Current Paris climate pledges ‘won’t limit global warming to 2C’

Pledges made by countries ahead of the Paris UN Conference in December are not sufficient to limit global warming to 2°C, according to analysis published today (19 August) by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change.

The US is expected to offer emissions cuts of 26 to 28% by 2025, the EU has agreed to cut its emissions by 40% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels, while China has promised its emissions will peak by 2030. 

However the analysis concludes that the intended national determined contributions (INDCs) that have been submitted by 46 countries would lead to annual global emissions in 2030 of 56.9 to 59.1bn tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

At most this is 12bn tonnes more than the level UNEP says would give the planet a 50-66% chance of limiting global warming to less than 2°C.

The authors of the paper – Rodney Boyd, Joe Cranston Turner and Bob Ward – state the need for “hard work over the next few months by all countries to find credible ways of achieving bigger emissions reductions which can be included in INDCs to be submitted to the UNFCCC secretariat, and/or achieved through additional efforts by partnerships”.

“The creation of a mechanism [needs] be included in the agreement emerging from COP21 in Paris in December 2015, for countries to review their efforts and to find ways of ramping up the ambition of their emissions reductions by 2030 and beyond”.

Unthinkable consequences

Despite the need for more ambitious pledges that would help limit global warming to 2°C, there have been calls for that limit to be dropped even lower.

Speaking earlier this year, NASA climate scientist Professor James Hansen stated: “It’s crazy to think that 2°C is a safe limit.”

Sea levels were already six to eight metres higher compared to the last 2°C global temperature rise. Satellite data from the last 10 years also highlights that the ice sheets are disappearing faster than what had been suggested by climate scientists.

Professor Hansen concluded: “The consequences are almost unthinkable. It would mean that all coastal cities would become dysfunctional.”

Researcher Nicholas Stern, also from the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, suggested a four step action plan to increase the ambition of the emission cuts.

Matt Mace


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