Paris climate deal to boost global economic growth, says Figueres

Head of UN climate convention rejects notion carbon curbs will slow growth, admits 2015 deal will not be a “silver bullet”

Christiana Figueres, head of the UN climate change body (Pic: UN Photos)

Christiana Figueres, head of the UN climate change body (Pic: UN Photos)

By Ed King

The UN’s top climate official says a proposed agreement to tackle global warming in the making will protect economic growth as it wipes out greenhouse gas emissions.

Christiana Figueres told reporters on a conference call the deal under consideration by nearly 200 countries will be “protective of growth and development, not threatening”.

Good progress was being made towards a pact, six months before it is set to be finalised at a summit in Paris, but she said it was proving far more complex than in 2009, the last time the UN tried to pull off such a deal.

Figueres said diplomats were working on a “framework agreement” that would form the foundation of long term efforts to decouple emissions from growth, but warned it would take time to deliver.

“The results will be harvested over time,” she said. “It is not a one-off deal, not a silver bullet.”

More offers of financial and clean technology assistance to help developing countries move away from fossil fuels would be an essential part of the Paris deal, she added.

Last year a UN panel of scientists said fast action was vital, as the world had less than 30 years of emissions at current levels before dangerous levels of warming – more than 2C above pre-industrial levels – were guaranteed.

Emerging strategy

This agreement would be part of a three-pronged package offered to countries in Paris, she said, made up of a legally binding text, a set of rules and plans to cut emissions before 2020.

Envoys are set to debate these plans when they meet for two weeks of talks at the start of June, one of three planned sessions before December’s main summit.

“There is a consensus the agreement will be universal but not uniformly applied,” she said.

“With the legal instrument under consideration all countries no matter what size will contribute in a transparent and measurable way with no backsliding.”

The focus was on delivering an “enabling and facilitative” deal rather than one that offered punitive measures, she added.

So far 38 countries representing just under 30% of global emissions have outlined what levels of carbon cuts they could contribute ahead of Paris.

Analysts say they are well below what is needed to avert a future with more floods, droughts and rising sea levels.

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Figueres said she expected “another wave” of submissions in June and throughout the summer before an October 1 deadline, after which the UN will add up and review national offers.

“The principle behind the review is to put into place a process that would look into first – the impact of quantity of first harvest of INDCs [national pledges],” she said.

“Then on a periodic basis countries are considering a second and third harvest of INDCs so that there would be INDCs coming in over a period of time.

“By definition these would have to be an improvement on the previous effort,” she added.

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