The nations of the world gather on Monday in Paris to reach a new and universal climate change agreement, in the knowledge that they have already delivered an almost universal set of national responses to meet the long-term climate challenge before the conference even begins — there is of course a big difference between an aspiration and commitment. India is seen as an obstacle this time while China, which blocked a deal in Copenhagen in 2009, is now seen as positive as its citizens are increasingly concerned about air pollution. The conference is due to conclude on 11 Dec.

 

Scientists predict that average temperatures on the densely populated plains of north India will rise by 3 to 5 °C (Celsius) by 2080. In 2012 according to the Financial Times, India's annual per capita carbon dioxide emissions were just 1.6 tonnes per person, compared with 16.4 tonnes per person for the US and 7.1 tonnes per person for China. By 2030 its emissions will still amount to only about 5 tonnes per person per year — half the level in China.

India is the world’s fourth-largest carbon emitter after China, the US and the EU, and Narendra Modi, India's prime minister, says today that he plans to launch an international alliance among 121 solar-rich countries in the tropics. Writing in the FT, he says: “We expect the same from the world with respect to responding to climate change. The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities should be the bedrock of our collective enterprise.”

Northern China is reported Monday to have choked under some of the worst smog this year, with levels in Beijing soaring to 22 times healthy limits.

Most of China's carbon emissions come from coal burning in power factories and homes, which rises in winter along with demand for heating. The pollution has been linked to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths, becoming a major source of popular discontent with the government.

China has pledged that its carbon emissions will peak around 2030 and it plans to build a national carbon trading system by 2017. It currently is the largest renewable market in the world.

According to a proposal on the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) for national economic and social development, China set a target to promote clean industrial production, low-carbon development and energy conservation to ensure sustainable growth in the coming years.

Coal will account for about 62% of China’s energy consumption by 2020, down from the current 64%.

The EU says that by 2030 it will cut emissions by 40% compared with 1990 levels.

President Obama has committed the US to cut its 2025 greenhouse-gas emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels. South Korea has a 37% target to cut emissions by 2030. However, the target is 81% above the 1990 level of the Kyoto Protocol of 1997.

On the eve of the COP21 conference, well over 180 countries covering almost 95% of global greenhouse gas emissions had delivered their national climate action plans to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Over 150 heads of state and government are coming to Paris to give their public support on Monday, the largest group of leaders ever to attend a UN event in a single day.

carbon since 1958, Industrial RevolutionThe United Nations says national plans and the arrival of leaders also reflect growing government confidence in the global response by tens of thousands of companies and investors and thousands of mayors and regional governments who have announced their commitment to the essential economic and social transformation to low-carbon, sustainable growth and development.

The hope is that fulfilling this huge and gathering global response from all levels of government, business and investment will keep the world within affordable reach of staying below a 2°C (Celsius) temperature above pre-industrial levels, the internationally-agreed defense line against the worst climate impacts.

“It’s nice for people to talk about two degrees,” says Bill Gates, Microsoft founder and philanthropist. “But we don’t even have the commitments that are going to keep us below four degrees of warming.”

The hottest year since records began was 2014; while average surface air temperatures so far this decade are about 0.9°C higher than they were in the 1880s.

The Economist says that the International Energy Agency, a think-tank, estimates that 13.5% of the world’s primary energy supply was produced from renewable sources in 2013. However, almost three-quarters of this renewable energy came from what are euphemistically known as “biofuels.”— mostly burning wood, dung and charcoal in poor countries. Hydro-electric power was the world’s second most important source of renewable energy. Nuclear power, which is green but not renewable, supplied 5% of energy needs, and falling. Wind turbines, solar farms, tidal barriers, geothermal power stations and the like produced just 1.3% between them.

Changes in the atmospheric level of carbon dioxide, the biggest contributor to global warming, persist for centuries. So it is useful to imagine that mankind has a fixed carbon budget to burn through. Pierre Friedlingstein, a climatologist at Exeter University, calculates that if temperature rises are to be kept below 2°C, the world can probably emit about 3,200 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide in total. The tally so far is 2,000 gigatonnes. If annual emissions remain at present levels, the budget will be exhausted in just 30 years’ time.

The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen by 25% since 1958, and by about 40% since the Industrial Revolution.

Paris, climate change, Ireland

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1) On the eve of the opening in Paris of the United Nations climate change conference, widely known as COP21, Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, urged all countries and all sectors of society to act now to reach a new universal climate agreement.

2)NOAA(US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) says the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen by 25% since 1958, and by about 40% since the Industrial Revolution.

3) NASA says Qori Kalis is the largest outlet glacier of the world’s largest tropical ice cap, the Quelccaya Ice Cap, which lies on a plateau 18,670 feet (5,691 meters) high in the Andes mountains of south central Peru. In 1978, the glacier was still advancing. By 2011, the glacier had retreated completely back on the land, leaving a lake some 86 acres in area and about 200 feet (60 meters) deep.

As world leaders gather in Paris to broker a new climate deal, Martin Wolf, FT chief economics commentator, talks to environment correspondent Pilita Clark about the limitations of the talks and the precautionary case for acting on global warming.