Stern warning: Emissions pledges too weak to stop global warming

The pledges made by major international emitters ahead of the Paris UN conference are not strong enough to limit global warming to 2C, according to team of researchers led by Nicholas Stern.

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, these proposed cuts put the trio on track to generate between 20.9 and 22.3 billion tonnes of carbon-dioxide-equivalent in 2030. Current and planned policies from the rest of the world suggest they will produce around 35 billion tonnes of CO2e, putting the global total at around 56bn tonnes CO2e

At best, 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.

“Countries should be considering opportunities to narrow this gap before and after the Paris summit,” said the paper overseen by Stern, who is chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change.

Action plan

The authors suggest that countries should focus on four key ways to increase the ambitions of emissions cuts both before and after the Paris summit.

1) Find credible ways of achieving bigger emissions reductions which can be included in pledges to be submitted before the Paris summit, or achieved through additional efforts by partnerships, for example, through specific decarbonisation initiatives among willing countries.

2) Intensify efforts to increase investment and innovation, particularly in relation to the development of cities, energy systems and land use, that could help to close the gap between intentions and the goal before and after 2030.

3) Create a mechanism, to be included in the agreement emerging from the Paris summit 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.

4) Build the strong and transparent domestic base necessary for the implementation of pledges, and so setting them on a path to decarbonisation and enabling them to ramp up their ambitions.

 Brad Allen

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie