Global action needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Global action needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

The United Nations' conference in December aims to reach the first global agreement on climate change

The 21st UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) Conference of Parties (COP21) will be held in Paris from 30 November until 11 December. Its aim is to agree the first global agreement to tackle climate change.

The conference is crucial because the expected outcome is a new international agreement on climate change, applicable to all, to keep global warming below 2°C.

Met Office data for 2015, published on 9 November, shows that for the first time, global mean temperature at the Earth's surface is set to reach 1 °C above pre-industrial levels.

The announcement states that this represents an important marker as the world continues to warm due to human influence and the greenhouse gas emissions we generate as part of an industrialised world.

Blowing the carbon budget

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) identified the world’s carbon budget. This is the amount of carbon dioxide the world can emit while still having a likely chance of limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The world is currently on track to spend the remainder of this budget in just three decades.

The IPCC has concluded that, in the absence of fully committed and urgent action to reduce emissions, climate change will have severe; some believe catastrophic, impacts across the world.

Negotiating for survival

Over two weeks in Paris, leaders representing 160 countries, covering 90% of global emissions and representing more than 90% of the global economy will be negotiating for:

  • ambitious mitigation commitments and a plan to implement them
  • a robust, legally-binding rules framework to ensure transparency and accountability around climate action and to help track progress; and
  • climate finance to support the poorest and most vulnerable countries to take action to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

If we take action now

If we take action to radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions now, there’s a good chance that we can limit average global temperature rises to 2˚C.

The UK governments’ guidance on climate change says this doesn’t mean there will be no more changes in the climate but we could limit, adapt to and manage these changes.

By taking action now:

  • we avoid burdening future generations with greater impacts and costs of climate change
  • economies will be able to cope better by mitigating environmental risks and improving energy efficiency
  • there will be wider benefits to health, energy security and biodiversity. This means that our action – or inaction – on greenhouse gas emissions will have a substantial effect on climate change in the future.

The link to the sustainable development goals (SDGs)

Within the new 17 SDGs (adopted by 193 countries in September 2015) there are three specific goals addressing climate change and the natural environment.

The SDGs however reflect a holistic approach to human development and well-being within the context of global poverty, urbanisation, inequality compounded by climate change.

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