Tianjin, CHINA— As the remaining hours of the Tianjin, China climate talks slip away, negotiators from nearly 200 countries are still worlds apart. A binding, science-based agreement to stem the global climate crisis remains elusive, and the window of time remaining to avoid the worst impacts of climate change is rapidly closing.
“Science tells us that global emissions must peak in the next five years if we are to have any hope of avoiding catastrophic social, economic and ecological impacts,” said Matt Vespa, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity who is in Tianjin for the talks. “Yet several key nations, including the United States, remain committed to doing far less than is necessary to avoid this crisis. As China’s lead negotiator said earlier this week, the rest of the world can’t wait for the United States to act.”
A new report issued earlier this week by the Center and 350.org makes clear that the pledges made by the United States and other countries in Copenhagen last year fall far short of what science and global equity require. Global emissions must reach their peak in the next one to five years in order to have any realistic chance of limiting temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius. If the emissions peak is delayed to 2020, there will be no realistic chance of reaching this goal, and the world will be effectively committed to severe and irreversible climate impacts.
Negotiators seem resigned to achieving less than a full, binding climate deal when talks resume in Cancun this December. Here in Tianjin, delegates had hoped to find common ground on a few areas leading to more limited decisions in Cancun that could keep the process moving forward. But in Tianjin, the parties remain very far apart on central issues, including goals for limiting global temperature increases and achieving equitable emissions reductions among developed and developing countries.
“This year is shaping up to be one of the hottest on record, and the headlines are full of climate-related disasters. Drought, heat waves and fires have scorched Russia, flooding has displaced millions in Pakistan, and a 100-square-mile chunk of Greenland’s ice has fallen into the sea,” said Kevin Bundy, another Center attorney in Tianjin. “If we are to have any chance of avoiding even worse climate impacts in the future, we have to act now. The world cannot wait much longer for a real solution to the ecological, economic, and social crisis that is global warming.”