John Amis/AP

Study warns carbon cuts fall short as UN climate conference begins

EU announces greenhouse gas emission cuts as German study says world still heading to warming of 3° to 4.6° C by 2100

German study results released Wednesday warned that the world is “still tracking” toward warming of 3 to 4.6 degrees Celsius by 2100 — a scenario many scientists said would be disastrous — as United Nations members launched a new round of climate talks in Bonn.

Europe announced its own carbon cuts at the meeting, days after the United States and China pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their respective efforts to combat the effects of climate change.

As negotiations began, German scientists warned that U.S. President Barack Obama's plan to cut carbon emissions at power plants by up to 30 percent will leave America far short of its current pledges at U.N. climate talks.

The U.S. had promised in 2010 to reduce greenhouse gases by 17 percent by 2020 based on 2005 levels. It also said it would further curb emissions by 83 percent by 2050 compared with 2005. 

But the German specialists said in an analysis that Obama's plan would reduce 2030 U.S. national emissions by only about 10 percent below 2005 levels. The review, called the Climate Action Tracker, is updated regularly to measure whether national pledges at the sluggish U.N. talks are closing in on the goal of limiting warming to below 2 degrees Celsius.

The latest round of U.N. climate negotiations began Wednesday, with the European Union announcing it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 24 percent by 2020 based on 1990 levels — more than its targeted cut of 20 percent — said EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard.

The “overachievement” amounts to a saving of some 5.5 billion tons of carbon overall, Hedegaard said.

On Tuesday, China followed the U.S. with its own carbon cut pledge. It said it would set an absolute cap on its carbon emissions, but did not specify an exact number. The figure will likely be announced in 2016, when China unveils its next five-year plan.

The 12-day session in Bonn under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change is aimed at developing a post-2020 global pact on dangerous man-made carbon emissions.

The meeting — to be attended by several dozen ministers on Thursday and Friday — is also supposed to ramp up pledges ahead of a meeting in Paris in 2015 to establish a U.N. global climate treaty with final pledges for tackling emissions before 2020.

In March, the U.N.’s top scientific panel warned that action in the next few years may dictate whether the target of limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius will be met. If not, scientists said, the world risks unpredictable climate disruption — meaning more droughts, flooding, other extreme weather events, conflicts, mass displacement and sea level rise.

Scientists have warned that the world will have to deliver bigger cuts when the global deal is signed in Paris next year in order to meet that target and avoid risks of abrupt climate consequences.

With wire services

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