World leaders will not agree on the emissions cuts recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and are likely instead to commit to reviewing them in 2015 or 2016.
The delay will anger developing countries who, scientists say, will face the worst effects of climate change despite having contributed relatively little of the man-made greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
A draft text published by the UN says that there should be a review in 2016, which could result in an “update of the long-term global goal for emissions reductions as well as of the adequacy of commitments and actions”.
The Times has learnt that negotiators from developed countries are planning to use the idea of a review to justify failing to agree the 25-40 per cent cut in the 1990 level of emissions by 2020, recommended by the IPCC.
Even the most ambitious provisional offers made by all the countries amount to a reduction of only 18 per cent.
Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister, said leaders would be unable to deliver a deal in line with what the IPCC had recommended.
In an interview yesterday with The Times in Copenhagen, he said: “It would be a big mistake if we failed to get an agreement because we didn’t meet the highest expectations people have.
“Get the agreement, get it under way, and then understand you will inevitably have to change and adjust as you proceed.
“If you actually manage to cut emissions by 18 per cent by 2020, you would have made a very, very big change in the way economies work,” he said, before adding: “Don’t let the best be the enemy of the good.”
A joint report by Mr Blair’s office and the Climate Group, an environmental body backed by some of the world’s biggest companies, including BP, HSBC and Google, said that, even if all the provisional offers were delivered, emissions of CO2 in 2020 would still be 5 billion tonnes higher than the atmosphere could safely accommodate.
This would mean that global temperature would rise more than 2C above pre-industrial levels, with the result that large parts of the world would become uninhabitable.
Uninhabitable is a nice way to say a lot of people will die. More than the nearly 16,000 children per day who currently die of starvation.