UN handed masterplan to tackle climate change

New study says 15 countries could hold key to ensuring world avoids dangerous levels of warming

(Pic: APEC 2013/Flickr)

(Pic: APEC 2013/Flickr)

By Sophie Yeo

Climate experts have presented the UN with a report on how countries can club together to avoid world temperatures soaring to dangerous levels.

The report, delivered to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon today in New York, lays out technical pathways on how the world’s 15 major emitters can make the deep decarbonisation needed to keep the planet below 2C.

The 281-page document calls for scaled up research and development into cleaner sources of energy and greater efficiency, which together will create the deep cuts to emissions needed to stem climate change.

The potential for deep decarbonisation is “heartening” but also “concerning” as “we are way off track”, said Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, which convened the study.

The solutions, he said, are “not as complex as finding the Higgs particle, it is not as complex the human genome project, it is not as complex as an eight year moon shot and returning Neil Armstrong safely back to earth.

“What we have to do is important, it is real, but it is not of that complexity … It is within reach, buut we’re just not making that investment yet.”

Country by country

The report is the first in depth study of country-specific pathways to deep decarbonisation.

It is intended to lay out options to countries ahead of a key UN conference in Paris in 2015, over which the French government will preside. Sachs led the report alongside Laurence Tubiana, the principle advisor to the French government on the UN’s climate treaty negotiations.

“The number one value of this project is that the national experts have been dealing with the national efforts and what it takes in their national context to be serious about 2C,” said Tubiana.

Many of the countries involved in the report will participate in the Major Economies Forum in Paris on Friday, including Australia, Russia, the US and China.

In Australia, the report recommends a coal-free diet, with grid-integrated renewables providing 100% of electricity.

In China, the authors suggest specific targets of around 1,000 GW of solar PV by 2050, and another 1,000GW provided by wind, 70% of which should be offshore.

In Mexico, the report focuses on the need for a cleaner transport system. Shifting to mass electrification of public transport could help to ease demand on its burdened roads while easing the shift to a cleaner country.

The current report is an interim edition that has been prepared ahead of a UN climate summit hosted by Ban Ki-moon on 23 September.

Following a public consultation and redraft, a new version will be presented to French President Francois Hollande in Spring 2015, ahead of the Paris conference.

“Change is in the air,” said Ban Ki-moon, at the launch of the report today. “Solutions exist, the race is on, and it’s time to lead.”

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