Paris climate deal falls short, U.N. expert says

Special climate envoy says emissions could push the mean temperature up substantially by 2030.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |   April 21, 2016 at 6:25 AM
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GENEVA, Switzerland, April 21 (UPI) -- While the Paris Climate Agreement is a historic step in the right direction, commitments fall short of curbing global climate change, a U.N. expert said.

Parties to an agreement adopted in December are set to sign off Friday on one of the more significant pieces of climate legislation in history.

The agreement called for all parties to make strides to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a level necessary to curb global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Under the terms of the agreement, wealthier nations like China and the United States are expected to help finance the shift to a low-carbon economy from poor developing nations.

"This target would help the world avoid devastating consequences for the ability of the people of the world to enjoy their rights to life, health, food, water and sanitation, housing and many others," John Knox, a U.N. special envoy on human rights and the environment, said in a statement.

Eurostat, the European statistics office, said data from 2014, the last full year for which it published information, show the share of energy from renewable resources was 16 percent, about 89 percent above 2004 levels, the first year it started keeping records on renewables.

European member states are obligated to use renewable energy to meet 20 percent of their energy needs by the end of the decade.

Elsewhere, U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping committed earlier this month to signing the Paris agreement. In the United States, federal data show 2016 will be the first time in history natural gas overtakes coal as the main source of electricity. A National Economic and Social Development plan outlined by the Chinese government in early March described a series of measures aimed at controlling air, water and soil pollution.

According to the U.N. Environment Program, however, even if all the commitments under the Paris agreement materialize, emissions levels by 2030 could still potentially lead to a global average temperature increase of more than 3 degrees Celsius.

"The commitments pledged by governments to date are insufficient," Knox said.

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