Experts Say Greenhouse Gases Must Be Tackled in Three Years

A statement launched on the eve of the G20 Summit in Hamburg warned that greenhouse gas emissions must show a significant decline by 2020 to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Jul. 10, 2017
By Isabel Putinja

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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.

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