Emissions pledges fail to achieve 2ºC limit

5th May 2015


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National emissions reductions pledged so far ahead of the climate summit in Paris will fail to stop global temperatures from rising more than 2ºC, according to analysis led by Lord Nicholas Stern.

The researchers calculated likely 2030 CO2-equivalent emissions from the EU, US and China based their submissions to the UNFCCC. Depending on when China’s annual greenhouse-gas emissions peak, these will be between 20.9 and 22.3 billion tonnes.

UNEP has estimated that the world can emit at most 44 billion tonnes of CO2e 2030 in order to stay below the 2ºC threshold.

This means emissions from all other countries outside the EU, US and China cannot exceed around 23 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2030, the researchers conclude in a report published yesterday. However, current and planned policies suggest that the total for the rest of the world is more likely to be around 35 billion tonnes, they say.

The authors acknowledge that ambitions and plans agreed at the Paris climate negotiations in December will be a critical first step, and that countries need to make pledges that are credible.

However, they add: “The magnitude of the gap between current intentions and the international target of limiting global warming to no more than 2°C clearly shows that an international agreement in Paris will have to include dynamic mechanisms for the assessment of progress and the raising of ambitions. Hence the Paris summit should not be regarded as just a one-off opportunity to fix targets.”

To narrow the gap, all countries should work hard to find credible ways of reducing emissions to be included in pledges submitted before the Paris summit, including considering partnerships between countries, they suggest.

The authors also recommend an intensification of investment and innovation efforts, particularly in relation to the development of cities, energy systems and land use.

The paper was published by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, of which Lord Stern is chair, and the Environment and the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science. It was co-authored by the institute’s policy analyst and research adviser Rodney Boyd and policy and communications officer Bob Ward.

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