Ways to avert dangerous climate change spelt out
IT IS possible to stay within the 2°C limit and avoid dangerous climate change, according to a UN report released ahead of the UN climate change talks in Lima later this month.
The report, released by the UN Environment Programme, called The Gap Report, sets out the pathways the world must follow if it is to avoid dangerous climate change, and focuses on a transition to a low-carbon economy.
To keep the average increase in the global temperature below 2°C, global greenhouse gas emissions will have to:
Reach a ceiling around 2020 and begin decreasing by 2030;
Be at least 50 percent lower by 2050 than they were in 2010;
Reach a net zero in the second half of the century, with any remaining emissions offset by re-afforestation and other means.
Because there is already so much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, world temperatures will increase over the next few decades, even if all greenhouse gas emissions were to cease today. This is because of the long lifespan of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Emissions have to be radically reduced to avoid going beyond 2°C – which would take the world into what has been called dangerous climate change, where ecosystems, livelihoods and economies are threatened.
The Gap Report also focuses on the urgency to act now to achieve ever higher targets to cut emissions before 2020.
UN Framework Convention on Climate Change chief Christiana Figueres said: “This important report underscores the reality that at some point in the second half of the century, we need to have achieved climate neutrality – or as some term it, zero net or net zero – in terms of overall global emissions.”
It report emphasises what needs to be done if climate change is to be tackled effectively. It says energy efficiency has to be scaled up, ranging from more energy-efficient appliances, lighting standards, and tighter building regulations and vehicle fuel norms.
The report suggests that improved energy efficiency has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by between 3 and 7 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent a year.
Other key findings of the report underline the wider, sustainable-development imperative of addressing climate change, as well as reducing air pollution and health threats.
The World Health Organisation reports that 7 million people die prematurely each year from indoor and outdoor air pollution, mostly in developing countries.
Energy efficiency improvements reduce fossil fuel use and therefore air pollution emissions. The report says a reduction in air pollution could avoid 100,000 premature deaths every year by 2030 in the US, the EU, India, Brazil, China and Mexico.
Other spin-offs from energy efficiency includes lower energy costs, which makes energy more accessible to poor. Adopting energy efficiency projects also leads to job creation.