"We're definitely not on track with everything to do with heavy industry that continues to depend on intense, high-carbon electricity, and we're not on track with land use," said Figueres, former executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. "So what happens if we don't get there is we increase our risk and increase the exposure to extreme weather events."
Figueres cautioned against relying on controversial "geoengineering" techniques to try to cool the planet's temperature. So-called "negative emissions" technologies - to suck carbon back out of the atmosphere - could involve capturing gases and storing them underground or fertilising oceans to make them absorb more carbon dioxide. Other techniques being discussed include mimicking the planet-cooling activity of volcanoes by spraying chemicals into the Earth's upper atmosphere.
"Our biosphere, our forests, our whole plant kingdom is the best (carbon) absorption mechanism we have on this planet - it's the safest, it doesn't have any negative impacts and we just have not yet extracted all the benefits," said Figueres. "Before we go to industrial or chemical engineering – the side-effects of which we have no idea, the cost of which we have no idea, I would prefer to first exhaust the possibility of all the technologies we do know."