What's new?

China, US and EU post-2020 plans reduce projected warming
2014, December 8

For the first time since 2009 the Climate Action Tracker calculates a discernibly lower temperature increase than previously estimated because of new proposed post-2020 actions.

Recent announcements by China, the United States and European Union, who comprise approximately 53% of global emissions, indicate a rising level of ambition, which are reflected in the slightly improved outlook for global warming by the Climate Action Tracker, should these and other governments fully implement their pledges.

These new, post-2020 announcements by the EU, USA, and China are more ambitious than their previous (2020) commitments. The effect of these new announcements is between 0.2 and 0.4 degrees lower warming than in earlier assessments of global ambition, reducing the projected warming to 2.9-3.1oC. However, there is substantial uncertainty from unknown long-term developments in China.

To learn more, read our full briefing and the press release.

New World Bank report assesses climate risks in Latin American and the Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa and Europe and Central Asia
2014, November 24

The third report Confronting the New Climate Normal in the Turn Down the Heat Series, commissioned by the World Bank and produced by Climate Analytics and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, was launched by World Bank Presiden Jim Yong Kim on 23 November 2014. It provides an overview over the expected climate impacts in the three regions Latin American and the Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa and Europe and Central Asia for warming levels of 1.5°C, 2°C and 4°C above pre-industrial temperatures.

The report highlights the risks that climate change poses for development and poverty eradication. In identifying those risks, climate impacts are assessed across the physical and biophysical through to the social domain. The report issues a call for strong mitigation action and increased efforts to strengthen the resilience of those who are most vulnerable to the unavoidable impacts of climate change.

One of the report´s findings relates to unavoidable impacts at around 1.5°C warming by mid-century. For what this means for warming levels by 2100 see our additional briefing here. 

10 billion mark within reach: current status of Green Climate Fund pledges ahead of this week’s Pledging Conference in Berlin
2014, November 17

Several major donors announced their contributions to the initial capitalization of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) in the lead up to the upcoming High-Level Pledging Conference 19-20 November in Berlin. The pledges received so far amount to USD 7.55 billion. The additional pledges by the UK and others expected in Berlin would put the UN's target of raising USD 10 billion by the end of this year is within reach.

Policies for receiving contributions to the fund adopted at the October meeting of the GCF Board in Barbados removed the last roadblock for donors to come forward with their pledges to the fund. Ambitious pledges to the GCF reaching at least USD 10 billion by COP 20 in Lima will be key input to the negotiations under the UNFCCC, building momentum towards adopting an ambitious agreement in 2015.

You can find a graph detailing the current status of pledges to the GCF here


China and US increase climate ambition: Improvements needed in 2015
2014, November 13

The Climate Action Tracker has undertaken an initial assessment of the recent announcements by the United States and China’s new pledges and proposals on emissions reductions for 2025 and 2030, in the context of the present international negotiations for a new climate agreement to be adopted at the end of 2015.

The announcement of increased ambition by the biggest emitters China and the United States one year ahead of the Paris Climate Summit in 2015 is a very important political development. It begins to close the gap between their previous pledges and the emissions limits needed to hold global warming below 2°C.   

It is clear however that both could significantly improve over these new pledges. Adopting world best practice would enable substantial improvements, as outlined in the Climate Action Tracker’s update last month, where we looked at the potential for both countries.

 “These pledges give scope for further improvement during 2015. But for both countries, the increasing challenge now is to match the pledges with policy action,” said Bill Hare of Climate Analytics.

 “Both move closer to a pathway that is compatible with 2°C but would need to increase ambition” says Niklas Höhne, NewClimate Institute.

“This is a very positive development but needs on-the-ground implementation from both countries to ensure they contribute sufficiently to safeguarding our climate,” Kornelis Blok, Director of Science at Ecofys, concludes.

For further information, read the full briefing.

Stopping black carbon will not buy time for global warming, new study show
2014, November 5

Climate action efforts that focus on so-called “short-lived climate forcers” (SLCF) such as black carbon will do little to keep global warming below 2˚C in the long term, says a new study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study, authored, amongst others, by three Climate Analytics scientists - Joeri Rogelj (lead author), Michiel Schaeffer and Bill Hare - shows that efforts to focus on cutting black carbon must go hand in hand with wider efforts to cut carbon dioxide emissions, or they will have little effect on global warming.

Some governments have seized upon reducing black carbon as a way to fight climate change in the short term. The new study now puts important question marks next to the effectiveness of such action for limiting climate change in the long term.

The new study has done what previous studies have not: it focused on the link between short-lived climate forcers like black carbon and long-lived forcer CO2.  They are often released from common sources and are therefore intricately linked, for example black carbon is emitted alongside CO2 from a coal-fired power station, just as it is emitted from a diesel vehicle.  For reasons of simplification, this linkage was often ignored by studies that carried out long-term projections of the climate effects of SLCF’s.  But this turns out to be the crucial missing link in the understanding of what black carbon can contribute in the long term.

“Reducing black carbon will clean up our air and reduce our impact on the climate in the next couple of decades, but we find that it cannot be a substitute for action to stop carbon dioxide emissions,” said Dr Joeri Rogelj, lead author of the paper. “It turns out that reducing black carbon cannot buy us time for putting in place stringent carbon dioxide emission reductions.” 

The authors found that while deep cuts in methane in the short term do hedge against exceeding important temperature thresholds, they only do this if linked with deep cuts in carbon dioxide emissions.  The effects of methane and hydrofluorocarbons (HFC’s) are fairly robust across all scenarios, but in the long term, black carbon’s effects become vanishingly small.  Consequently lumping these together would obscure many of these important differences. From a climate perspective, governments would be better to focus on comprehensive CO2mitigation policies, which will lead to reductions in co-emitted pollutants like black carbon along the way. At the same time, the local health benefits of black carbon can still be a valid, yet entirely different, motivation for reducing black carbon in the near term. 

“A rapid phase out of carbon dioxide emissions,  including eliminating unmitigated coal from our energy mix, remains the single biggest measure for early action on global warming, which would also reduce a large of air pollutants including black carbon. This confirms – from a very different perspective – the key finding of a limited carbon budget in the just-published Synthesis Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” said Dr Michiel Schaeffer.

Reducing black carbon and sulfur dioxide from the atmosphere can be done in ways that do not address carbon dioxide, such as cleaning up car exhausts, diesel engines, and changing fuel in cookstoves, but this would contribute little to the fight against global warming in the long term.

“Efforts to clean up black carbon and other pollutants are all very well and good for their human health benefits, but if we don’t tackle the key gas, carbon dioxide, then we’re not going to solve the problem,” said another of the authors, Dr Bill Hare.


Dr Joeri Rogelj: +43 2236 807 393 joeri.rogelj@env.ethz.ch

Dr Michiel Schaeffer: +31 634306393 michiel.schaeffer@climateanalytics.org

Dr Bill Hare:+ 49 1609086 3463 bill.hare@climateanalytics.org


The full paper is available here.

US China cooperation could make major difference to emissions gap – research
2014, October 21
If the US and China were to adopt global best practice in their domestic action on climate, together, the world’s largest emitters could close the 2020 emissions gap by  23%, according to new research. In their latest Climate Action Tracker update, research organisations Climate Analytics, Ecofys and the Pik Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research have compared the actions of both China and the US on climate change. 
They looked at the actions of both countries in their most energy-intensive sectors: electricity production, industry, buildings and transport, compared them with each other, and also looked at what each country could achieve if it were to adopt global best practice in those areas. 
“The US and China produce 35 percent of global emissions and have been making efforts to work with each other on climate change. If they scaled up action to adopt the most ambitious policies from across the world, they would both be on the right pathway to keep warming below 2degrees C,” said Bill Hare of Climate Analytics. 
“This needs to include dramatically reducing their use of coal, in order to achieve the deep decarbonisation needed of getting C02 emissions from coal back to 1990 levels by 2030.” Dr Niklas Höhne, of Ecofys, said the sectoral comparisons for both countries produced results showing there were lessons to be learned by both. “We looked at how well both the US and China would do if they each adopted a ‘best of the two’ practice in electricity production, industry, buildings and transport. We found this, alone, would set them in a better direction,” said Höhne. “They could both learn from each other in most sectors.”
If they did this, in relative terms, China could reduce emissions from its current policy projections by 1.2% in 2020 and 20% in 2030 - and 3.2% and 16% for the US. 
But going for global best practice, together, the two countries would reduce emissions in 2020 by 2.8 GtCO2e/a below current policy projections and thus close 23% of the emissions gap. In 2030, the reductions would be of 6.7 GtCO2e/a, or 10% below the Climate Action Tracker global current policy projections.
The sectoral comparisons included these findings: 
• The average US citizen currently consumes four times more electricity than an average Chinese citizen. Both governments have managed to reduce their emissions for electricity produced, but they are still both expected to deploy more coal capacity in the future than is compatible with a 2 ̊C warming limit. If they were both to increase their share of renewable generation at 1.3% per year (the average trend since 2005 in Germany or the UK), that would make a difference.
• China has more efficient cement plants than the US, whereas the US has more efficient iron and steel plants. Both can improve significantly to reach currently best available technology. 
• Car ownership is ten times as high in the USA compared to China, but the difference is declining. In addition, China has still lower emissions per car. Both countries implement vehicle emissions standards; those of China are slightly stronger. However, if both were to move to global best practice (e.g. emission standard for cars as in the EU, increase of share of electric cars as in Norway) there could be a major difference. 
• Floor space per inhabitant is roughly twice in the USA compared to China, with building energy use in the residential sector three times higher in the US than in China. The difference isdecreasing as floor space and specific energy consumption is significantly increasing in China. 
However, again, if both were to move to EU standards, this would produce massive reductions.
For more information, read the full briefing.
Response to: “Ditch the 2°C warming goal!” by David G. Victor and Charles F. Kennel, Nature published 1 October 2014
2014, October 1

In a Comment article in Nature, David G. Victor and Charles Kennel call to ‘Ditch the 2°C warming goal’ adopted by the international community.

Despite scientific and economic evidence to the contrary, they claim this global warming limit cannot be met. Ignoring the well-established scientific methodologies for calculating emission reductions, they assert it is too difficult to calculate the emission reductions needed to meet the 2°C limit.

The authors propose different metrics of measuring climate targets implying that this could lead to a relaxation of the required level of emissions reductions. However, the scientific literature shows clearly that including other metrics (objectives, such as reducing sea level rise, reducing ocean acidification) will likely increase the level of emission reductions needed.

Climate Analytics examines – and refutes - their article in detail.

Read the full Climate Analytics response here.

Did the UN Climate Summit progress on efforts to hold back warming?
2014, September 25

Comments from Climate Action Tracker research groups. 

Bill Hare, Director, Climate Analytics:   

"The almost universal reaffirmation of a commitment to limit warming below 2degC by leaders at the Summit, along with virtually no new commitments to reduce emissions from the 4degC path we are on, places enormous pressure now on the next six months. 

“Governments must, by March next year, submit proposals that collectively meet the 2degC goal that was so strongly supported at the Summit. Its real test now lies ahead of us - was it just a talkfest or will it lead to the major increases in ambition needed?"

Niklas Höhne, Director Energy and Climate Policy, Ecofys 

“The statements by national governments are a firm commitment to action. But none of the commitments described in terms of greenhouse gas emissions by national governments are new, and have been made in other contexts. 

“New elements are financial commitments by the EU, Japan and USA and commitments by non state actors, e.g. investors and cities.

The impact of all announcements on global temperature increase is not yet clear, but do not yet present a step change. With current policies we are on a track towards 3.7°C.”

Australian Energy “Green Paper” foresees continuing increase in coal use: undermines 2° goal and heads towards a 4°C world
2014, September 25

Australian Energy “Green Paper” foresees large increase in coal

On 23 September 2014 the Australian Government released a “Green Paper” as part of the development of its new Energy White Paper.  The Australian “Green Paper” was released on the same day of the UN Climate Summit in New York which was aiming to build political momentum towards the action needed to limit warming below 2°C.

The “Green Paper" foresees a future strong growth in coal use globally over the next several decades arguing that “Most energy analysts confirm that coal will continue to be a major source of global energy for decades to come”.  In particular, the Green Paper assumes rapid increases in coal demand from Asian economies and proposes to align Australian government policies to facilitate accelerated approval of developments to support this. 

“Green Paper” lock-in of coal intensive future

In adopting this outlook, the “Green Paper” contributes to an economic commitment, in terms of a “lock-in” of legislation and investment patterns that have the potential for a strong negative effect on achieving an effective global agreement to limiting warming below 2°C. Read the reaction of the Climate Action Tracker team here.

Coal’s rapid phase out essential, not enough to stay below 2°C warming
2014, September 25

A rapid phase out of coal as an electricity source by 2050 would reduce warming by half a degree, according to the Climate Action Tracker, in an update released today ahead of the Ban ki-Moon climate summit. The Climate Action Tracker, put together by research organisations Climate Analytics, Ecofys, and the Pik Potsdam Institute, has calculated that under current Government policies, the world is on track to warm by 3.7degC by 2100.

The latest update looks at the effect of phasing out fossil fuels in the electricity sector. The CAT team ran a number of scenarios around phasing out fossil fuel emissions from the sector, which produces around 40% of global C02 emissions. The electricity sector needs to be decarbonised faster than other sectors, but instead is heading in the opposite direction, increasing carbon intensity and significantly driven by increased coal use, and making it one of the largest sources of recent carbon emission increases. The CAT scientists calculated that rapidly phasing out coal by 2050 would bring down warming by 0.5°C.

“There is a particular urgency for Governments to reverse recent trends in the electricity sector,especially the increasing investment in coal, in order to focus the power industry on rapid greenhouse gas emission reductions,” said Climate Analytics Director Bill Hare. “A major first step forward would be a strong political signal that the electric power sector needs to be decarbonised by 2050 - and that includes rapidly phasing out coal use.”

Under current Government policies, the CAT scenarios project emissions to exceed the 1000 gigatonne carbon budget (giving high probability of staying below 2degC of warming) by 3900 GtC02. Phasing out coal emissions from the power sector by 2050 would reduce this exceedance by around 35% (more than 1400 GtCO2).

The CAT also investigated the possible role of gas, finding that a rapid phase out of gas would only make a difference of 0.1degC. “Our coal-to-gas scenario shows that gas would be unable, long term, to provide the reductions in the electricity sector required to stay below 2°C. Instead, development of long-lived infrastructure may actually become a major obstacle for the full decarbonisation of the electricity sector that we need,” said Dr Niklas Höhne of Ecofys. “Right now we are facing a real and present danger of a lock-in of a new energy sector infrastructure – including for gas-fired electricity generation,” said Höhne.

The CAT also found that switching from coal to gas would only achieve 25-45% of what could be obtained by the entire electricity sector switching to renewable energy. Aside from slowing warming, a rapid phase out of coal would also bring multiple environmental and health benefits: in 2010, coal plants produced 24% of the world’s mercury emissions and causes smog and severe health problems, particularly in densely populated areas.


Full briefing available here.


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