October 21, 2014 / 11:14 AM / 5 years ago

U.S., EU want U.N. to stress low cost of climate change fight - draft

OSLO (Reuters) - The United States and European Union want the U.N. to stress the low cost of fighting climate change in a draft handbook on the issue that it is compiling, a leaked document showed on Tuesday.

A smoke rises from a chimney of a garbage processing plant on the outskirts of the northern Indian city of Chandigarh December 8, 2010. REUTERS/Ajay Verma

The United States wants the handbook to do more to show that the costs of action “will be almost insignificant relative to projected growth”, the document showed.

In more than 2,000 comments on the U.N. draft, obtained by Reuters, some governments also suggested more explanation of why the pace of temperature rises since 1998 has slowed even when greenhouse gas emissions have hit record highs.

The 32-page draft drawn up by top climate scientists and due for publication on Nov. 2 after editing next week in Copenhagen will guide almost 200 governments that aim to agree a deal to slow global warming at a U.N. summit in Paris in December 2015.

The synthesis report by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) seeks to sum up three studies of more than 1,000 pages each, published since mid-2013 about the risks of warming and ways to limit heat waves, floods and rising seas.

Among comments, Washington said the draft’s findings about the small cost of fighting climate change were highlighted more clearly in a report issued in April.

The European Union also suggested changes to stress that the cost of cutting greenhouse gases, mainly by shifting from fossil fuels towards renewable energies such as wind and solar power, “looks relatively modest”.


The report says actions to fight climate change will cut global growth in consumption of goods and services by 0.06 percent a year over the 21st century, relative to expected growth of 1.6 to 3.0 percent a year without action.

Nations including India urged the IPCC to drop consumption as the yardstick of growth and shift to talk about gross domestic product as a more easily understood measure.

The United States also said many tables in the draft report were “remarkably dense” and “may be impenetrable to the policymaker or the public”.

The draft says that rising greenhouse gas emissions are raising the chances of “severe, pervasive and irreversible” impacts for people and nature, ranging from damage to coral reefs to a melt of polar ice sheets.

But it holds out some hope, saying that work to adapt to climate change twinned with “substantial, sustained” cuts in rising emissions of greenhouse gases can limit the risks.

It reiterates past findings that it is at least 95 percent probable that man-made emissions of greenhouse gases, rather than natural swings in the climate, are the main cause of warming since 1950.

Nations including OPEC member Saudi Arabia, which worries that a shift to renewable energy will undermine its oil-dependent economy, urged changes to reflect a slowdown of the rate of warming at the Earth’s surface since 1998.

The draft says short-term natural variations in the climate can mask long-term warming. It says 1998 was an exceptionally warm year because of a natural El Nino weather event that heated the Pacific.

Saudi Arabia said that the period of the slowdown should be extended to 1998-2014 from 1998-2012 in the draft.

Russia also called for deletion of reference to pledges made by governments in 2010 to limit global warming at a U.N. meeting in Cancun, Mexico. The report says those promises are insufficient as a long-term solution.

“The text describing Cancun pledges should be removed, since it is a political matter,” Russia said. “Anyway, by the end of 2015 they will be out of date” after the Paris deal is agreed.

Editing by Hugh Lawson

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