By FRANK JORDANS
BERLIN (AP) — Senior government officials at a climate meeting in Copenhagen gave a muted response Tuesday to calls from the head of the United Nations for countries to show greater ambition when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres urged rich countries Monday to bring forward their target for achieving net zero emissions as close as possible to 2040, and for emerging economies to aim for a date as close as possible to 2050. This would be a significant shifting of the goal posts: the United States and the European Union are currently aiming for net zero by 2050, while China is targeting 2060 and India has set a deadline of 2070.
Guterres’ call came in a video message responding to a new report by the U.N.’s top climate science panel which found that the world is still far off track if it wants to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial times, as agreed in the 2015 Paris accord. He did not attend the Copenhagen meeting.
Speaking at the end of a two-day meeting in the Danish capital of senior officials from dozens of countries, Egypt’s foreign minister said there was no “specific answer to the aspirational goals” set out by Guterres.
“These goals will be, I’m sure, addressed within the national context and within the national abilities,” said Sameh Shoukry, who chaired last year’s U.N. climate talks in his country.
Shoukry said Egypt would have to rely on the transfer of technology “from our friends and partners” to wean itself off fossil fuels and ramp up the use of renewable energy. The country has already benefited from a number of deals and investments to green its economy in recent years.
Denmark’s climate minister, Dan Jørgensen, said his country recently brought forward its net zero target to 2045, and aims to capture more carbon than it emits by 2050. That puts Denmark far ahead of most advanced economies, though its neighbor Germany is also targeting net zero by 2045 and Finland has said it wants to achieve that goal by 2035.
The meeting in Copenhagen is one of several taking place before the U.N. climate talks in the United Arab Emirates at the end of the year.
Asked whether that summit could again see negotiations on a global pledge to phase down all fossil fuels, Jørgensen said he had “no doubt” that it will be discussed.
“Whether or not we will reach that result in Dubai later this year is of course difficult to say,” he said. “But I think we can say for sure that it will be a part of the conversation.”
Other important topics to resolve over the coming months concern how to increase funding for poor nations — including those already suffering the effects of global warming — and taking stock of what’s been achieved internationally so far since the 2015 Paris climate accord was sealed.