BALI, Indonesia (AP) -- Countries will have to significantly increase their pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions if there is any hope of preventing the catastrophic effects of climate change, according to a U.N. study released Tuesday.
Sixty nations -- including China, the United States and the 27-member European Union -- met a Jan. 31 deadline to submit pledges to the U.N. for reducing the heat-trapping gases as part of a voluntary plan to roll back emissions. Together the countries produce 78 percent of the world's greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels.
The deadline was set at a Copenhagen climate conference last December.
"Countries will have to be far more ambitious in cutting greenhouse gas emissions if the world is to effectively curb a rise in global temperature," UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said. "We know today that inaction on climate change in the long run will be leading to catastrophic scenarios."
Countries set a target in Copenhagen of keeping the Earth's average temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the levels that existed before nations began industrializing in the late 18th century. That would be no more than 1.3 degrees C (2.3 degrees F) above today's average temperatures.
Scientists believe global emissions must be cut in half by mid-century in order to avoid the melting of glaciers and icecaps, the flooding of low-lying coastal cities and islands, and worsening droughts in Africa and elsewhere.
Steiner was on Indonesia's resort island of Bali for a meeting of environmental officials from more than 140 countries that starts Wednesday. Among the issues they expect to tackle are the importance of biodiversity, how to promote greener economic development and the possibility of merging several U.N. environmental agencies.
The Copenhagen meeting set up the first significant program of climate aid to poorer nations, with pledges from industrialized nations of a $30 billion fund over the next three years, scaling up to $100 billion a year by 2020.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told reporters in Bali that details of how countries can draw from the fund have not yet been discussed.
Indonesia, Natalegawa said, has organized an informal meeting on Friday of all environmental ministers to discuss ways of ensuring that a binding treaty on greenhouse gas cutbacks could be forged in a meeting in Cancun, Mexico, later this year.
Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, also is to meet with environmental ministers in Bali later in the week to discuss a number of issues, including a continuing controversy over several mistakes made in a 2007 climate change report issued by his U.N.-affiliated panel.
The report's conclusion that Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035 turned out to be incorrect and has bolstered arguments from climate skeptics that fears of global warming were overblown.
Some Republican lawmakers in the United States have also called for Pachauri to resign.
Despite the mistakes, Steiner argued that the science behind global warming is robust and that the report itself was helping countries combat it.
"These errors in a body of work involving tens of thousands of pieces that were brought together is portrayed as having shaken the foundations of the science of climate change," Steiner said.
Indonesian Assistant Minister for Global Environmental Affairs Liana Bratasida said she would remind Pachauri to consult with as many scientists on future reports to guard against mistakes, which could undermine the public's trust in climate change science.
Associated Press Writer Michael Casey in Bangkok contributed to this report.