Asking the Tough Questions About the Long Term Global Goal

19 June 2019

How much warming (and resulting climatic disruption) is too much? The 2013-2015 review of 1.5°C of warming concluded there would be serious and perhaps irreversible impacts from exceeding this threshold.

Since the Paris Agreement was adopted, we have had the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR1.5) and more science is coming every day with increasingly alarming news of the consequences of exceeding 1.5°C.

This is where the Second Periodic Review (SPR) comes in. It can help Parties come to grips with the emerging science and escalating impacts and guide them towards an appropriate application of the global goal. This will be an essential input to the Global Stocktake (GST) in 2023. As an extra bonus, it will also start the GST’s work on assessing progress towards meeting that goal.

But today, during the first informal consultation on the SPR, in a jam packed room reflecting the growing interest in this important topic, ECO couldn’t fail to notice that some delegates seem to be too busy working in this bubble to see what happens outside of it: heatwaves in Asia and cyclones like Idai in Mozambique or Fani in India €” whether attributed to climate change or not €“ occur more often and are stronger, just like the IPCC scenarios suggest. New impacts of climate change, like rapid permafrost melting in the Arctic have been observed this very month. These observations should be enough motivation for a review with a thorough survey of the newest science on climate change coming in 2021. To be clear we must aim for limiting global warming to 1.5°C.

For those not intimately familiar with this issue: what we are referring to here is theme 1 of the SPR. In that context, we also suggest asking: Do we know at what extent of overshoot 1.5°C warming is reversible?

Theme 2 is a review of the overall progress towards achieving the long-term goal. Here it gets more complicated and we therefore encourage Parties to focus on this one. Yes, there is some duplication of work with the Global Stocktake (GST). But with so much at stake, is that really too much to ask? The scope of the SPR should include an analysis of the GHG emission reduction targets of the new and enhanced NDCs compared to the long term goal of the Paris Agreement.

Lastly, some countries with high emissions are not Parties to the Paris Agreement. If the GST only looks at theme 2, the emissions of those Parties would not be covered. Do we really want to reward them for their inaction and broken promises?

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