The Long Term Goal (LTG) has been getting a lot of splash in the past month, with the business community, investors, and others sending a strong signal that the LTG is a key element for the Paris agreement. ECO couldn’t agree more. The problem is that there are so many formulations to the LTG that it’s confusing everybody.
First, let us agree that the real LTG: is the ultimate objective of the Convention (Article 2), and alongside that is the politically agreed 2°C temperature goal. The problem is that both of these mean different things to different people, so one challenge for us in Paris is to actually operationalise and put them in a language that everyone understands.
The ultimate objective of the Convention refers to stabilising GHG concentrations; to do so requires achieving zero GHG emissions. The question is when this must be achieved in order to avoid catastrophic impacts from climate change. And when we talk about the 2°C goal, are we aiming to achieve that with a probability of 90%, 66%, or something less, and what kind of trajectory will we follow?
Having clarified what we need to achieve and why, let us now talk about substance and text.
The existing draft text provides varying formulations for the LTG, but ECO’s position is clear. We support phasing out fossil fuel emissions and a just transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050. First, if we want a high probability of staying below 2°C (which would still only give us a low probability to stay below 1.5°C, the absolute limit that the most vulnerable communities can bear), then we need to reach by 2050. If not, it will become very difficult to achieve the politically agreed goal of staying below 2°C.
We also don’t want to see a goal so far down the line that it would reduce the urgency for governments to adopt ambitious mid-term objectives and take full action. Achieving zero by 2050 is strongly linked to closing the existing gap in the short- and medium-term.
Second, watch out for false solutions. Some believe that fossil fuels can be used for some time to come as they are now, and still achieve our climate targets. That is clearly not the case. You can’t get to a new destination without making a turn.
It’s also clear that renewable energy is becoming the cheapest option in most parts of the world, even in comparison with fossil energy sources. But some proposed solutions involve high risks, costs, social impacts, and technological challenges that could add yet another wager on the future of our planet.
To sum up, ECO supports language to phase out fossil fuel emissions by 2050. What’s still missing from the draft text is clear support for renewable energy as a preferred solution. And finally, there must be strong linkage between the long-term goal and mid-term objectives.