Know Your Limits

3 June 2015

Yesterday saw a special event on the results of the Structured Expert Dialogue (SED) on the 2013-2015 review, which ended its work this February. ECO hears that it might have been this week’s “best show in town”. The SED  found that the “guardrail” concept, where up to 2°C of warming is considered safe, is inadequate. Instead the long-term goal should be defined as a“defence line” and efforts should be made to draw the defence line as low as possible.

The SED has identified 10 key messages. Here are 3 key ones:

1) Even 2°C warming (the limit agreed in Cancún) would result in catastrophic impacts, slow down economic growth, and significantly hinder poverty reduction efforts.

2) The world is not on a path towards a scenario below 2°C . Past and recent global greenhouse gas emissions have accelerated. So, yes, an emissions gap exists and the current Cancún pledges are more consistent with pathways limiting global warming to 3-4°C.

3) Keeping warming below 2°C is still achievable through deep emission cuts. These cuts can be achieved through full decarbonisation of energy systems, along with scaling-up of low-carbon energy technologies by approximately 90% by 2050 (compared to 2010). Importantly, these measures would not significantly affect global GDP growth. And if that weren’t enough: mitigation action also comes with co-benefits, particularly for human health and biodiversity conservation.

For ECO, aiming for a limit of warming to below 1.5°C would mitigate numerous impacts of climate change, and is not necessarily more costly than pursuing the 2°C  limit. However, to keep warming below 1.5°C, emissions reductions must begin earlier. And in each case—even to limit warming below 3°C—a radical transformation is necessary to deviate from current trends.

From the SED discussions in Bonn, ECO is taking away that a draft COP decision should strengthen the long-term goal of the Convention towards 1.5°C. The COP decision needs to operationalise this temperature threshold by phasing out all fossil fuel emissions and phasing in a 100% renewable energy future with sustainable energy access for all, as early as possible, but not later than 2050.

Know Your Limits

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