Dithering on climate action means bigger emissions cuts needed - new research

Countries across the globe will need to make much bigger cuts in emissions than previously thought, because of a lack of progress in international efforts to tackle climate change, a new report by Friends of the Earth warns.

The new analysis, which was peer-reviewed by the Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research Professor Kevin Anderson, reveals that in order to give the world a 70 per cent chance of avoiding a two degree centigrade rise in global temperatures, emissions will need to fall by 16 per cent by 2030 worldwide (based on 1990 levels). Two degrees is the point that scientists consider to be the threshold for catastrophic climate change which, once passed, will leave millions exposed to drought, hunger and flooding.

Friends of the Earth says that if the maximum amount of global emissions the world could allow (the remaining carbon budget) were shared out equally on the basis of average populations between now and 2050, the US would need to slash its emissions by as much as 95 per cent by 2030, the EU by 83 per cent, and the UK by 80 per cent. China would need to peak its emissions by 2013 and then reduce them by five per cent per year.

The green campaigning charity is calling for urgent research to identify whether these cuts are possible using existing technologies and policy levers or whether as yet unproven and potentially expensive technologies such as 'artificial trees' - which capture and store carbon from the air - need to be rapidly developed.

Friends of the Earth's Executive Director Andy Atkins said: 2These staggering findings are deeply worrying - we're hurtling towards the abyss much faster than we thought and we must change direction before it's too late.

“The failure to curb emissions over the last 20 years means that millions of people around the world face an increased risk of drought, flooding and hunger.

“This is a global emergency that requires immediate global action - wealthy nations must show leadership by rapidly slashing their emissions and provide poorer countries with sufficient finance and technology to do the same.”

He added: “It's astonishing that the UK, EU and G8 have adopted policies based on a 50:50 chance of avoiding a two degree rise in global temperatures - this is a reckless gamble with the lives and livelihoods of millions of people on the planet.

“With the alarm bells ringing, we need bigger cuts and urgent research on the effectiveness of carbon capture technologies.”

Professor Kevin Anderson, the Director of the UK's Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research said: “This report is uncomfortable but essential reading for all policy makers. It demonstrates the remaining global carbon budget for even a two degrees temperature rise is small and diminishing fast and that unprecedented reductions in emissions are now required across the globe.

“It is a refreshing wake-up call for all those with a stake in our global future.”

The Friends of the Earth's report, 'Reckless Gamblers', shows that to give a 70 per cent chance of avoiding a two degrees rise in global temperatures (and a 25 per cent chance of avoiding a 1.5 degree rise), the total amount of emissions allowed worldwide between now and 2050 is only 1100 GtCO2e. Global emissions between 2000 and 2010 were 400 GtCO2e.

Friends of the Earth believes the UK, EU and G8 position constitutes "reckless gambling" given that a two degree rise in global temperatures will increase extreme weather events, threaten food production, and cause loss of biodiversity. It also increases the risk of crossing irreversible tipping points (such as melting of the Greenland ice sheet or release of methane from Siberian permafrost), which would have grave environmental consequences.

The environmental campaigning charity argues that the world would have stood a good chance of avoiding a two degree rise in global temperatures if action had been started in 1995 (three years after the Rio Earth Summit) to decrease global emissions by as little as 1.5 per cent per year.

Friends of the Earth says that the agreement reached in Cancun was too weak, making it harder for the world to cut global emissions. Some countries put down pledges on emissions that equate to global average temperature increases of up to five degrees, and rich countries are not providing enough finance and technology to help poorer countries cut their own emissions.

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