Necessary to go for 50 per cent by 2020

The EU should strengthen its climate targets during its European Council meeting in June this year. Large ecosystems around the world are threatened by global temperature increases above 1.5°C. This includes several small island states and low-lying coastal areas in Bangladesh and Egypt, for example, that are threatened by a sea level rise of more than 50 cm and large ecosystems like the arctic sea ice, coral reefs and mountain glaciers.

Temperature increases above this level would also have very serious effects on agricultural production and water availability in Africa and Asia, and could trigger large-scale ocean acidification. This year the EU should therefore stiffen its climate target set up in the 1990s from 2°C to a new target “below 1.5°C” in response to new scientific research about the tipping points of global ecosystems. The 1.5°C target is already supported by more than 100 countries in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Research in the last few years has shown that the window for reaching this temperature target is diminishing very fast if no decisions on very sharp emission cuts for greenhouse gases are taken now. All greenhouse gases must be reduced at the global level by nearly 100 per cent by 2050 at the latest. Carbon dioxide emissions play the key role in achieving the 1.5°C ceiling by 2100 and the remaining carbon budget that is left is very small.

Swedish environmental organisations such as AirClim are strongly recommending the EU to divide the remaining carbon budget on a per-capita principle and to make sure that the EU takes responsibility for historical emissions and reduces emissions much faster than poor countries. These countries in the G77 must have the right to some space for development and cannot reduce emissions as fast as rich industrialised countries.

However, the developing countries should also cut GHG emissions to zero by 2050. AirClim is demanding that the EU and other industrialised countries use domestic measures to reduce emissions by at least 50 per cent by 2020 and after that reduce emissions as soon as possible by 100 per cent long before 2050. The EU has to set up an emergency programme to reach these targets and assist substantially poor countries to develop sustainable energy systems. This would be the first step on a path towards fulfilling the limits of the remaining carbon budget and the 1.5°C target.

Reinhold Pape

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