Ministers to discuss 2C carbon budget at Paris talks

French government raises possibility of UN deal detailing implications of a trajectory to avoid dangerous warming

Air pollution from a factory in Toronto (credit UN)

Air pollution from a factory in Toronto (credit UN)

By Ed King

Should a UN climate deal spell out the level of greenhouse gas emissions that can be released if the world wants to stay within levels of warming deemed safe?

That’s one of the issues ministers from 48 countries are being asked to discuss at a meeting in Paris today and tomorrow.

A French government briefing note seen by RTCC says while there is a “common understanding” that temperature rises should be limited to 2C, how to do it is less clear.

“The extent to which – and the ways in which – this goal could and should be clarified and operationalized are still issues for debate,” it says. “The scope of the long-term goal(s) is also yet to be agreed.”

Last year, the UN panel of climate scientists said the world has just over 20 years at current levels of emissions before warming of 2C is locked into the system.

That means governments need to radically slash their fossil fuel use, invest in carbon capturing technologies and build up their carbon sinks by planting lots of trees.

But the idea of a political carbon budget is controversial, as it suggests countries could face binding allocations stipulating what they can use.

And as RTCC reported recently, China alone could bust 2C, because although it’s aiming to peak emissions in 2030, they are not predicted to fall dramatically in the following decades.

And it makes this potentially one of the most interesting elements of this week’s critical Paris summit.

The four questions ministers attending the meeting will consider are as follows:

–  Whether the Paris agreement should clarify the operational implications of limiting the temperature increase below 2C, by laying out the consequences for global GHG emissions?

–  If countries could be encouraged to prepare and communicate voluntary long-term low-emissions development strategies/trajectories consistent with this goal?

–  The need for a global goal for adaptation? And if so, should it be quantitative or qualitative?

–  How to make the link between ambition (on mitigation and adaptation) and means of implementation

Off the back of this, they’ll also be asked to discuss how any agreement here would work and what levels of finance, technology and capacity building would be needed.

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