Greenhouse gas pledges not enough, claims report

Pledges being made by countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions are unlikely to be enough to avoid dangerous climate change, a report has warned.

Countries are submitting the pledges for reductions in emissions — known as “intended nationally determined contributions” — ahead of UN climate talks in Paris at the end of the year which aim to secure a new global deal to tackle climate change.

However, analysis of the intended level of emissions in 2030 by some of the world’s largest emitters and assumptions about what other countries might do suggests the pledges will together fail to limit temperature rises to no more than 2C — the threshold beyond which the worst impacts of climate change are likely to be felt.

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 The authors of the analysis, including Nicholas Stern, who wrote the key report in 2006 on the economics of tackling climate change, have called on countries to find ways to increase ambition for cutting emissions.

Depending on when China’s emissions reach a peak, the EU, the US, and China are likely to emit 20.9bn-22.3bn tonnes of emissions in 2030. Experts warn that, to give the world a better than evens chance of limiting temperature rises to 2C above pre-industrial levels, global emissions would have to be 32bn-44bn tonnes in 2030.

To keep to that limit, either the pledges put forward by the rest of the world must be no more than 23bn tonnes in 2030, or China, the US and the EU have to cut their greenhouse gases by far more than currently planned, the analysis said.

However, current and planned policies from other countries suggest their emissions could be about 35bn tonnes, meaning there is a gap between the pledges and what is needed to meet the 2C target governments have agreed.

The ambitions and plans agreed at the Paris summit in December 2015 should be regarded as a critical initial step. It is also important that countries make pledges that are credible.

“The Paris summit should not be regarded as just a one-off opportunity to fix targets,” they said in the paper, published by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science. The authors are Nicholas Stern, Rodney Boyd, and Bob Ward.

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