Senior Lecturer in Sustainability Dr Julia Meaton comments on the gap between carbon cutting plans and the reductions required to keep temperature rises below 2 degrees Celsius.
The Stuff of Nightmares
“News of the alarming gap between declared global carbon cutting plans and the necessary reductions to keep temperature rises below the 2C ‘safe’ limit is the stuff of Halloween nightmares. The Paris Agreement, that came into force almost exactly a year ago, requires all country signatories to submit national carbon plans (Nationally Determined Contributions, NDCs) outlining their targets for emission reductions. All but one country, Syria, have signed up, although of course, there is the spectre of the Trump administration withdrawing from the agreement. This global consensus, while shaky and vulnerable, is still the world’s best hope for reducing emissions and thus preventing climate change on the scale that will cause devastation and misery for this generation, and all those that follow.
However, at the moment only six countries have plans that will meet their share of the 2C target (including Morocco, Costa Rica and Ethiopia). Climate Analytics identify twelve countries, including USA, Russia and Saudi Arabia, whose plans are either highly or critically insufficient, which could result in temperature rises of 4C and higher, while the EU, alongside others including Australia, Canada and Norway, are insufficient, with their NDCs likely to deliver a 3C temperature rise. The one glimmer of hope on the horizon is the recent news from China that suggests its carbon emissions have peaked ahead of schedule.
There is clearly a desperate urgency for all signatories to ratchet up their plans. The Paris Agreement is a high risk global experiment in country-to-country peer pressure. It can be likened to a global fitness plan whereby all countries need to support and encourage each other to get off the couch and limber up. Full participation in this worldwide climate gym will only reap benefits if the members commit to wholescale life-style changes. Turning up and doing a few lengths of heads up breaststroke, a 100 metre jog and the odd squat thrust will not be sufficient. There is global consensus on what is good for us and what is good for the climate, and we know what works. We just need to put this into practice – quickly. Governments must respond to this terrifying climate crisis with urgent effective action. Put simply, they need to run as fast as they can to avoid being caught by the menace that is chasing us all.”
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