Voluntary efforts not enough to meet two degree climate target, study warns

Innovative technologies, such as electric cars and biofuels, are underused, according to an international study. [David Villarreal Fernández]

A report issued by an international research team warns that efforts made by the international community are not enough to prevent a 2 degree temperature rise, but good foundations have been laid. EURACTIV Germany reports.

The main target of the UN conference in Paris next month is to agree on a framework that will prevent global warming exceeding a 2 degrees celsius increase. However, a new report, to which the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research contributed, has concluded that the voluntary contributions made so far will not be sufficient to achieve this all-important objective.

>>Read: Least developed countries set the standard for climate action ahead of COP21

Scientists from 16 international research institutes studied in detail the restructuring of the energy sector being carried out by INDC countries (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions). The result is sobering, but at the same time motivational: the restructuring is going too slowly, but the contributions made by nations so far could be a good entry-point into the adoption of low-carbon economies. Any agreement reached in Paris should include a mechanism to strengthen these countries contributions by 2020 at the latest.

“National climate contributions do lay the groundwork for a faster transition to a worldwide low-carbon economy, but in terms of achieving the 2 degrees target, they are not sufficient,” said Elmar Kriegler of the Potsdam Institute.

Too many coal-fired power stations

Kriegler believes that the INDCs will indeed drive the transition to renewable and low-carbon forms of electricity production. The reduction of CO2 emissions has not been of the magnitude or speed needed to achieve the 2 degrees target. In INDCs, electric cars, advanced biofuels and sustainable urban-planning still lag behind. In addition, many coal-fired power stations will remain on the grid.

>>Read: Auditors find that German nuclear providers can afford phase-out

The analysis of the report calls for the Paris conference to come up with a clear timetable for reducing emissions. Kriegler added that “it would send a clear message to investors in the energy sector about the switch to a low-carbon economy.”

However, the authors of the European Commission-sponsored investigation also praised some of the achievements made so far.

As things stood on 19 October, 123 INDCs had been submitted by 150 countries. Together they cover 86% of the global emissions recorded since 2012. “Such a broad participation by countries from all continents, all stages of development and a variety of different positions in climate negotiations is in itself an important milestone on the road to protecting the environment,” said Teresa Ribera, director of the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI).

Specific goals are necessary

In September, EU environment ministers agreed upon a joint position to take at the Paris conference; according to the EU environment commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete, it was a “fair agreement”. The German environment minister, Barbara Hendricks, said that the member states had agreed to target reducing EU greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030, in comparison to 1990.

>>Read: One month to COP21, nations cannot agree on meaning of decarbonisation

Furthermore, they want climate goals to be examined every five years after 2025 and revised if necessary. The decarbonisation of the world economy over the next century is next up on the agenda. Germany’s goal is to reach zero C02 emissions by 2100.

Future policies and objectives should be consistent with the goal of achieving a low-carbon economy by 2050, underpinned with a sound strategy.

  • 30 November-11 December 2015 COP21 -  United Nations Climate Change Conference, Paris


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