03 August 2010

What Comes After the Two Degree Target?

In the coming years, many promises made for emissions reductions in the short-term (e.g., for 2020) are going to have to be walked back, because countries simply are not going to meet these targets. A similar backtracking is also going to be necessary with respect to the so-called "two degree target" which has been embraced most visibly in Europe.

In a provocative essay just published in English, Oliver Geden, of the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (German Institute for International and Security Affairs), has taken on the challenge of proposing how the EU might step back from the 2 degree target, while maintaining a commitment to decarbonization and sustaining public support. Here is the abstract:
In the climate policy community, there is broad consensus regarding the target of limiting global warming levels to a maximum of two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Still, barring a breakthrough in UN negotiations in the near future and a reversal in current emissions trends, compliance with the two-degree target will be impossible. If this target is abandoned over the medium-term, the EU would have to make a fundamental strategic decision regarding the structure and stringency levels of a new climate goal. The approach, which has thus far proven dominant, of translating a global temperature cap into precise national emission budgets is hardly feasible from a political viewpoint. Looking ahead, the EU should therefore advocate dynamic formulas for setting targets, which are gauged against benchmarks oriented towards "climate neutrality".
You can read Geden's entire essay here in PDF.