UN climate change chief - we must limit global temperature rise to 1.5C

2/6/2011 Guardian Christiana Figueres says her 1.5C target has the support of the group of about 40 small island states, as well as most African countries and other least developed countries.The world should be aiming to limit global warming to just 1.5C instead of the weaker current target of 2C, the United Nations’ climate chief said on Wednesday.
Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on
Climate Change, told an audience of carbon traders: “Two degrees is not enough –
we should be thinking of 1.5C. If we are not headed to 1.5 we are in big, big trouble.”
She said she had the support of the group of about 40 small island states – many
of which are in danger of disappearing as sea levels rise – as well as most
African countries and other least developed countries.
Figueres said estimates from the International Energy Agency, revealed by the
Guardian, that showed a record rise in carbon emissions from energy last year
strengthened the case for urgent action on greenhouse gases.
However, her remarks are likely to cause consternation among developed country
governments. The question of whether the world should aim for a 2C limit, which
scientists say marks the point beyond which the effects of climate change become
catastrophic and irreversible, or a more stringent 1.5C limit, which would
provide greater safety, is a sore point in the long-running UN negotiations.
At the 2009 summit in Copenhagen, the reopening of the debate over the 2C limit
was one of the worst sources of conflict, setting developed countries against a
large section of the developing world. That conflict was widely regarded as one
of the key factors in derailing the summit, which ended in a partial agreement
amid scenes of chaos and recriminations.
At last year’s follow-up conference in Cancún, Mexico, countries compromised by
opting for a 2C target while asking for a review of the science to show whether
the target should be tougher.
Figueres was speaking on Wednesday in Barcelona, at a Guardian-chaired
conference at Carbon Expo, the annual conference of the International Emissions
Trading Association.
Another indication of how difficult it will be to reach Figueres’ target came
from the World Bank, which unveiled research showing that the market in carbon
credits under the 1997 Kyoto protocol collapsed last year. Only $1.5bn of
Kyoto-based credits were issued, which the bank said was nowhere near enough to
help developing countries cut emissions and deal with the effects of climate
The carbon markets are supposed to be one of the key ways of reaching the
world’s target of halving emissions by 2050.
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