What’s up at Warsaw?

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Nations launched a new round of talks on Monday for a 2015 deal to cut Earth-warming greenhouse gas emissions, in the aftermath of a devastating Philippines typhoon.

What’s the goal? The UN has set a target of limiting global average warming to two degrees Celsius over pre-Industrial Revolution levels — at which scientists believe we can avoid the worst effects of climate change.

How can we do this? The world seeks to reach that goal by curbing emissions of invisible, heat-trapping gases from burning fossil fuels which provide the backbone of the world's energy supply today.

Reducing this pollution requires a costly shift to cleaner, more efficient energy, which partly explains why the UN negotiations have been such a battlefield.

Are we on track? Last week, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said the chances of meeting the two-degree goal were “swiftly diminishing”, while the World Meteorological Organisation reported that atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases hit a new record high in 2012.

Background In September, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted global surface temperatures could climb on average by as much as 4.8 C this century—a recipe for catastrophic heatwaves, floods & droughts.

They said that in order to contain warming to two degrees C, greenhouse gas emissions must drop to 44 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2020 and then halve by 2020.

What should we expect? Though the stakes are high, no specific targets have been set for this round of the annual talks.

Observers hope negotiators will do some legwork for the agreement, due to be signed in Paris in 2015 for and implemented five years later. The Warsaw talks are scheduled to wrap up on November 22, at ministerial level.

The gloves are expected to come off over help for poorer nations to cope with climate change.

Rich economies have yet to show how they intend to meet a pledge, made back in 2009, to muster $100 billion per year from 2020.AFP



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