To have any hope of success, a global climate change agreement must aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from 50 gigatonnes of carbon-dioxide-equivalent today to 35 gigatonnes by 2030 and 20 gigatonnes by 2050, according to a new paper by Lord Nicholas Stern, former chief economist of the World Bank.
Furthermore, to have a “reasonable chance” of avoiding a temperature increase of more than 2˚C, annual global emissions need to be brought down to between 44 and 48 gigatonnes of carbon-dioxide-equivalent by 2020, Stern added.
Staving off catastrophic climate change will also require the European Union, Japan and the United States to reduce emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050 (compared with 1990 levels). That would enable developing countries like China and India to work to curb emissions “in ways that are consistent with their ambitions for continued economic growth and the reduction of poverty,” according to Stern.
The world’s wealthy countries will also need to provide support and financial assistance to halt deforestation and help developing nations achieve low-carbon growth, he said. Beyond the development aid already offered today, that would mean an annual investment of $100 billion (US) for mitigation and $100 billion for adaptation by the 2020s.
Stern issued the paper in advance of global climate negotiations set to take place in Copenhagen this December.
“I believe that an ambitious and comprehensive deal is possible, but only if crucial steps are taken over the remaining weeks and months to break the deadlock we appear to be in,” Stern writes in his report. “That deadlock consists of an approach by rich countries which collectively involves inadequate emissions reductions and unwillingness to make financial commitments without being able to approve the plans for developing countries to move to low-carbon growth.”
Developing countries are also playing a role in the deadlock by being unwilling to commit to emissions reductions “without a clear indication of financial support from the rich countries, together with an unwillingness to have their own plans for low-carbon development determined by, or subject to the approval of, the rich countries,” Stern added.
“If we can get to grips with these issues, then we can achieve an agreement that is effective, efficient and equitable,” Stern wrote. “It will allow us to avoid the profound risks of climate change, to overcome poverty worldwide and to usher in an exciting new era of prosperity based on sustainable low-carbon growth. Through innovation and investment in new greener and more energy efficient technologies in the next two or three decades, we can create the most dynamic period of growth in economic history. And what is more, a low-carbon world will also be quieter, cleaner, more energy-secure and more biologically diverse.”
He concluded, “Let us not allow mistrust, pessimism and lack of ambition to prevent us from achieving these aims. Instead let us have real vision and leadership in both developing and developed countries which seize the opportunities offered by Copenhagen, for us, our children and future generations.”