Still possible to limit temperature rise to 2 deg C: UN’s Ban

UN chief Ban Ki-moon (above, in a file photo) told world climate negotiations in Lima on Tuesday that there is “still a chance” of limiting global warming to safer levels, but time is running out. -- PHOTO: AFP
UN chief Ban Ki-moon (above, in a file photo) told world climate negotiations in Lima on Tuesday that there is “still a chance” of limiting global warming to safer levels, but time is running out. -- PHOTO: AFP

LIMA (AFP) - The world still has a chance to limit global warming to safer levels but time is running out, UN chief Ban Ki-moon told ministers Tuesday grappling for a historic climate pact at talks in Peru.

“There is still a chance to stay within the internationally-agreed ceiling” of two deg C over pre-industrial levels, Ban said, “but the window of opportunity is fast narrowing.”

Ban opened a high-level segment of the Dec 1-12 UN talks with ministers in Lima, bringing much-needed political muscle to the final four days of a fraught process.

Parties remain far apart on key aspects of a deal they have vowed to ink in Paris in December next year and implement from 2020.

“I am deeply concerned that our collective action does not match our common responsibilities,” Ban told delegates.

“This is not the time for tinkering, it’s time for transformation,” he added.

Draft texts were unveiled Monday that encapsulated a broad variety of views on how best to slash greenhouse gas emissions in the quest to curb global warming.

These documents will form the basis for political negotiations among ministers, starting Tuesday with the tough issue of climate finance.

It will be followed Wednesday by the even thornier issue of “differentiation” – how to share out the burden between rich and poor countries.

Ministers will also hold bilateral discussions with Ban, who nailed climate change to the top of the agenda in September by hosting a special summit in New York in September.

The Lima talks have two main tasks: drafting a negotiating outline for the Paris deal and reaching agreement on the format for carbon-curbing pledges that nations are to submit from the first quarter of next year.

But negotiators do not see eye to eye on some basic questions.

Among them is rich nations’ commitment to climate financing and adaptation help for the developing world, and how to assess whether national pledges, combined, place the world on target for the 2 deg C goal.

‘A LOT OF DISAGREEMENT

United States envoy Todd Stern said Monday that the text on national pledges remains “the subject of a lot of disagreement.”

A key division is the concept of differentiation.

Developing countries want rich nations to bear a bigger share of the burden for curbing soaring Earth-warming emissions, which requires a costly shift from cheap and abundant fossil fuels to less polluting energy sources.

But developed nations like the United States and Australia point the finger at major developing emitters like China and India that rely heavily on highly polluting fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – to power their rapid growth.

Poor countries and small island states at high risk of climate change-induced sea level rise also demand written guarantees of finance and assistance for adaptation.

But the European Union and other developed states say the focus must be on mitigation – jargon for emissions cuts.

Ban called Tuesday for progress in “solidifying the climate finance regime,” a prioritisation of climate adaptation support to poor countries, and compensation for unavoidable loss and damage.

“The race is on to build more climate resilient and prosperous societies,” he said.

Scientists say the world is on target for 4 deg C or more – a recipe for sea-level rise, floods, droughts, desertification and damage from storms.

“History will judge us not only for how many tonnes of greenhouse gases we were able to reduce but also by whether we were able to protect the most vulnerable, to alleviate poverty and to create a future with prosperity for all,” UN climate chief Christiana Figueres told Tuesday’s plenary.

“That future is yours to create.”