As we set our sights on the golden climate temperature target thought to prevent the most dangerous effects of global warming, Christiana Figures, the United Nations Climate Chief, has spoken out. This is in light of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference set to take place in Paris next month.
She cautions that emissions pledges so far will not keep to this golden temperature.
Speaking about the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), she praises the number of participants now engaged in fighting climate change, but also states that “although we’re moving in the right direction, it is clearly not enough”.
If fully implemented, the countries’ voluntary promises would reduce global per-capita carbon emissions but set global average temperature to warm by 2.7°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100. At first glance 0.7°C above the golden target may seem small, however our ecosystems are extremely delicate and are affected by even the most modest temperature change. Many feedback loops are yet to be discovered that may exasperate our climate problems.
The European Union is in favour of mandatory targets which would make pledges like those outlined in the INDC legally binding. Figures highlight the need for any agreement to include clauses that ensure periodic reviews and consideration of further steps. In other words, these pledges act as a starting platform for more action.
There is a consensus among climate scientists, environmental groups and increasing numbers of politicians that no single country can afford to drop back and claim they have done enough. Sebastian Obethur, a climate policy researcher from Brussels, theorises that if one big player such as the United States or European Union were to set more ambitious domestic targets, and channel aid and know-how to poorer countries, then global climate action would gain momentum. One-quarter of INDC pledges are conditional on financial and technical support from other nations and donor countries have promised to provide around £65bn per year by 2020.
Germany has been a trailblazer, launching their ambitious renewable-energy plan, Energiewende, in 2013. They have invested billions in novel technologies to replace fossil fuels, claiming to have found an ideal way to cope with the intermittent nature of renewable solar and wind power. When energy production is high, excess electricity is used to make methane, which can be stored then burned to generate power on dark winter days. Germany has also committed to providing 10 per cent of the donor country fund. Figures reiterate a sentiment echoed in other areas such as the stance on human rights that “Industrialised countries will never be excused of not taking action at home. But they must also help developing countries.”
Across the world, it seems the public is become more aware and accepting of the reality that is climate change. Perhaps, then, this anticipates a target kept.