Carbon greenhouse gas. Picture: THINKSTOCK
Picture: THINKSTOCK

THE world already had the know-how to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, linked to the overall rise in global temperatures, but did not have the political will, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) said at the UN climate change talks in Doha on Wednesday morning.

The European Union (EU), particularly, is under pressure to increase its emission reduction target since it has already met the target it set itself for 2020 — reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 20% from 1990 levels.

The EU is refusing to set new targets until after 2020, a stance that earned it runner-up status in the Fossil of the Day award, bestowed on it on Tuesday by the Climate Action Network (CAN), a coalition of 700 climate-related nongovernmental organisations from 90 countries.

CAN said the latest European Environmental Agency projections of the EU’s domestic emissions showed a 17.5% reduction on 1990 levels had been reached by last year. Factoring in EU emissions trading offsets in 2011, CAN calculated the 27-member region had already beaten its target.

The EU cancelled its scheduled media briefing on Tuesday and has yet to have another one.

UNEP’s John Christensen said there was a 49 Gigatonne "gap" in global greenhouse gas emissions to meet the target, set at the 2009 climate change talks, of keeping the rise of global temperatures below 2°C.

At last year’s talks in Durban, the agreement was that a new emissions reduction treaty would be secured by 2015, for implementation by 2020. This might be too late.

Also, current pledges under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change were not enough to meet the target of keeping global warming below 2°C.

"We cannot wait till 2020 to begin increasing ambitions," Mr Christensen said.

Already the "gap" could be closed through using available technology to reduce emissions from power generation and use, industry, transport, building standards, waste management, forestry and agriculture.

Meanwhile, South Africa’s notoriety as one of the world’s 15 worst greenhouse gas emitters appears set to continue with the news on Tuesday that power utility Eskom is seeking to entrench its reliance on coal. Eskom has always maintained that coal will be an integral part of South Africa’s power mix for the foreseeable future, despite it being the dirtiest power source.

Eskom CEO Brian Dames on Tuesday called for a "country pact" with the coal industry to limit future increases to the inflation rate, warning that without it South Africa faced even higher electricity tariff increases than the 16% it has asked for over the next five years.

The 16% application has elicited howls of protest from business, including miners, as it will significantly add to their costs and undermine South African industry’s competitiveness.

Mr Dames gave an undertaking on Tuesday that if coal miners made a written commitment to provide Eskom with adequate volumes of quality coal and to limit price increases to inflation, Eskom would adjust its tariff increase application. If not, Mr Dames could not contain electricity price increases.

Over the past three years coal prices have risen by an average of 18% annually, and by 17.7% in the first six months of this year.

With Linda Ensor