Eight essential elements for a UN climate change deal

To mark Earth Day 2015, leading scientists and academics list the foundations for a plan to tackle global warming

(Pic: NASA)

(Pic: NASA)

By Ed King

The world must become a “zero carbon society” by 2050 if it wants to avoid dangerous levels of global warming.

That’s the conclusion of a panel of 17 leading scientists and academics, who have released what they call an “Earth Statement” to celebrate Earth Day on April 22.

Governments need to ramp up their research and development into clean energy, and share technologies with poorer and climate vulnerable states.

Signatories include Ottmar Edenhofer, a co-chair of the UN’s IPCC climate science panel, Carlos Nobre, one of Brazil’s best known climate scientists and former World Bank chief economist Lord Stern.

“The science, the economics and the moral imperative to protect our planet all demand this action,” said another of those who signed the statement, Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

“We are calling on policy-makers to show real leadership and commit the planet to a sustainable future.”

The call comes months before the UN is hoping to wrap up negotiations on a global climate pact, due to be signed off in Paris this December.

You can read the full statement here, and the eight essential elements below.

  • Governments must put into practice their commitment to limit global warming to below 2° Celsius in order to limit unprecedented climate impact risks.

  • The agreement must be based on the remaining global carbon budget – the limit of what we can still emit in the future – which must be well below 1000 Gt CO2, to have a reasonable chance to hold the 2 Celsius line.

  • In the agreement, countries must commit to deep decarbonization, starting immediately and leading to a zero-carbon society by 2050 or shortly thereafter. This will require a fundamental transformation of the economy.

  • Equity is critical. Every country must formulate an emissions pathway consistent with deep decarbonisation. For the sake of fairness, rich countries and progressive industries can and should take the lead and decarbonise well before mid-century.

  • Targeted research, development, demonstration and diffusion (RDD&D) of low-carbon energy systems and sustainable land use are prerequisites to unleash a wave of climate innovation.

  • The agreement should provide the starting point for a global strategy to reduce vulnerability, build resilience and deal with loss and damage of communities from climate impacts, including collective action and scaled-up support.

  • Countries must agree to safeguard carbon sinks and vital ecosystems, such as forests, which is as important for climate protection as the reduction of emissions.

  • Governments must urgently realise new scales and sources of climate finance for developing countries to enable our rapid transition to zero-carbon, climate-resilient societies.

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