Climate targets ‘impossible’ unless rich cut emissions 10%

Tyndall Centre scientists argues that radical emissions reductions are required to keep within safe warming limits

By Sophie Yeo

Rich countries need to reduce their carbon emissions by 10% every single year to stay beneath 2C of warming – the upper limit for what scientists have deemed acceptable for mankind – according to Kevin Anderson from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.

Speaking to RTCC in Warsaw, he argued that such reductions are necessary to ensure that a new climate deal is fair on developing countries, which he argues is entitled to the majority of the remaining carbon budget in order to catch up with countries like the US, the EU and Australia, who owe their advance to the exploitation of fossil fuels.

“It’s economically ruinous not to do it, because that way we get hit by climate change,” he said. “We have to do this, there isn’t really a Plan B to deal with the huge levels of climate change we’re heading for at the moment.”

Developed countries have a “moral responsibility” to make way to development in poorer countries, he says, by paying the difference between more expensive but cleaner energy and dirty fossil fuels.

“Otherwise we’re saying you can’t develop as much as we did, and that seems an unfair thing to request of other parts of the world.”

But a 10% reduction every year is a long way off what is currently being proposed.

Even with the shale gas boom driving down emissions in the USA, it has only committed to cutting its emissions by 17% from 2005 levels by 2020. Come January, the EU is expected to announce a 2030 target in the range of 35-45% reductions on 1990 levels.

Politically, it seems difficult to sell, but Anderson argues that a greater sense of passion and urgency among leaders and civil society could help to drive action, as well as taking responsibility for the problem away from the economists.

“Let’s be blunt about this, emissions only come from a small proportion of us,” he adds.

Anderson will speak tomorrow alongside Naomi Klein at the Royal Society on how the world can make the radical emissions reductions he believes are necessary to avoid a 2C world.

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