PLEDGES on the table at the Copenhagen climate summit would commit the world to a dangerous 3C global warming, a leaked document seen by The Scotsman has revealed.
• Gordon Brown with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Copenhagen
The confidential document came to light with only one day to go for the two-week, 192-nation summit to reach a deal on how to tackle climate change.
It revealed action on cutting greenhouse gas emissions currently pledged by industrialised countries would lead to a 3C average global temperature rise.
The widely accepted threshold for avoiding dangerous climate change is 2C above pre-industrial levels – although many developing countries believe this should be reduced to 1.5C.
The United Nations document, marked as an "internal note by the Secretariat", with the words "do not distribute", said that, unless further action was taken, "global emissions will remain on an unsustainable pathway that could lead to concentrations equal to or above 550ppm (parts per million] with the related temperature raise around 3C".
An increase of 3C would mean up to 170 million more people suffering severe coastal floods than with a 2C rise, and 550 million more at risk of hunger, according to the 2006 Stern economic review of climate change for the UK government.
The document, which was described as "explosive" by Greenpeace, was leaked yesterday as glimmers of hope had appeared to show following a disastrous day on Wednesday.
WWF Scotland director Dr Richard Dixon said if nations signed a deal based on the pledges now on the table, committing the world to a 3C temperature increase, "it would be the worst possible outcome". However, he believes there have been signs of the talks moving on since the document was written on Tuesday.
No new pledges have been made since the document was written, but yesterday, the United States threw its support behind a $100 billion (61.3bn) annual fund from rich countries for developing nations from 2020.
US secretary of state Hillary Clinton's show of support for the fund was seen as breaking the deadlock over one of the major issues – funding for poorer countries from rich nations to help them tackle climate change. It had been proposed by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who last night said: "I believe the conditions for an agreement are now there."
And The Scotsman understands a further breakthrough may be imminent. Sources believed EU leaders were meeting last night to decide whether to offer to increase Europe's existing pledge to cut emissions from 20 per cent by 2020 up to 30 per cent.
Dr Dixon believes this could have a "domino effect", sparking President Barack Obama to increase the US offer – a mere 3 per cent emissions cut by 2020 – when he speaks at the summit today.
Dr Dixon added: "It's certainly looking much better than it was 24 hours ago, when nothing had been achieved for 12 hours and everybody was arguing."
However, Friends of the Earth Scotland chief executive Duncan McLaren was less hopeful about a positive impact from the US show of support for the annual fund.
"It's true Hillary Clinton's announcement could generate some momentum, but the US has not specified how much it will contribute," he said. "And it's proposing a fund far smaller than needed."
Many developing countries have called for $400bn in annual support from 2020 – far higher than the $100bn offer supported by the US.
"It's good there's now been a statement of support," UN climate chief Yvo de Boer said of the US offer. "This discussion will have to take place with other parties, whether they feel that sum is adequate."
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Out in the cold
ENVIRONMENT charities are considering legal action over a decision to block them from climate talks in Copenhagen, The Scotsman has learned.
Access to the conference centre has been rationed in recent days. At the beginning of the summit, any member of a non-governmental organisation (NGO) with accreditation was allowed to enter the Bella Centre. But this was reduced to 7,000 NGO members on Wednesday, and 300 yesterday and today, after organisers said the centre was too small to cope.
Some NGOs question whether the restrictions breach the Aarhus Convention, which mandates civil society participation in UN climate change discussions.
Dr Richard Dixon, whose colleagues in WWF Scotland staged a sit-in until they were ejected from the men's toilets of the Bella Center at 5am yesterday, said: "There may well be a legal challenge, and I'm sure that groups are looking at that."
A member of another group said: "If we don't get satisfactory answers about why we were excluded then yes that's (legal action] a line we will take."
Who's offering what at the Copenhagen talks
• CHINA: The world's top greenhouse gas emitter. Offering a voluntary agreement to cut emissions by 40 to 45 per cent by 2020 compared to 2005. Called for developed nations to cut emissions by at least 40 per cent from 1990 levels.
• US: The world's second largest greenhouse gas emitter. Promised to cut 2005 emissions by 17 per cent by 2020 – about 3 per cent below 1990 levels. Agreed to work with other developed countries towards a $100 billion a year funding package for developing countries from 2020. In return, wants full Chinese transparency on its CO2 emissions.
• EU: Agreed to cut emissions by 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 and by 30 per cent if other developed nations follow suit. Agreed to provide developing countries with $10.8bn in initial aid from 2010-12.
• AFRICAN COUNTRIES: Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi supported $100bn annual funds by 2020 from developed countries to help the developing world but not all African nations agreed that would be enough. Others have called for $400bn a year. Many want developed nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 45 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020.
Copenhagen climate summit blog: Day Twelve