UN climate talks resume in Warsaw on Monday amid a slew of warnings about a potentially disastrous rise in greenhouse-gas emissions.
Though the stakes are high, no specific targets have been set for this round, hosted by one of the world’s biggest coal polluters just two years before the tortuous global process must deliver a new deal.
“There is no doubt that we have to act and that we have to act NOW,” UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said ahead of the talks.
She urged nations to set aside differences and focus on limiting warming to 2C over pre-industrial levels.
“We can still put policy in place to get our vital 2C goal,” she told the Chatham House think tank in London last month.
The Warsaw meet of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has no measurable targets, but observers hope it will do some legwork for a deal due to be signed in Paris in 2015, for implementation five years later.
Experts warn that the 2C objective, set in 2009, will be badly overshot on current emissions trends.
The problem lies in invisible, heat-trapping gases from burning fossil fuels.
Reducing this pollution requires costly efforts in efficiency and a switch to cleaner energy.
This week, the UN Environment Programme said the chances of meeting 2C were “swiftly diminishing”, while the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) reported atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases hit a record high in 2012.
In September, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted global surface temperatures could climb on average by as much as 4.8C this century – a recipe for catastrophic heatwaves, floods, droughts and a rise in the sea-level.
“We are heading to a world whereby temperatures will rise by maybe three, possible even up to five degrees,” said Andrew Steer, head of the World Resources Institute, a US research group.
“This is very, very scary stuff and evidence is accumulating weekly, monthly, as to how dangerous this will be.”