It would have been unthinkable just a few months ago, but a new global agreement to tackle climate change looks set to set the world a much more ambitious target than expected, even if reaching that target is far from being achieved. for the time being.
With unexpected backing from the United States and Europe, the deal, which is expected to be concluded in a few days, looks set to go beyond the current target of limiting the rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius (3 , 6F) above pre-industrial levels. Instead, the last draft published Thursday night indicates a new target to keep the rise “well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to continue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius”. This is the first draft that does not offer alternative options for the lens.
Even if the greenhouse gas emission reductions promised in Paris will not even succeed in limiting the rise to 2C, an explicit recognition of what more is needed could still put the world on the path to action. more decisive in the future. US Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday announced that the United States will join around 100 countries in a “high ambition coalition” seeking to move beyond 2C, a level which low island states say altitude like the Marshall Islands, might not be enough. prevent them from being overwhelmed by the end of the century.
Marshall Islands Foreign Minister Tony de Brum, who formed the ad hoc group in side meetings in recent months, said a higher target and rounds of negotiations to get countries to “increase Their emission reductions, were the “beating heart of the Paris agreement”.
Last week, Germany and France voted in favor of another coalition called the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), which has been defending the 1.5 ° C limit since 2009. Monica Araya, CVF adviser and former negotiator of Costa Rica’s climate, said rich countries. “The change of heart was a ‘tectonic plate shift’ in the debate.
Not so fast ….
If the text remains intact, it would be a symbolic defeat for some countries that opposed the more ambitious target, especially the oil-exporting Gulf countries. Saudi Arabia last week blocked initial attempts to include in the Paris deal references to a UN report recommending 1.5C as a target, arguing that reaching it could jeopardize security food because this would require the massive planting of trees on farmland.
Saudi negotiator Khalid Abuleif said scientists lacked “solid information and scientific support to take concrete action and meet these criteria.” Saudi officials were not immediately available for comment on the new draft. India, which called on richer countries to shoulder a greater share of the burden, offered conditional support for a 1.5 ° C target if those developed countries agreed to deeper emission cuts.
Target 2C has always been somewhat arbitrary as a threshold to prevent the worst effects of global warming in the form of sea level rise and more severe and frequent storms, floods and droughts. Average surface temperatures have already risen by 1 ° C and greenhouse gases already emitted and trapped in the system are expected to push the rise above 1.5 ° C within a few decades.
The UN’s main scientific body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has said that simply aiming for a long-term path of 1.5 degrees will put countries on the right track. to achieve the goal of 2 degrees, but admits that the research is incomplete. “There is limited evidence of the likely impact of 1.5 degrees and more research needs to be done,” said Hoesung Lee, director of the IPCC.
In the very short term, a bolder goal will make little difference. Before the Paris summit, almost all countries submitted their own emission reduction plans, but these measures in total will fall far short of target 2C.
Michiel Schaeffer, researcher at Climate Analytics, said the only difference between achieving 1.5C and 2C was the speed at which carbon reduction technologies such as energy efficiency and carbon capture and storage needed to be deployed: “ If you want to achieve 1.5 degrees, you have to deploy them five, 10, or 20 years earlier. “