UN ready to receive national climate plans for 2015 deal

UN’s climate body launches website for countries to submit their contributions to Paris treaty

Christiana Figueres and COP20 president Manuel Pulgar Vidal led the UN talks in Lima (Pic: H.E. Mr. Sam K. Kutesa/Flickr)

Christiana Figueres and COP20 president Manuel Pulgar Vidal led the UN talks in Lima (Pic: H.E. Mr. Sam K. Kutesa/Flickr)

By Sophie Yeo

The UN has invited countries to start submitting their contributions to the 2015 climate treaty.

Nations can upload their draft plans – known as “intended nationally determined contributions” – onto a website launched by the UN’s climate body on Thursday.

These will set out how governments plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions, forming the backbone of a deal due to be signed off in Paris in December.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos yesterday, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres stressed the importance of being able to adopt clear goals in the new agreement.

“If we don’t start this ball rolling we won’t get to a destination… but we need to know where we are going,” she said. “When I get in my bike or my car…I usually know where I am going.”

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So far, no countries have uploaded their contributions onto the site, but time is tight. Those who are “ready to do so” must present their strategies by the end of March. This is expected to include all major economies.

The information that must be contained in the contributions turned into one of the most controversial issues during the UN’s latest round of climate talks, held in December in Lima.

The idea is that each submission should be comparable, with each country bound to provide the same set of information.

Countries decided that this information should include time frames, the method of counting emissions and justification for why the proposal is fair and ambitious.

They may also choose to describe how they plan to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

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The UN will prepare a report by 1 November outlining whether the contributions it receives are enough to keep global temperature rise below an internationally agreed threshold of 2C.

Also speaking yesterday from Davos, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, who will chair the Paris conference, said that if the pledges put the world above this target, then there would be a “mechanism” to increase the level of ambition.

There have been some early indications of what targets may contain.

The EU is expected to base its contribution on a domestic pledge to reduce emissions “at least” 40% on 1990 levels by 2030. The US has said it will reduce emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025, and China says it will peak its emissions by 2030.

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It is possible that India will announce new actions on climate change when US president Barack Obama visits the country next week.

All nations will have to write up their pledges in the knowledge that climate change is expected to get worse unless drastic action is taken to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

US federal agencies NASA and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) announced last week that 2014 was the hottest year on record.

It confirmed a warming trend, with 14 out of the 15 hottest years occurring since 2000.

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon encouraged countries to come forward quickly with their contributions.

He said: “I encourage all of you to offer new commitments and a race to the top. Show the world it’s not just the right thing to do, but also a smart choice.”

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