UN Report Says Global Carbon Neutrality Should be Reached by Second Half of Century, Demonstrates Pathways to Stay Under 2°C Limit
Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions Including Non-CO2 Must Shrink To Net Zero by 2100
Emissions Gap May Widen by 2030 but Low Carbon Path Offers Opportunities for the Future
– In order to limit global temperature rise to 2o C and head off the worst impacts of climate change, global carbon neutrality should be attained by mid-to-late century. This would also keep in check the maximum amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that can be emitted into the atmosphere while staying within safe temperature limits beyond 2020, says a new report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
Exceeding an estimated budget of just 1,000 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (Gt CO2) would increase the risk of severe, pervasive, and in some cases irreversible climate change impacts.
Released days ahead of the UN Conference on Climate Change in Lima, Peru, UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report 2014 is the fifth in a series that examines whether the pledges made by countries are on track to meet the internationally agreed under 2°C target. It is produced by 38 leading scientists from 22 research groups across 14 countries.
Building on the findings of the Fifth Assessment Report by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report shows the global emission guardrails that would give a likely chance of staying within the 2°C limit, including a peaking of emissions within the next ten years, a halving of all greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century; and in the second half of the century, carbon neutrality followed by net zero total greenhouse gas emissions.
“An increase in global temperature is proportional to the build-up of long-lasting greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, especially CO2. Taking more action now reduces the need for more extreme action later to stay within safe emission limits,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNEP.
“In a business-as-usual scenario, where little progress is made in the development and implementation of global climate policies, global greenhouse gas emissions could rise to up to 87 Gt CO2e by 2050, way beyond safe limits.”
“Countries are giving increasing attention to where they realistically need to be by 2025, 2030 and beyond in order to limit a global temperature rise to below 2°C. This fifth Emissions Gap Report underlines that carbon neutrality-
and eventually net zero or what some term climate neutrality-will be required so that what cumulative emissions are left are safely absorbed by the globe’s natural infrastructure such as forests and soils,” added Mr. Steiner.
“The Sustainable Development Goals underscore the many synergies between development and climate change mitigation goals. Linking development policies with climate mitigation will help countries build the energy-efficient, low-carbon infrastructures of the future and achieve transformational change that echoes the true meaning of sustainable development,” he concluded.
To avoid exceeding the budget, global carbon neutrality should be reached between 2055 and 2070, meaning that annual anthropogenic CO2 emissions should hit net zero by then on the global scale. Net zero implies that some remaining CO2 emissions could be compensated by the same amount of carbon dioxide uptake, or ‘negative’ emissions, so long as the net input to the atmosphere due to human activity is zero, the report finds.
Taking into account non-CO2 greenhouse gases, including methane, nitrous oxide and hydrofluorocarbons, total global greenhouse gas emissions need to shrink to net zero between 2080 and 2100.
Andrew Steer, President and CEO of the World Resources Institute said, “Negotiating a global climate deal should not be based on emotions or political whims, it should be driven by science and facts. This report provides one of the most clear eyed, technical analyses of global emissions that shows how country commitments and actions measure against science.”
“Unfortunately, the world is not currently headed in the right direction. But, with the growing momentum for global climate action, we have the opportunity to close the emissions gap and keep within the limits of what the science says is needed to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.”
Since 1990, global greenhouse gas emissions have grown by more than 45 per cent. To have a likely chance of staying below the 2o C limit, global greenhouse gas emissions should drop by about 15 per cent or more by 2030 compared to 2010, and be at least 50 per cent lower by 2050 on the way to net zero.
Past issues of the Emissions Gap Report focused on good practices across different sectors and their ability to stimulate economic activity and development, while reducing emissions.
This year, the report also looks at how international development targets and corresponding policies at the national level can bring about multiple benefits, including climate change mitigation focusing in particular on energy efficiency.
Bridging the Gap
The 2014 Emissions Gap Report defines the emissions gap as the difference between emission levels in 2025 and 2030 consistent with meeting climate targets versus the levels expected if country pledges are met.
Scientists estimate the gap in 2020 at up to 10 Gt CO2e and in 2030 at up to 17 Gt CO2e. Relative to business-as-usual emissions in 2030 (68 Gt CO2e), the gap is even bigger at 26 Gt CO2e.
Despite the fact that the gap is not getting smaller, the report estimates that it could be bridged if available global emissions reductions are fully exploited: The potential for emission reductions in 2030 (relative to business-as-usual emissions) is estimated to be 29 Gt CO2e.
The Cost of Delayed Action
Postponing rigorous action until 2020 will provide savings on mitigation costs in the near-term but will bring much higher costs later on in terms of:
• Higher rates of global emission reductions in the medium-term; • Lock-in of carbon-intensive infrastructure; • Dependence on using all available mitigation technologies in the medium-term; • Greater costs of mitigation in the medium- and long-term, and greater risks of economic disruption; • Reliance on negative emissions; and • Greater risks of failing to meet the 2°C target, which would lead to substantially higher adaptation challenges and costs.
Energy Efficiency and the Post-2015 Development Agenda
Not only does energy efficiency reduce or avoid greenhouse emissions, but it can also increase productivity and sustainability through the delivery of energy savings, and support social development by increasing employment and energy security.
It is estimated that between 2015 and 2030, energy efficiency improvements worldwide could avoid at least 2.5–3.3 Gt CO2e annually.
The International Energy Agency reports that end-use fuel and electricity efficiency could save 6.8 Gt CO2e, and power generation efficiency and fossil fuel switching could save another 0.3 Gt CO2e by 2030.
Countries and other actors are already applying policies that are beneficial to both sustainable development and climate mitigation. About half the countries in the world have national policies for promoting more efficient use of energy in buildings.
About half are working on raising the efficiency of appliances and lighting. Other national policies and measures are promoting electricity generation with renewable energy, reducing transport demand and shifting transport modes, reducing process-related emissions from industry, and advancing sustainable agriculture. The Sustainable Development Goals being discussed show the many close links between development and climate change mitigation goals.
For example, efforts to eradicate energy poverty, promote universal access to cleaner forms of energy, and double energy efficiency—if fully realized—would go a long way towards putting the world on a path consistent with the climate target.
For more information and to arrange interviews with experts on the topic, please contact:
Shereen Zorba, Head of News and Media, United Nations Environment Programme, email@example.com, Tel. +254 788 526 000
Hugh Searight, News and Media, United Nations Environment Programme, firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel. 202 957 6978
Venue: National Press Club
U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern, who has led the United States in global climate talks since 2009, will address domestic and international efforts to mitigate the threat of global climate change during a public speech at Yale on Tuesday, Oct. 14.
The event, which will be held at 4:30 p.m. in Levinson Auditorium at the Yale Law School, 127 Wall St., is open to the public. It is hosted by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) and Yale Law School. The speech comes just weeks before the 20th meeting of the annual UN climate conference in Lima, Peru — a meeting that many leaders hope will help set a constructive course toward a successful international climate agreement to be reached at the 2015 climate conference in Paris.
The event will be broadcast via live web stream.
Stern comes to New Haven just weeks after the United Nations Climate Summit, held in New York on Sept. 23, where more than 100 heads of state plus business and civil society leaders came together to call for ambitious action on climate change. At the Summit, President Obama touted U.S. progress on the Climate Action Plan, reaffirmed a U.S. commitment to reach a global climate agreement, and announced several new climate change initiatives. Stern played an active role at the summit, which he called an opportunity for international leaders to build momentum toward a new global climate treaty before the 2015 meeting in Paris.
The international community recently concluded the latest round of negotiations on an international climate change agreement. Despite significant hurdles, the negotiators made important progress by managing expectations and adopting a pragmatic and forward-looking approach.
The CSIS Energy and National Security Program invites you to a discussion with
- Jonathan Pershing, Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change, U.S. Department of State
- Sarah O. Ladislaw, Senior Fellow, CSIS Energy and National Security Program
Mr. Pershing about his views on what was achieved in Cancun and what the main challenges are going forward.
Registration required. Please send your confirmation to email@example.com.
The sessions of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change are open to Parties of the Convention and Observer States (Governments), the United Nations System and observer organizations duly admitted by the Conference of the Parties. In addition, accredited press is allowed to cover the proceedings of the Convention.
Participation in COP15 is restricted to duly nominated representatives of Parties, observer States, admitted observer organizations and accredited press/media. The sessions are not open to the public.
COP 15 comprises a number of sessions of the Subsidiary Bodies of the Convention, its Kyoto Protocol, bilateral and multilateral meetings as well as side events and exhibits.
Five Parties have recently made proposals for a protocol under the Convention pursuant to Article 17 of the Convention.
The secretariat has also received twelve proposals by Parties for amendment to the Kyoto Protocol pursuant to Articles 20 and 21 of the Protocol.
Three months after the landmark agreement on a road map towards strengthened international action on climate change reached in Bali, Indonesia, the next round of negotiations shifts to the neighboring country of Thailand and its capital, Bangkok. The talks are taking place between 31 March to 4 April 2008 at the United Nations Conference Centre (UNCC) of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).
The climate change talks in Bangkok will convene sessions of both the Ad hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (first session) and the Ad hoc Working Group on further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (first part of the fifth session), during which Parties need to advance the Bali Road Map agreed last December.
Parties agreed at Bali to formally launch negotiations on enabling the full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention. These negotiations need to conclude in an agreed outcome by the end of 2009.
The challenge is to design a future agreement that will successfully halt the increase in global emissions within the next 10-15 years, dramatically cut back emissions by 2050, and do so in a way that is economically viable and politically equitable worldwide.
The Bangkok meeting of the Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention needs to map out how to tackle this enormous challenge and begin by establishing without delay a clear work programme for the next two years.
Concretely, Parties meeting in Bangkok will identify the areas that need to be further clarified as well as the issues where work needs to be done and in what order that should happen. They will also establish what input is needed from the UN at large, the business sector and others, and how this will be integrated into the overall work plan.
The issues that the new Working Group needs to address were clearly defined at Bali. In addition to the goal of achieving agreement on long-term global action, work on on-going issues such as deforestation and technology needs to be advanced.
The Kyoto Protocol AWG, mandated in 2005 to consider future commitments for Annex I Parties, will initiate the second step of its work programme; in particular, the analysis of possible means available to Annex I Parties to reach their emission reduction targets. It will provide an informal setting for input from experts and for Parties to present their views on the issues related to the different means, as well as on how to enhance their effectiveness and contribution to sustainable development. Issues under consideration include emissions trading and the project based mechanisms, land use, land-use change and forestry, greenhouse gases, sectors and source categories to be covered, and possible approaches targeting sectoral emissions. These themes will be addressed in an in-session thematic workshop.
For both groups, work will continue at the twenty-eighth session of the Subsidiary Bodies to be held in Bonn in June. After that, both groups will reconvene at a week-long intersessional meeting at the end of August before meeting again at the fourteenth session of the Conference of the Parties and the fourth session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol in Poland in December.
The Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade bill (S. 2191), which Sen. Boxer said may come to the floor before June, sets a cap of 15% below 2005 emissions levels by 2020 for covered sectors, reducing allowed emissions to the amount last seen in 1990.
Is that near-term target sufficient, in terms of the science?
As Holmes Hummel points out, the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) paints a much different picture.
At Bali, all of the Annex I signatories to the Kyoto Protocol (every industrialized country other than the US and Turkey) agreed to this roadmap, which states in convoluted language that the Annex I countries “noted” that the AR4 indicates that global emissions “need to peak in the next 10-15 years” and be reduced “well below half of levels in 2000” by 2050 “in order to stabilize their concentrations in the atmosphere at the lowest levels assessed by the IPCC to date in its scenarios.” The countries also “recognized” that the AR4 indicates that to achieve those levels “would require Annex I Parties as a group to reduce emissions in a range of 25–40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.”
25-40% below 1990 levels is dramatically below the Lieberman-Warner target. From AR4, these “lowest levels” of concentrations are 350-400ppm CO2.
What’s the value of achieving concentrations “at the lowest levels”? The report says that using the “best estimate” for climate sensitivity (the temperature response to greenhouse gas concentrations), reaching a stable concentration of 350-400ppm CO2 leads to 2.0-2.4 degrees C warming above pre-industrial levels. But Hummel notes that the “best estimate” is just one for which half the estimates are higher and half are lower.
To have a 50% chance of making the 2°C stabilization target, global emissions need to peak by 2015 and Annex I countries need to be 25-40% below 1990 by 2020.As AAAS president John Holdren argued in his speech Meeting the Climate Challenge (at 38:29; see also the slide presentation):
The chance of a tipping point into truly catastrophic change grows rapidly for increases in the global average surface temperature more than about 2°C above the pre-industrial level, and again we’re already committed basically to one and a half. For a better than even chance of not exceeding 2°C above the pre-industrial level, CO2 emissions must peak globally no later than 2025 and they need to be falling steadily after that. That is a great task.From the UN Scientific Expert Group on Climate Change and Sustainable Development, an international panel of 18 top scientists (including John Holdren):
In our judgment and that of a growing number of other analysts and groups, however, increases beyond 2°C to 2.5°C above the 1750 level will entail sharply rising risks of crossing a climate “tipping point” that could lead to intolerable impacts on human well-being, in spite of all feasible attempts at adaptation.
The House begins a new round of global warming hearings this year.Witness
- James Connaughton, chairman, White House Council on Environmental Quality
CLIMATE: Key Republican deals blow to House Dems’ emissions plans (01/17/2008)
Darren Samuelsohn, Greenwire senior reporter
The top Republican on a key House subcommittee signaled today he won’t support a global warming bill that puts mandatory limits on heat-trapping greenhouse gases.
“While I feel strongly that addressing climate change is certainly important, I believe we must address this through a global, voluntary framework that focuses on innovations in technology rather than a pure government mandate,” said Michigan’s Fred Upton, the new ranking member of the House Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee.
Upton replaced former House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois this year as the senior Republican on the panel that is tasked with writing climate legislation. During last year’s global warming debate, Hastert’s efforts and comments raised some Democrats’ hopes that he would support a bipartisan agreement on curbing U.S. emissions.
But Hastert resigned from Congress late last year, leaving an opening for Upton, an 11-term lawmaker from Michigan’s southwestern corner.
In his opening statement at the subcommittee’s first hearing this year, Upton poured cold water on the prospect that Democrats will get help from the top of the Republican roster.
“At the end of the day, we’ll need to demonstrate that the price paid in both jobs and dollars equates to some tangible environmental benefits to the American people,” Upton said. “In my view, spending trillions of dollars and losing a countless number of jobs, to maybe alter temperatures by a tenth of a degree, while China and India continue to spew emissions is not the option that we’re looking for.”
Democratic leaders of the House subcommittee and full committee did not outline a specific schedule for crafting a climate bill. But they did promise they would make an effort early this year to write and pass legislation establishing a cap-and-trade program that limits U.S. emissions.
In his own opening statement, House Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) affirmed his goal of getting GOP backing as he led the writing of a climate bill.
“This will require bipartisan cooperation, and I hope that my friends on the other side will come to the task with an open mind,” Dingell said.
While committee leaders are seeking bipartisanship agreement on the controversial bill, it wouldn’t necessarily be required to pass the measure out of the full Energy and Commerce panel where Democrats have a five-seat majority.
In an interview, Dingell said he didn’t want to comment on Upton’s remarks at the start of the hearing.
Upton wasn’t the only Republicans on the House panel who raised concerns about a cap-and-trade bill. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the full committee’s ranking member, questioned the underlying science linking humans’ emissions to climate change. CEQ chief testifies
Also during the hearing, Dingell nudged President Bush’s top environmental adviser, Jim Connaughton, who submitted a one-page opening statement for the hearing, plus a month-old slide show and past statements by President Bush.
Passing a climate bill “will require as well the active engagement of the administration, which remains to be seen,” Dingell said. “Judging from the rather thin testimony presented to the subcommittee by our witness today, however, I am less than optimistic.”
Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, told lawmakers his brief written remarks shouldn’t leave the impression the administration was making light of the climate issue.
He testified the U.N. agreement reached last month in Bali – which commits developed and developing nations to reaching a deal by 2009 that succeeds the Kyoto Protocol – is now Bush administration climate policy.
Chairman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming will hold a hearing next week on the international climate negotiations now wrapping up in Bali, Indonesia.
Chairman Markey and other members of the Select Committee will host climate experts returning from Bali to discuss the climate conference and suggest an effective path forward on global warming for the United States and the international community.Witnesses
- Philip Clapp, President, National Environmental Trust
- Myron Ebell, Director, Energy and Global Warming Policy, Competitive Enterprise Institute
- Alden Meyer, Director of Strategy and Policy, Union of Concerned Scientists
- Ned Helme, President, Center for Clean Air Policy
- Christiana Figueres, Former Official Negotiator, U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol, Costa Rica
The UNFCCC will convene at Bali to set the post-Kyoto roadmap in five interrelated meetings: COP-13, CMP-3, SBSTA-27, SBI-27, and Resumed AWG-4.
An international agreement needs to be found to follow the end of the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period, which ends in 2012. In order to avoid a gap between then and the entry into force of a new framework, the aim is to conclude a new deal by 2009 to allow enough time for ratification.
The “Bali roadmap” would establish the process to work on the key building blocks of a future climate change regime, including adaptation, mitigation, technology cooperation and financing the response to climate change. But it would also need to set out the methodology and detailed calendar of work for this process.
A major step forward was taken at the G8 summit in Heiligendamm in June, where the G8 leaders agreed to negotiate a post-2012 deal within the United Nations framework, with the goal to have an agreement in place by 2009. Significantly, this was supported by the Group of 5 countries with emerging economies: China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa.
In September, the United Nations Secretary-General hosted an unprecedented high-level event on climate change in New York, attended by over 80 heads of state or government. This was an expression of the political will of world leaders at the highest level to tackle climate change through concerted action, and they gave a clear call for a breakthrough at the conference in Bali. It was followed by the Major Economies Meeting on Climate Change and Energy Security in Washington on 27 and 28 September, where the United States government clearly voiced its desire to contribute to the UNFCCC process.The abbreviations refer to:
- Conference of the Parties (COP), Thirteenth session.
- Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP), Third session.
- Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), Twenty-seventh session.
- Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI), Twenty-seventh session.
- Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG), Fourth session (resumed from August Vienna session)
The United States is committed to collaborating with other major economies to agree on a detailed contribution for a new global framework by the end of 2008, which would contribute to a global agreement under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change by 2009.
To this end, President Bush asked Secretary Rice to host a meeting of major economies in Washington, D.C., on September 27 – 28, 2007. Bush intends to address the conference. At this meeting, we would seek agreement on the process by which the major economies would, by the end of 2008, agree upon a post-2012 framework that could include a long-term global goal, nationally defined mid-term goals and strategies, and sector-based approaches for improving energy security and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, we expect to place special emphasis on how major economies can, in close cooperation with the private sector, accelerate the development and deployment of clean technologies, a critical component of an effective global approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. James L. Connaughton, Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, will serve as Bush’s personal representative.
- United States (host)
- European Union (Current EU President and European Commission) Plus
- France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom
- South Korea
- South Africa
- United Nations
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