Two degrees possible, but time is not on our side
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
Also take a look at the press briefing held at the COP18 in Doha on 30 November 2012.