Nearly 200 nations are to gather in Doha starting tomorrow for a new round of climate talks, as a rush of reports warn extreme weather events like superstorm Sandy may become commonplace if mitigation efforts fail.
Negotiators will converge in the Qatari capital for two weeks under the UN banner to review commitments to cutting climate-altering carbon emissions.
Ramping up the pressure, expert reports warned in recent days that existing mitigation pledges are not nearly enough to limit warming to a manageable 2oC from pre-industrial levels.
“A faster response to climate change is necessary and possible,” UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said ahead of the talks. “Doha must make sure the response is accelerated.”
The UN Environment Programme said this week the goal of keeping planet warming in check has moved further out of reach and the world was headed for an average rise of between 3oC and 5oC this century, barring urgent action.
The World Bank has said that a planet that is 4oC warmer would see coastal areas inundated and small islands washed away, food production slashed, species eradicated, more frequent heat waves and high-intensity cyclones, as well as diseases spreading to new areas.
“Time is clearly not on our side,” Alliance of Small Island States chairwoman Marlene Moses said.
Topping the agenda in Doha is the launch of a follow-up commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, the world’s only binding pact for curbing greenhouse gas emissions.
Delegates must also set out a work plan for arriving in the next 36 months at a new, global climate deal that must enter into force by 2020.
Negotiators will be under pressure to raise pre-2020 emission reduction targets, and rich nations to come up with funding for the developing world’s mitigation actions.
The planet has been witnessing record-breaking temperatures in the past decade and frequent natural disasters that some blame on climate change — most recently, superstorm Sandy, which ravaged Haiti and the US east coast.
Yet countries disagree on several issues, including the duration of a “second commitment period” for the Kyoto Protocol, which binds about 40 rich nations and the EU to an average 5 percent greenhouse gas reduction from 1990 levels.
That commitment runs out on Dec. 31.
The EU, Australia and some small Kyoto parties have said they would take on commitments in a follow-up period, but New Zealand, Canada, Japan and Russia will not.
Small island countries under the most imminent threat of warming-induced sea level rises, demand a five-year follow-up period, believing this will better reflect the urgency.
The EU and others want an eight-year period flowing over into the 2020 deal.
Poor countries also want rich states to raise their pledges to curb warming gases, including the EU from 20 from 30 percent.
“The biggest historical emitters have a responsibility to do more, much more, than they have to date,” Moses said.