Should global emission keep on increasing after 2020 or even stabilize, the commitments taken within the Paris Agreement (PA) would become unreachable. A rapid turning point is therefore urgently needed. This point was discussed by Cristina Figueres (Mission 2020), J.Rockström (Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre), K. Anderson (Uppsala University), and H.J. Schellnhuber (Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research).
The PA aims at keeping the increase of global average temperature “well below 2°C with respect to pre-industrial levels”, while striving to limit it within 1.5°C. In order to do so, it is necessary to peak emissions in 2030 and rapidly reduce them afterwards. The starting point towards emissions reduction are the Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which every nation committed to update before 2020 when the agreement will be up and running.
Yet, current emissions levels are far away even from the limited ambition of national pledges. Should this current trend continue, in 2030 emission levels would be around 4-6 GtCO2eq/yr higher than what cumulatively pledged through NDCs . And the gap runs up to 11-13.5 GtCO2eq/yr when compared to the 2°C scenario and 16-19 GtCO2eq/yr than the 1.5°C scenario. Things are not looking good at all!
It is therefore necessary to act and to act faster. It is really a race against time. 2020 represents the fundamental point of reference in order to review voluntary emission reduction contributions and to define more ambitious objectives. As Figueres underlined, 2020 is not just a political deadline mandated by Paris, but also a scientific one: this will be the moment when we will understand if the course we embarked will keep us under 1.5°C temperature increase or if this objective will be impossible to get, with all the consequences this would bring in terms of climate impacts.
So, what is the way to go? The way many countries have taken is surely encouraging and shows that in many sectors, from industry to transports and energy production, interventions are possible. CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and industry actually stabilised in 2016 while greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions as a whole slightly increased. It is still a long way up.
And there are also many problems. The actual dismissal of fossil fuels, coal in particular, and CO2 capture and sequestration, are not painless measures to be undertaken by many countries. But they are more and more necessary to limit the economic costs not meeting the agreed goals will entail.
An important role can be played by non-state actors: from firms, to Regions, to NGOs, business associations, that here at COP23 proved to be very engaged in finding opportunities to build networks and relationships towards cutting GHG emissions.
There is a problem, however: is it possible to leave it just up to technology to solve the problem? Probably not, and the utopic alliance between technology and economics is questioned while stressing how related economic interest would be put at stake. 10% of emitters are responsible for 50% of global emissions. It is here that it becomes necessary to act. It is not enough to think in terms of good practices in energy savings or in the use of renewables: a real transition of the global energy sector is necessary today. A social and economic revolution.
This is a radical change that needs to go hand in hand with a change in individual and collective lifestyles. This must be done quickly. The next 15-20 are decisive for the fate of the planet.