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Keys to meet the 1.5°C target
Climate Action Network International (CAN) has issued several statements and articles in 2022 outlining how the UN should act on science policy in reviewing the long-term goal of the Climate Convention at COP 27.
Summarising the demands from CAN for the COP27 meeting in Egypt in November 2022: The conference should increase efforts to strengthen the resolve to limit global warming to 1.5°C and avoid the worst of the climate crisis. Compared to 2°C of warming, 1.5°C would see much less severe extreme events and fewer disruptions to human and ecological systems (this year we have seen the multiple severe impacts of ‘just’ 1.2 degrees of warming in many parts of the world), and consequently fewer people would be impacted by water scarcity, crop yield loss, food insecurity and extreme poverty.
The adopted reports of the three IPCC working groups for IPCC-AR6 show that the 1.5°C warming limit is still within reach but requires very urgent and rapid action. Stringent emission reductions need to take place in the very near term to halve current projections for 2030 CO2 emissions. 1.5°C pathways require CO2 emissions to peak now and reach net zero by mid-century, with total greenhouse gases quickly following suit in the second half of the century. While the world is not on track for 1.5°C and most countries still lack adequate climate targets, recent updates in national climate targets are a step forward to limiting warming to 1.5°C. CAN welcomes the presentations of the three expert dialogue sessions in the Periodic Review (PR2) during 2020–2022 and concludes that science tells us that even a restriction to 1.5 degrees of warming is not safe.
This should be a key component of the conclusions of PR2. Message from IPCC: The scientists delivered a grim message in the expert dialogue sessions: human-induced climate change is causing dangerous and widespread disruption affecting the lives of billions of people, with people and ecosystems least able to cope being hit the hardest. They gave a dire warning about the consequences of inaction with the world facing unavoidable multiple climate hazards over the coming decades – even if we are able to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C.
And they also made clear that even temporarily exceeding this magnitude of warming will result in additional severe impacts, some of which will be irreversible. IPCC lead authors of the Working Group III report told Parties that it is still possible to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C and inform them about the pathways available to do this. Definition of the long-term goal: CAN considers that the only acceptable longterm goal that truly reflects the Paris Agreement is to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels by the end of this century.
There is a need to assess whether the objectives of the Paris Agreement are in line with Article 2 of the Convention. Such an assessment, even if it does not aim to change the Paris Agreement’s goals, would be timely and necessary, as effects such as the impacts of 1.5°C of warming on the cryosphere beyond 2100, and over time frames of centuries, cause reason for serious concern. The Second Periodic Review should improve our collective understanding of the long-term scenarios that will help achieve the highest ambition from all actors. Consideration of the risks of overshooting the long-term goal: the reference in the Paris Agreement to keeping temperature rise well below 2°C opens the door to substantially overshooting the 1.5°C threshold during the course of this century.
CAN considers this a dangerous option. As evidenced in the scientific literature, there are many risks and uncertainties concerning both the impact of even a temporary overshoot and the realistic possibilities of bringing the temperature down, at least at the scale that might be needed. Scenario development to reach the longterm goal: since the adoption of the Paris Agreement, substantial progress has been made on the development of scenarios that would limit temperature rise to 1.5°C by the end of this century, as evidenced in the IPCC’s Special Report on Global warming of 1.5°C. Since its adoption in October 2018 substantial additional progress has been made.
The results of the Structured Expert Dialogue should incorporate an overview of the latest findings of 1.5°C pathways with limited or no overshoot. Recognition of the gap to reach the long-term goal: it is very clear that we are facing a gap between current action and the scenarios that will allow us to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C. The October 2021 revised UNFCCC Synthesis Report of Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement indicated we are heading towards 2.7°C of warming by the end of the century with current National Determined Contributions (NDCs).
Identification of action delivered so far: in the assessment of the gap, it will be useful to look at emission reductions and limitations that have been realised by 2020, which is an important milestone in particular for assessing commitments made under the Second Commitment Period of the Kyoto Protocol (KP2). As it looks now, although further data is needed, countries with commitments under KP2 collectively reduced their CO2 emissions by 32% between 1990 and 2020. When looking at all Annex 1 countries, reductions have been smaller but still reached 22% in 2020.
This compares to an overall increase in global emissions of 53% by 2020. CAN calls upon the Structured Expert Dialogue (SED) of the Second Periodic Review of the long-term global goal to accept that only the IPCC’s C1 Illustrative Mitigation Pathway, which limits warming to 1.5°C with zero or limited overshoot, can ensure the achievement of the long-term goal of the Paris Agreement. This pathway assumes that emissions are reduced on average to 31 GtCO2-eq in 2030 and 9 GtCO2-eq in 2050.
To better understand where we are in achieving the long-term temperature goals and what consequences this could have for mitigation targets in NDCs, the PR2 on the long-term goal of the Paris Agreement 2020–2022 must elaborate and conclude on the following questions:
• What does the temperature threshold of the Paris Agreement mean for emission reductions for regions and sectors and the remaining carbon budget? Are there potential tipping points for e.g. coastal zones in relation to sea-level rise, food production systems, drinking water, health problems from high temperatures, global and regional ecosystems, ice sheets and sea ice at 1–2°C global temperature increase up to 2300? What can we learn from science about the damages and losses if we could limit warming to 1.5°C degrees compared to a limitation of warming to well below 2°C? What are the socio-economic, environmental and ecological effects of 1.5°C overshoot scenarios?
• How can projected emission trajectories be best adapted to the 5-year ambition cycle of the Paris Agreement? For the current round of NDC revisions, there is considerable attention to and awareness of where emissions need to be in 2030 to meet temperature targets. This should move ahead in regular 5-year steps, so that in the 2023 GST and the next round of NDCs by 2025, the scientific community produces comparable awareness of where emissions need to be in 2035, and so on.
• Should the temperature goal of the Paris Agreement – well below 2°C and preferably 1.5°C – be defined as a threshold or should it be seen as a multi-year or multi-decadal average? Will parties adopt the average over a 30-year period as defined by the IPCC?
► CAN Demands Stringent reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases must not rely on technological fixes that could pose further harm to the environment, biodiversity and human health, such as geoengineering. CAN’s vision for a safe climate is focused on rapid economy-wide decarbonisation and a transition to a just, equitable and sustainable future. A range of solutions and climate mitigation tools can help achieve this vision, including shifting to sustainable consumption patterns, renewable energy, energy efficiency, forest conservation, reforestation, and reduced meat consumption.
Geoengineering proposals distract from the need to take concerted action across multiple sectors in the near term to dramatically reduce emissions. Overall, to meet the 1.5°C limit, we need to consume less, consume efficiently and to consume sustainably as far as possible. Concerning the preparations of the Seventh Cycle of IPCC and its Assessment Report, CAN demands that the original planned timetable is kept and that the publishing of the final reports will be available for the Third Periodic Review (TPR) in 2027, which should feed the GST in 2028.
Compiled by Manfred Treber and Reinhold Pape
Source: CAN International submissions, Eco articles and Wendel Trio