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Higher ambition needed to meet Paris climate targets

Even with very strong efforts from countries, carbon emissions look set to go beyond the level needed to limit global warming to 1.5 °C
©powell83, Adobe Stock 2018
Jul 04 2018

With current climate policies and efforts to increase clean power generation, the remaining use of fossil fuels in industry, transport and heating in buildings will cause enough CO2 emissions to push climate targets out of reach, according to a study co-authored and co-designed by the JRC.

Accelerated energy efficiency improvements and a widespread electrification of energy demand are needed.

Otherwise, the world will become increasingly dependent on carbon dioxide removal to hold warming to well below 2°C, and the 1.5°C target for this century is likely to be unachievable.

A team of scientists from across the world set out to identify bottlenecks towards achieving the internationally agreed Paris climate targets.

They found that even with very strong efforts by all countries, including early and substantial strengthening of the intended nationally determined contributions, residual carbon emissions will reach around 1000 gigatons of CO2 by the end of the century.

This goes considerably beyond the level that emissions must be limited to in order to achieve the 1.5°C target.

Carbon dioxide removal is therefore no longer a choice, but a necessity for limiting warming to 1.5°C.

None of the scenarios the scientists modelled were able to achieve this target without the availability of a negative emissions technology, such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage technology.

The researchers also found that a failure to ramp up mitigation efforts now will increase the dependence on carbon dioxide removal as it locks in even more investments in infrastructures and leaves the world unprepared to make the changes needed to decarbonise.

The research has been published in Nature Climate Change.

Integrated Assessment Modelling

To assess options for emissions reduction, the scientists used 7 state-of-the-art modelling frameworks, which take into account temperature targets as well as the economic costs and technological options.

This included the JRC's POLES global energy model. JRC scientists also contributed to the design of the research scenarios and the processing and interpretation of the results.

The study was conducted as part of the ADVANCE project, a central aim of which is to evaluate and improve the suitability of models for climate policy impact assessments.

The POLES model covers the entire energy balance, from final energy demand, transformation and power production to primary supply and trade of energy commodities across countries and regions.

It enables scientists to assess climate and energy policies, as well as future energy needs.

Related studies, recently co-authored by JRC scientists include:

Background

These studies contribute to a growing body of scientific insights on the actions needed to achieve the Paris climate targets.

They strengthen the evidence behind climate initiatives which aim to strengthen global commitments to reaching these targets, including the major milestones to be reached by 2020 and the EU's mid-century strategy for moving to a competitive low carbon economy by 2050, proposals for which are expected in November this year.

Following the 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Talanoa Dialogue for climate ambition, constructive, facilitative and solutions oriented approach was launched.

The studies also provide timely evidence ahead of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, which will serve as an input to the Dialogue.

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