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Today US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping have made joint announcements about commitments they make to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to cooperate in climate technologies.

The Greens warmly welcome that the world’s two biggest emitters commit to climate action and global agreement in Paris 2015. They also hope their announcements will spur further commitments from other major economies and give momentum to the process of negotiating the new global agreement in Paris 2015 to stop dangerous climate change.

However, they are under no illusions on the ambition level of the stated objectives. The announcement by the US to reduce its carbon emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, and for China to commit to peak in 2030 will not be sufficient to maintain global warming below 2°C.

The IPCC 5th Assessment Report (5AR) findings are clear:  the global carbon budget available after 2011 for a (66%) likely chance of keeping the rise in global average temperature below 2°C is 1,010 Gton of CO2. The current annual global emissions are approximately 36 Gton of CO2, and consequently the global 2°C compatible carbon budget would be exhausted in 28 years if emissions remain at current level. In order to be able to stay on a safe pathway for climate, global emissions need to peak now, and reduce by around 6% annually. While the US and Chinese leaders recognised climate science and the 2°C target, the announcements by the biggest emitters are out of touch with climate reality.

It is important that all countries – especially G20 members – put forward their initial pledges by the March 2015 deadline for the UN climate negotiations in a form that is quantifiable. The consequences to the climate system will depend on the cumulative emissions of all countries, and it will be extremely important that the proposed commitments can be assessed collectively, in reference to the 2°C target – and with a view of moving to a  safer 1,5°C objective if it proves necessary.

The announcements by China and US – following European Council proposals some weeks before, should be considered as first offers, and need some serious strengthening on the road to Paris and a safe planet for future generations.


11/12/2014 – 00:00


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