UN Climate Change Secretariat head Christiana Figueres has played down hopes of a landmark deal at Paris next year

UN not expecting 'miracle solution' to climate change at Paris 2015

A top UN official has sought to dampen expectations of a landmark climate change deal at a UN summit in Paris in a year's time.

Despite the hopes of many that the talks could lead to a sweeping new treaty on global warming, head of the UN Climate Change Secretariat Christiana Figueres told Reuters TV at 190-nation climate talks in Lima that it was unrealistic to expect a miracle solution at next year's meeting.

Government pledges to cut rising world greenhouse gas emissions in 2015 will be too weak to avert the worst of global warming, she said, and will merely be part of a long haul to agree far tougher curbs in the future.

Governments agreed in 2010 to a long-term goal of limiting global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial times to avert the worst of the heatwaves, floods, desertification and rising sea levels expected to result from climate change over the next century.

"We already know, because we have a pretty good sense of what countries will be able to do in the short run, that the sum total of efforts (in Paris) will not be able to put us on the path for 2°C," she said.

"We are not going to get there with the Paris agreement ... We will get there over time," she said during the 1-12 December climate negotiations in Lima to prepare the Paris deal.

The run-up to a 2009 summit in Copenhagen saw hopes that a major UN climate deal could be put in place, but despite their attempts nations failed to agree on a binding treaty.

Figueres said hopes this time are lower. "It is not about knocking people over the head and saying 'now we have to miraculously solve climate change'," she said.

This time, she predicted a deal was achievable, partly because the top emitters – China, the USA and the EU – have already set goals to limit emissions beyond 2020. In Paris, the focus would be on finding ways to toughen the initial pledges with regular reviews in future years. "The sense of urgency is there," she said.

The long-term goal is to reduce greenhouse gases to zero by 2100, a target she says will require leaving three-quarters of fossil fuels in the ground. "We just can't afford to burn them," she said.

In what Figueres called bad news, the UN weather agency said on Wednesday that 2014 is on track to be the warmest year on record, or among the very warmest.

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