Reaching the Paris Agreement’s greenhouse-gas-emission reduction targets to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C by 2100 is possible but will be extremely difficult without huge commitments and major actions of G20 nations and others. That’s the overarching conclusion of research released Sept. 16 by Climate Analytics and the World Resources Institute.
“There are many roadmaps to help groups reach net-zero GHGs,” says Taryn Fransen, the senior fellow in the global climate program of WRI. Fransen manages the WRI team that produced the 32-page study, called Closing the gap: The impact of G20 climate commitments on limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C. “The challenge is implementing the roadmaps,” she adds.
The research finds that, collectively, current 2030 emission reduction targets under the Paris Agreement and legally binding net-zero targets point to well over 2°C of warming by the end of the century—far from what is needed to achieve the Paris Agreement’s goal to limit warming to 1.5°C.
However, global temperature rise by 2100 could be limited to 1.7°C if G20 nations strengthened their 2030 nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to greenhouse gas reduction along a 1.5°C-compatible domestic emissions pathway. Additionally, if countries committed to reach net-zero GHG emissions by mid-century—with a faster timeline for developed countries than for developing countries—such an effort could “get us about three-quarters of the way to limiting global warming to 1.5°C, compared with the estimated 2.4°C of warming under current targets,” concludes the report.
Concerted Effort Needed
Other findings are that G20 nations cannot meet the 1.5°C objective on their own. “A concerted effort by all parties over this decade and beyond is required to meet the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C goal,” say the study’s authors—CA’s Claire Fyson, Andreas Geiges and Matthew Gibson and WRI’s Jamal Srouji and Clea Schumer, who started working on the report in April.
Developed nations must “substantially ramp up” their financial support to developing nations to achieve the “ambitious” targets, according to the study. They must also mobilize private finance for international climate action.
Main Barriers Are Political
Fransen says investments are necessary but stresses the main barriers to achieving the goals are political.
“The economic impacts of acting on climate change are infinitely better than the economic impacts of sitting back and doing nothing,” adds Fransen.
She points to the Biden administration’s target for a 50% to 52% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2030. The reconciliation bill under consideration by Congress for the fiscal 2022 U.S. budget, which would provide funds for GHG reduction projects in its $3.5 trillion over a decade, requires congressional approval, she adds, but there are challenges from industry associations backed by fossil fuel interests.
The WRI backs her up. On Sept. 15, it released a public letter, signed by the CEOs of 12 environment and sustainability groups, including WRI, the World Wildlife Fund and the Union of Concerned Scientists, that calls on businesses to support the reconciliation bill.
“The impact of Congress’ decisions in the coming weeks cannot be overstated,” says the letter. “Therefore, we call on all businesses to take both of the following actions immediately: Publicly support strong climate provisions in the budget reconciliation package and oppose any trade association lobbying that would undercut these provisions, including publicly distancing the company’s position from that of the trade association where necessary.
“While budget reconciliation may not be the optimal vehicle for passing climate legislation, it is the opportunity before us and we must seize it,” the letter continues.
In reaction to the difficulty of reducing global temperature rise, Bruce King, author of the New Carbon Architecture and one of the shapers of a low-carbon concrete code, agreed that the climate crisis is not a technical problem but a political one. “We more or less already can see how to revamp energy, construction, transportation, agriculture, etc., to a world that works for everyone," he says.
“We just lack the political will, by a long mile,” King adds. “Not enough of us, by far, perceive the threat nor feel the pain as the climate tsunami arrives, so the question becomes: how do we dramatically shift the mood and mindset of people, or even just G20 people, and their politics?”