World must meet carbon targets by 2070: UN

In a business-as-usual scenario, global greenhouse gas emissions could rise way beyond safe limits

By Rajit Sengupta
Published: Friday 21 November 2014

A 2°C increase in the global temperature will substantially increase wild forest fires (Photo: Rajit Sengupta)

The world must meet its carbon targets by mid-to-late century to limit global temperature rise to 2°C and avoid the worst impacts of climate change, says a new report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Released days ahead of the UN Conference on Climate Change in Lima, Peru, UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report 2014 warns that exceeding an estimated budget of just 1,000 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (Gt CO2) would increase the risk of severe, pervasive, and in some cases irreversible climate change impacts.

It says to avoid exceeding the budget, global carbon neutrality should be reached between 2055 and 2070, meaning that annual anthropogenic CO2 emissions should hit net zero by then on the global scale.

“In a business-as-usual scenario, where little progress is made in the development and implementation of global climate policies, global greenhouse gas emissions could rise to up to 87 Gt CO2 by 2050, way beyond safe limits,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and executive director of UNEP.

“Countries are giving increasing attention to where they realistically need to be by 2025, 2030 and beyond in order to limit a global temperature rise to below 2°C. This fifth Emissions Gap Report underlines that carbon neutrality-and eventually net zero or what some term climate neutrality-will be required so that what cumulative emissions are left are safely absorbed by the globe's natural infrastructure such as forests and soils,” added Mr Steiner.

“The Sustainable Development Goals underscore the many synergies between development and climate change mitigation goals. Linking development policies with climate mitigation will help countries build the energy-efficient, low-carbon infrastructures of the future and achieve transformational change that echoes the true meaning of sustainable development,” he concluded.

The report, produced by 38 scientists in 14 countries, is the fifth in a series that examines whether the pledges made by countries are on track to meet the internationally agreed under 2°C target.

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