"Historic breakthrough" ahead of climate talks

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United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) chief Achim Steiner said that the international community’s commitment to addressing climate change had changed significantly compared with just a year or two ago. UN File Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The push to limit greenhouse gas emissions and keep global temperatures from rising unchecked has seen a "historic" breakthrough in the run-up to a key climate conference in Paris, the UN said Friday.

Less than a month before governments meet in the French capital, the UN Environment Programme, UNEP, said that it's seen a "significant" change in the number of countries willing to limit damaging emissions.

Despite the promising development, however, UNEP warned in its Emissions Gap report that the proposed measures will not be enough to stop global temperatures rising two degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels by 2100.

Daniel Johnson has more.

What the United Nations Environment Programme, or UNEP, report shows us is that more countries than ever are preparing to limit emissions of damaging greenhouse gases.

Just three weeks from key climate talks in Paris, around 150 countries have now submitted plans showing how they intend to cut back on emissions.

Almost 90 per cent of the world's emissions are covered by these national submissions, and UNEP executive director Achim Steiner believes that it could be history in the making.

"I think we have seen in the run-up to Paris, a historic breakthrough, that historic breakthrough is, simply put, the fact that we now have a commitment that you can soon describe universal action to address the challenge of global warming and of climate change…it marks a significant departure to where we were just a year or two ago".

Sounding a note of caution, however, UNEP chief Steiner stressed that even if countries implemented their so-called "decarbonizing" strategies to the full, the world will see a three degrees centigrade temperature rise by the end of the century above pre-industrial levels.

That's well above the recommended two degree limit, and will bring significant climate impacts, such as flooding, UNEP says.

But the hope is that the Paris talks will lead to new efforts by the international community to work together to clean up their act.

A key element in this is renewable energy – using the sun, wind and water to produce electricity – something that experts didn't bank on 10 years ago, but that could soon produce power that's cheaper than fossil fuels, Achim Steiner said.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1’19″


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