By Nelson Graves
A climate conference in Paris could mark a turning point in the fight against global warming even if countries do not commit themselves yet to adequate cuts in carbon emissions, France’s special envoy to the talks said.
“Paris marks an unprecedented mobilization of forces,” Nicolas Hulot, a well-known French TV star and environmentalist, said. “Without this conference, the chances of winning the fight against global warming were nil. Now we have a chance.”
A household name in France thanks to his documentary program focusing on the environment, Hulot was named in 2012 by French President François Hollande as special envoy to the United Nations Climate Change Conference that starts in Paris next Monday. Hulot also heads up a French environmental group that is keeping tabs on the talks.
An extraordinarily large number of world leaders will be attending the first two days of the talks, including the presidents of China, Russia and the United States.
Hulot’s not-for-profit foundation says 172 countries have submitted plans to cut their carbon emissions, an unprecedented commitment that the environmentalist said would generate momentum for deeper cuts in the future.
The foundation believes that the commitments in Paris will not suffice to cap the rise in average global temperatures to 2° Celsius, or 3.6° Fahrenheit, by 2100 over pre-industrial levels. But Hulot said the momentum for capping carbon emissions now is unstoppable.
“We are just starting to change the world’s energy strategy,” he told reporters in Paris. “Things have not progressed quickly enough, but they are starting to move. Now things could accelerate.”
Hulot said there was a risk that security concerns following attacks in Paris that killed 130 people could distract world leaders, but that they should keep in mind that climate change, if left unchecked, could provoke even more serious security threats by hitting food production and uprooting large numbers of people.
While countries have not yet met a 2009 pledge to commit $100 billion by 2020 to help developing countries adjust their economies to climate change, Hulot said he was confident they would. And he said even greater amounts could be tapped if countries unwound subsidies for fossil fuels, which he said total some $450 billion a year.
According to Hulot’s foundation:
- 172 countries, which together emit 91.5 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases, have submitted pledges.
- A number of oil producers have not submitted plans: Nigeria, Malaysia, Venezuela, Uzbekistan and Angola.
- If the commitments that have been made so far are implemented, the average global temperature would rise by 3 degrees over pre-industrial levels by 2030 — more than the 2-degree target generally agreed as the maximum tolerable. To limit warming to 2 degrees, emissions would eventually have to be at least stabilized.
- If the Group of 20 countries representing three quarters of the world’s emissions strengthened their commitments by 2018, the 2-degree target could be reached by 2030.