotiations in 2009. “It is clear that if the Paris meeting locks in present climate commitments for 2030, holding warming below 2 degrees could essentially become infeasible,” Bill Hare of Climate Analytics, a think tank, said during preliminary negotiations held in Bonn, Germany, this month. 

‘The proof is in the pudding, and the pudding is going to come out of the oven in Paris,’ says a U.N. official.

In fact, he said, they leave the world on course for at least 3 degrees C of warming.  

But there is some good news out in the real world. The decade-long boom in coal burning across the world appears to be ending, and radically lower costs for renewables, especially solar power, make them increasingly attractive. One economic study published this summer concluded that green energy was usually “nationally beneficial,” regardless of the climate benefits. Indeed, there is a growing realization in many countries that cutting emissions is not just cheap, but could actually aid economic development. 

Paris skyline image via Shutterstock.

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