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Two degrees possible, but time is not on our side

30th November 2012


Doha - 30  November  2012  –  Limiting  global  warming  below  2degC  –  or  even  to  below  1.5DegC remains  technically  and  economically  feasible,  but  only  with  political  ambition  backed  by  rapid action starting now, the Climate Action Tracker said today.

In releasing their latest update at the Doha Climate talks, the Climate Action Tracker (CAT), a joint project of Climate Analytics, Ecofys and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said the window for reversing emissions trends is narrowing, but hasn’t closed.  A 2degC pathway that is economically feasible would require 15% cuts in emissions by 2020 from present levels. 
However, if nothing more is done except the current pledges, costs would be much higher to reach deeper reductions necessary later, and/or the damage from climate impacts would be far greater.  Society also would lose the ability to choose whether it wants technologies like carbon capture and storage and nuclear energy, because those, along with bio-energy, would have to be deployed on a massive scale. 
“Two degrees is feasible. It’s possible, but we have to start now, not wait until 2020 to act,” said Bill Hare, head of Climate Analytics.  “If we wait, we won’t have many choices left. ” The  Climate  Action  Tracker  also  looked  at  the  question,  raised  in  recent  months,  as  to  whether setting a 2degC temperature limit is useful to the climate negotiations. 
While the agreed 2degC limit is supported by, and based on, scientific assessments, it also reflects political and societal judgments about the severity of potential impacts of climate change and the feasibility and effort required for preventing these from happening. “There is significant evidence that the 2degC limit has already influenced the targets and policies of countries,” said Climate Analytics policy analyst Marion Vieweg.

China’s ‘new’ numbers
For  the  first  time,  China  has  presented  greenhouse  gas  emissions  projections  that,  if  accurate, would deliver a reduction in emissions of 4.5 GtCO2 in 2020 below a hypothetical scenario without any policies after 2005, to meet its pledge of a 45% reduction in emissions intensity. “If China’s numbers are correct, their 2020 reduction would be the largest single absolute reduction for any country in the history of action on climate change, equivalent to a year’s worth of emissions from  the  EU  –  or  1000  500MW  coal-fired  power  stations’  emissions  for  a  year.  With  policies  and implemented  pledge  emissions  would  still  rise  to  14  GtCO 2 e  in  2020,”  said  Ecofys  Director  of Energy and Climate Policy, Dr. Niklas Höhne.
However,  given  that  these  numbers  were  presented  only  two  weeks  ago,  the  Climate  Action Tracker hasn’t had sufficient time to examine them closely and will do so for the next update, so China’s pledge rating remains “inadequate.” 

Are governments meeting their targets? 
Ecofys has been examining the policies in place to meet pledges for the US, Russia, India, Brazil, Indonesia,  Japan,  Mexico,  Canada,  South  Korea,  Australia  and  South  Africa.  The  Climate  Action Tracker assessed the results from this analysis in the context of the ambition level of the pledges made by these countries. 
The  aggregated  emissions  level  from  all  countries’  pledges  is  still  likely  to  induce  warming exceeding 2degC by a wide margin, unless pledges are improved and more policies implemented on  a  national  level.    While  we  see  some  improvement  the  fundamental  problem  remains:  Few countries have policies in place to meet their pledges and even fewer have sufficiently ambitious

Read our full briefing and the press release.

Also take a look at the press briefing held at the COP18 in Doha on 30 November 2012.