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U.N.: Greenhouse Gas Pledges Insufficient

The greenhouse gas goals announced by the nations responsible for most emissions are insufficient against the disastrous effects of climate change, a U.N. official said Monday.

Janos Pasztor, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's top climate adviser, said the goals, submitted to the U.N. as part of a voluntary plan to roll back emissions, make it highly unlikely the world can prevent temperatures from rising above the target set at the Copenhagen climate conference in December.

"It is likely, according to a number of analysts, that if we add up all those figures that were being discussed around Copenhagen, if they're all implemented, it will still be quite difficult to reach the two degrees," Pasztor told the Associated Press.

The "two degrees" refers to the Copenhagen target of keeping the Earth's average temperature from rising two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels.

"That is the bottom line, but you can look at it negatively and positively. The negative part is that it's not good enough," he said. "The positive side is that for the first time, we have a goal, a clear goal that we're all working toward, and we know what the commitments are. ... Before we would just talk."

Pasztor said some 50 nations - including China, the United States and 27-member European Union - sent in their commitment letters by the Feb. 1 deadline set at the Copenhagen climate conference in December. More such letters were expected to continue trickling in over the next several days.

The commitment letters, which largely reaffirm previous pledges, were intended to get an idea of how far the nations most responsible for global warming might be willing to go, toward a legally binding pact.

China has pledged to reduce its emissions growth - not make absolute cuts - by up to 45 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020. India also pledged to reduce emissions growth by up to 25 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020.

The United States stuck to President Barack Obama's pledge to cut its absolute carbon emissions by about 17 per cent by 2020 below 2005 levels.

The European Union has pledged to cut its carbon emissions 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, and to cut 30 per cent if other nations deepen their reductions.

The Copenhagen Accord, brokered by Obama and more than two dozen other world leaders, fell far short of the legally binding treaty sought from the two-week conference.

The accord, however, included collective commitments by developed countries to provide billions of dollars to help poor countries adapt to climate change.

U.N. officials consider the accord a political tool for trying again to negotiate a binding climate treaty at the U.N. climate conference in Mexico City at the end of 2010.

Critics say the accord was a failure, with world leaders missing a crucial opportunity to commit to greenhouse gas cuts required to stave off projections extreme weather events.

Scientists believe global emissions must be cut in half by mid-century in order to avoid the melting of glaciers and ice-caps, the flooding of low-lying coastal cities and islands as well as worsening droughts in Africa and elsewhere.

Alden Meyer, policy director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, called the "political commitment" a breakthrough of sorts.

"This is the first time countries are committed to this goal, that's the good news," he said. "The bad news, of course, is the pledges that have been put on the table to date don't put us on track to meet that goal."

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