Why existing climate pledges won't cut it

With the current round of Kyoto Protocol commitments set to expire at the end of next year, here's a look at existing emissions reduction pledges, which scientists say will fail to limit global warming to safe levels.

LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists say existing pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 are too weak to stem dangerous climate changes including more droughts, floods and rising seas.       

They say the existing pledges will fail to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, a commonly used safety threshold for dangerous change.        

Countries are meeting in Durban, South Africa, for talks on how to curb annual rises in emissions. An agreement to be issued on Dec. 9 is likely to reaffirm the pledges and, at best, commit to review these after the economic downturn and sign a more ambitious global deal in 2015 to take effect after 2020.          

The present round of emissions commitments under the Kyoto Protocol expires at the end of next year.            

Assessments of the existing pledges:    

1. A United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report last month calculated that the existing pledges would result in emissions of 50-55 billion tonnes in 2020, compared with a level of 44 billion tonnes needed to meet the 2 degrees Celsius target. 

2. An opinion article published in the journal Nature last year said the current pledges would lead to greenhouse gas emissions of 48-54 billion tonnes annually in 2020, and about 3 degrees warming by 2100. The authors said: "It is amazing how unambitious these pledges are."                   

Developed countries have committed to cuts in emissions compared with a base year, and developing countries to slow down growth in emissions, as follows: 


Developing country - Action by 2020

Brazil: Reduction in deforestation and actions to cut emissions from energy.

China: Cut CO2  emissions per unit of economic output by 40-45 per cent compared with 2005; increase share of non-fossil fuels in energy consumption to 15 per cent.

India: Cut CO2 emissions per unit of economic output by 20-25 per cent compared with 2005 Indonesia; cut emissions by 26 per cent compared with current trends.

Mexico: Cut emissions by 30 per cent compared with current trends.

South Africa: Cut emissions by 34 per cent compared with current trends

 (Reporting by Gerard Wynn; Editing by Alessandra Rizzo)