European officials and campaigners want the talks in Qatar to make progress towards a new global binding treaty by 2015, which the EU and a coalition of developing countries managed to get the world to agree to negotiate last year.
In the run-up to this year’s annual international climate meeting, warnings over the path the world is on have been coming thick and fast from the likes of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), insurers, the World Bank and even the CIA.
Extreme weather events such as Superstorm Sandy and this summer’s drought in the US, which are predicted to get more frequent as the climate changes, have also raised the issue of global warming up the agenda.
The talks have previously seen countries agree to take action to limit temperature rises to 2C and last year in Durban, nations signed up to negotiate a new legally binding global deal to cut emissions by 2015, that would come into force for 2020.
It is hoped this year’s talks will set out a pathway for negotiating the global deal, and ensure all countries are on the same page as to what the new treaty will include.
This year also marks the end of the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol, the original climate deal to cut emissions which only covered the developed countries and which the US never ratified.
Part of the agreement to negotiate a new treaty is that Kyoto will continue into a second period, but only the European Union, Australia and a handful of other countries have agreed to sign up to the second phase.
The talks aim to secure a continuation of Kyoto and the rules on cutting emissions that it provides, and campaigners also hope negotiators will address loopholes which allow too much pollution.
Rich countries are also under pressure to provide finance to help poor nations develop cleanly and cope with the impacts of climate change as the first tranche of promised money comes to end this year.
Developed and developing nations have made a series of voluntary commitments to cut or curb emissions up to 2020.
But last week UNEP warned the gap between the commitments and what is needed to keep temperature rises below 2C is large, and growing.
The World Bank has warned the world is on track for temperatures rises of 4C by the end of the century, while the International Energy Agency has said only a third of proven fossil fuel reserves can be exploited if the 2C target is to be met.
The CIA has said climate change will cause geopolitical instability and insurers, investors and business leaders have warned about the growing costs of climate change.
Ruth Davis from Greenpeace said there was now a “cacophony” of warnings, but governments were failing to heed them.
“One of the most important jobs of a government is to look after the long term security of its country and people. Our governments are failing to look after the long term security of their countries and people.
“The message is coming to them from institutions with the most clear and legitimate credentials, from insurers to science, but the message is not getting through.”
Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said: “A global effort is needed if we are to achieve our climate goals. We need to pave the way for the new global deal while delivering more action now.
“Many developed and developing countries have already come forward with pledges under the UN framework to reduce their emissions by 2020. I want to encourage more to do so at Doha and beyond.”
He also said: “The EU has led the way in calling for more ambition and in enshrining emissions reductions in law. I want to encourage it to move to a more ambitious 2020 emissions reduction target of 30 per cent.”