A group of scientists, policymakers, and corporate leaders have released a statement warning that greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 2020 to effectively tackle climate change.
With this aim, they launched Mission 2020 on the eve of the G20 summit that took place in Hamburg last week. The ultimate goal of the collaborative campaign is to raise awareness and address the need to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in the next three years.
The group is led by former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres who oversaw negotiations on the Paris climate agreement.
The key message of the report is a warning that if greenhouse gas emissions do not show a significant decline by 2020, it will be difficult to limit the effects of climate change within safe limits and meet the temperature goals set in the 2016 Paris Agreement, i.e. to limit a rise in temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2030.
In order to achieve this goal, the report has outlined six key milestones to be achieved in the next three years:
- Renewable energy sources are to increasingly replace fossil fuels worldwide as the main sources of electricity and by 2020 make up at least 30 percent of the world’s electricity supply. At the same time, there would be a moratorium on the construction of new coal-fired power plants, and existing ones would be closed.
- The preferred mode of transportation in major cities will be zero emission transport. This would see an increase in the use of electric vehicles, efficiency standards increased for heavy-duty vehicles, more public transportation, and a reduction in emissions in the aviation and shipping sectors.
- Efforts towards large-scale land restoration and a decrease in deforestation. At the same time, agriculture practices will be earth-friendly, food systems made more efficient and food security improved. The use of low-carbon agricultural farming methods and technologies is encouraged, and a reduction in emissions from livestock should be addressed.
- There will be a reduction in heavy industries that use iron, steel, cement, chemicals, oil and gas. These will be substituted with low carbon alternatives.
- Buildings and infrastructure are to be decarbonized, i.e. the amount of gaseous carbon compounds released in construction will be reduced by 2050. Buildings will become increasingly energy efficient and new constructions built according to zero or near-zero energy standards.
- Investment in actions that address climate issues will surpass USD $1 trillion per year, with all financial institutions participating according to a “disclosed transition strategy”. This includes initiatives such as investing at least $200 billion in public and $800 billion in private resources in climate action each year, increasing funding for the climate change, and multiplying the issuance of green bonds ten-fold. Other actions include ensuring institutions disclose climate-related financial risks, the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies, canceling investments in coal, oil and gas production, and the implementation of a carbon pricing mechanism.
The report optimistically notes that progress has been made: for the past three years, worldwide carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels have stagnated and are expected to level off. This is attributed to China’s economic transformation and growth in the use of renewable energy worldwide.
However, world temperatures have peaked for the past two years. 2016 was the hottest year on record: a record temperature 1.1 °C above the pre-industrial period was recorded last year, representing an increase of 0.06 °C above the previous record set in 2015.
This trend reveals that much progress still needs to be achieved in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the next three years for the Paris goals to be eventually reached.