World still not taking climate change seriously, say three reports

Concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are hitting new highs, and global action to tackle such concentrations is falling well short of what is needed to prevent dangerous climate change, according to two new reports. A third report says tackling climate change is a key to ending poverty. T&E says the findings should strengthen the Commission and MEPs when they face pressure to weaken EU legislation such as the fuel quality directive and emissions trading for aviation.

Evidence about the growth of greenhouse gases has come from the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep). Its Emissions Gap Report 2012 says gases are 14% above where they should be in 2020 for temperature rises between 2000 and 2100 to remain below 2C. The report, compiled by 55 scientists from 20 countries, sayare on course for 58 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by 2020, when the widely accepted limit to keep temperature rises below 2C is 44Gt.

The authors say there is still time to keep temperature rises to 2C, but not at the current levels of action. ‘The report provides a sobering assessment of the gulf between ambition and reality,’ said Unep’s executive director Achim Steiner.

The Unep report follows new data from the World Meteorological Organisation that shows greenhouse gases hit a record 391 parts per million in 2011. Although carbon dioxide was responsible for most of the ‘radiative forcing’ that causes warming, other greenhouse gases such as methane were also up.

Meanwhile the new president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, has said: ‘We will never end poverty if we don’t tackle climate change – it is one of the single biggest challenges to social justice today.’ Kim was speaking at the launch of a report by the World Bank which says the world’s poorest countries will be hit hardest by food shortages, rising sea levels and extreme weather. The report Turn Down the Heat looks at the impact of temperatures rising by 4C during this century, which is likely on current trends.

T&E director Jos Dings said: ‘There is a discrepancy between what is happening to the world’s climate and the willingness to act to prevent things being as bad as they could be. When the EU proposes a fuel quality directive that seeks a 10% reduction in CO2 emissions from fuel production processes, this should be welcomed, not watered down. And when Europe is willing to tackle emissions from aircraft in a way that other nations aren’t, it should not have to suspend emissions trading for aviation for a year because the world wants to go on emitting. These reports should empower the Commission and MEPs to stand up to the lobbyists.’