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.
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 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.
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.
All governments will have to significantly increase their action on climate change – both before 2020 and after, reducing total global greenhouse gas emissions to zero between 2060 and 2080, to keep warming to 2°C.
To achieve this, Governments will need to move even faster on C02 emissions from the energy and industry sectors, according to new analysis by the Climate Action Tracker.
The Climate Action Tracker, an analysis by research organisations Climate Analytics, Ecofys and the Pik Potsdam Institute, has examined the new scenarios in the IPCC AR5 database and calculated the required cuts to emissions needed at global and regional levels – in 2020, 2025 and 2030 – to keep global warming below 2°C with a high probability (and to return to 1.5°C by 2100).
Recent recarbonisation now means deeper cuts, sooner, needed for energy, industry emissions
For the energy and industry sectors, the deadline for reaching zero CO2 emissions should be faster, as earlier as 2045 and no later than 2065 (with negative emissions thereafter).
“The world must start preparing for a rapid decarbonisation of the energy and industry sectors within the next decade, reversing the recent recarbonisation of the sector seen since 2000, and going to zero emissions by around 2050,” said Dr Bill Hare of Climate Analytics.
“One of the major challenges for Ministers at the UNFCCC meetings in Bonn is to take concrete steps to arrest and reverse this adverse trend in decarbonisation.”
New US Clean Power Plan rates far from what’s needed for 2°C
In light of this need for decarbonisation of the industry and energy sectors, the CAT has analysed the US Government’s “Clean Power Plan” proposed rule leading to a 30% cut (from 2005 levels) in emissions from power plants.
“While the proposal is welcome, it is insufficient to meet the US’s pledges of 17% reduction of all greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and is inconsistent with its long-term target of 83% below 2005 level by 2050,” said Dr Niklas Höhne of Ecofys.
Based on the CAT assessment, the US’s 2030 national emissions would be around 5% above 1990 levels - or 10 % below 2005 levels.
“The US’s new plan is far above the levels required for a two degree pathway,” said Dr Hare.
The CAT has calculated from the IPCC AR5 scenarios that reductions for the Annex I countries in 2025 and 2030 should be 25-55% and 35-55% below 1990 levels respectively for an equity scenario based on relative capability to mitigate.
The CAT analysis shows the “Clean Power Plan” is slower than the US’s recent rate of decarbonisation over the last decade. The plan implies an economy-wide decarbonisation rate of about 0.9% per annum, significantly lower than the 1.4% p.a. achieved in the last decade. This is not as fast as required for a 2oC decarbonisation pathway.
Renewable energy: good news for decarbonisation
Just as coal use has recarbonised the energy sector to 2010, there has been a remarkable trend seen in renewable energy, showing the real viability of rapid decarbonisation. In 2012, renewables made up just over half of total net additions to electric generating capacity from all sources in 2012.
“While the effect on global emissions from increased renewables is still levelled out by increased use of coal and rising energy consumption, this could be the start of a new positive trend paving the way to a full decarbonisation of the energy sector,” said Dr Höhne.
Reaching the targets would not be expensive. Under a cost-effective approach, global consumption growth from 2005 to 2030 with adequate climate action will only be a few percentage points less than in a BAU scenario without climate policy.
Carbon intensity will also need to decrease at an accelerating rate in the coming decades. Carbon intensity needs to rapidly decrease, reaching 3% annual reductions by 2030.
Still heading towards 4°C warming unless urgent action taken
The world is still tracking towards a 3.0 to 4.6°C warming by 2100, averaging 3.7°C, based on the CAT analysis of current policy trends – which is consistent with IPCC AR5 calculations.
Closing the emissions gap requires action by everyone
Some have argued that if developed countries were to reduce emissions by 40% by 2020 (the high end of the AR4’s approximate 2°C pathway), this would close the emissions gap in 2020.
But the new CAT analysis shows that this wouldn’t be enough: additional efforts would have to come from the major developing country emitters to close 2020 emissions gap of 8-13 MtCO2e (as estimated by the CAT).
Beyond 2020 The Climate Action Tracker has calculated various options for country groupings. Under a major equity approach, developed countries, would need to reduce emissions 25-55% below 1990 levels by 2025 and by 35-55% below 1990 levels by 2030. In the same period Non-Annex I, or developing countries, would need to maintain their emissions no higher than present levels and, more likely, significantly below present levels.
Climate Analytics’ Florent Baarsch participated in the workshop organised by MCII (Munich Climate Insurance Initiative) and GIZ on "Innovative Insurance Solutions for Climate Change in a Comprehensive Risk Management Approach – Developing a Toolkit”, May 12-13, 2014. There were thirty-two representatives from the insurance and reinsurance industry (AXA, Allianz and Munich Re), the African Risk Capacity, the World Food Programme, the Programme Bureau of the German Ministry for Environment, IFC, GIZ, academia (Columbia University and UNU) and insurance regulators from Pakistan.
Participants worked together to develop a toolkit to support policymakers in implementing risk transfer (and reduction) mechanisms at different levels: household, national and regional levels. The issues considered at each of the levels were:
- identifying the key activities / approaches
- defining stakeholders for each activity
- discussing preconditions for implementation of activities
- sequencing the options for proposed activities
A fact sheet presenting the main outcomes of the workshop will be available at the SB40 Session in Bonn and there will be a MCII side-event concentrating on this topic. The toolkit is to be launched at COP 20 in Lima.
For more information and full agenda click here.
As a follow up to the two reports Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided and Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts and the Case for Resilience, co-authored by Climate Analytics, the World Bank now offers a free online course on Climate Change.
The four week course brings leading and renowned scientists to provide a synthesis of the most recent scientific evidence and provides an analysis of likely impacts and risks with a focus on developing countries. It chronicles already observed changes in the climate system and its impacts, through the increase in carbon dioxide emissions, corresponding temperature increases and melting of glaciers and sea ice, and changes in precipitation patterns. It also offers projections for the 21st century for droughts, heat waves, sea level rise, with implications on food and water security as well as possible impacts on agriculture, water availability, ecosystems and human health.
The course presents this analysis for the likely impacts of a 4-degree warming trajectory and stresses the need for decision makers and communities to take a firm look at their adaptation choices, while signaling the urgency for mitigation action. Participants will also be introduced to the risks of triggering non-linearity, and tipping elements like the disintegration of the West Antarctic ice sheet and large-scale Amazon dieback. This course ends with a discussion on the main policy choices needed to prevent warming to be above 2°C.
The course starts on January 27 2014.
Find out more and enroll here.
Climate Analytics and New York University School of Law has analysed the reports from all governments who have delivered Fast Start Finance funding since Copenhagen in 2009. We have identified important lessons from the FSF process that are crucial for the rules and structure of how Long Term Finance should be delivered, around issues such as reporting, sources, burden-sharing, priorities, access and the balance between funding for adaptation and mitigation.
Weak government action on climate change will lead to a projected 3.7degC of warming by 2100, around 0.6degC higher than the original promises they made in Copenhagen, the Climate Action Tracker (CAT) said today.
The annual assessment by the CAT, a project of research organisations: Climate Analytics, Ecofys and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research shows that the world has a one in three chance of exceeding 4?C by 2100.
“We are seeing a major risk of a further downward spiral in ambition, a retreat from action, and a re-carbonisation of the energy system led by the use of coal,” said Bill Hare, director of Climate Analytics.
“Governments are taking a ‘bottom up’ approach to climate action, unilaterally degrading their pledges without review: the type of pledge first, review later approach to commitments that could lead to a very weak agreement in 2015.”
Since the Warsaw talks began, the announcement by Japan to downgrade its target enlarged the global 2020 emissions gap by 3-4%. Australia's backtracking on implementation could widen the gap further, with some positive signals coming from the US and China.
These developments point towards warming of about 5?C, under the highest of the new IPCC scenarios that sees a sixfold increase in coal use. There is a growing disconnect between current policies and 2020 pledges, and the longer-term reductions needed for 1.5-2°C.
“This whole situation flies in the face of plentiful opportunities for action and the continuing rise of renewable energy,” said Niklas Höhne Director for energy and climate policy at Ecofys. “For the first time, we analysed whether currently implemented government policies are sufficient to meet their pledges and find that significant and very diverse action is happening, but still not sufficient.”
“Instead of strong domestic policies to meet ambitious pledges, we’re seeing a weakening of action, and a degradation of pledges that sees the highest 2020 emissions levels the Climate Action Tracker has ever seen,” said Marion Vieweg, of Climate Analytics.
The Climate Action Tracker has spent recent months researching the world’s 24 biggest emitters, gathering data from a wide range of sources and today released its full assessment of their current pledges and policy pathways. These are the numbers that have been used to arrive at the 3.7degC policy projection.