Monday, December 3rd 2012, 5:08 AM EST
The world is losing the race to keep global warming in check, the Energy Secretary has conceded.
Ed Davey delivered the candid assessment of the international community's collective failure on the eve of major UN negotiations in the Gulf state of Qatar on a new treaty to combat climate change.
The Liberal Democrat minister said attempts to prevent global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level, generally regarded as global warming's danger threshold, were not on course to succeed.
"As things stand, the world is plainly not on track to keep the global temperature increase from climate change below two degrees," Mr Davey told The Independent before leaving for Qatar. "The UN Environment Programme said last week that at best, current commitments [to cut greenhouse gases] would take us somewhat short of half way towards a climate-safe trajectory; and a World Bank report published the same week showed some of the dangers of a world warmed by four degrees.
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"Anyone who engages seriously with the science is right to be concerned."
Average global temperatures have already risen about 0.8 degrees C above pre-industrial levels. Attempting to keep the rise to below two degrees is the official aim of the UN's Climate Convention, and the official policy of Britain and the rest of the EU.
The conference in Qatar's capital, Doha, marks the beginnings of talks aimed at constructing a comprehensive new agreement to cut carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions that are causing the warming that will be legally binding on all countries of the world.
The treaty, which should be signed in 2015 and come into effect in 2020, will for the first time place a legal obligation to cut CO2 on the world's three biggest emitters, China, the United States and India, which between them account for nearly half of all the emissions going into the atmosphere.
But many observers are increasingly concerned about the so-called "emissions gap" – the divergence between the CO2 emissions limits that are necessary to keep below two degrees, and what is actually being emitted. The so-called "emissions gap" is widening every year, according to the UN Environment Programme referenced by Mr Davey.
However the Energy Secretary, who will lead the British delegation in Doha, said he still saw reasons to be hopeful. "Two degrees is still within reach if we can muster the political will," he said.
The conference is scheduled to finish on Friday.