WASHINGTON – Amid urgent warnings from scientists that climate change is quickly getting worse, a major analysis released today shows that ramping up 24 real-world actions can slash greenhouse gas emissions enough to meet the landmark Paris climate agreement goals and avoid a future of climate chaos.
The report, “Realizing the Promise of Paris: Roadmap to a Safer Climate,” was produced by the Natural Resources Defense Council and NewClimate Institute, a well-respected research organization that analyzes climate trends and solutions. It is being released alongside the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, where climate change is at the top of the agenda.
“Climate change is here now and it’s becoming—faster than expected—more dangerous and deadlier,” said report co-author Jake Schmidt, managing director of the International Program at NRDC. “We have real-world solutions that can sharply cut greenhouse gas emissions, create new economic opportunity in clean energy and leave our children a stable and safe climate. We just need the will to get the job done.
“Political and business leaders need to step up and take stronger, broader and more collective action now in the fight against global climate change,” Schmidt added, “before it’s too late.”
The NRDC/NewClimate Institute report analyzes known, readily scaled-up strategies—a difference from previous climate analyses that counted on technological breakthroughs or expanding nascent pilot projects to limit global warming.
“This is a clear, achievable roadmap to help solve the climate crisis. Continuing what we do well today and scaling up what some have achieved already to date, would bring us close to what is needed for a 2 degrees Celsius world,” said Dr. Takeshi Kuramochi, one of the co-authors at NewClimate Institute.
The report finds that actions such as accelerating renewable energy and electric vehicle deployment, turning away from coal power, boosting energy efficiency, as well as eating less meat and decarbonizing clothing production in the apparel industry, can help meet the Paris agreement’s initial goal to limit warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, and get closer to reaching its goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit.
The report was released against a backdrop of rising urgency for action.
First, the architects of the Paris climate agreement have long recognized that the initial climate pledges by countries are not ambitious enough to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, let alone 1.5 degrees Celsius. But they haven’t changed the agreement’s schedule for countries to meet again in 2020 and strengthen their commitments to climate action.
They haven’t done so even after recent reports from leading scientists in the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the U.S. government, who issued the 4th National Climate Assessment in December, found that climate change is speeding up, damages will become more severe faster than previously expected and we’re running out of time to avoid severe harm.
The NRDC/NewClimate report estimates the potential reduction, in gigatonnes, of greenhouse gas emissions that can be achieved from 24 measures that are currently underway, though not yet ambitious enough in most cases.
With policies currently on the books, the world is on track to release 57.7 gigatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2030, the report estimates. Fully implementing the report’s two dozen actions could reduce emissions by 19 gigatonnes per year in 2030. That’s about three times the total emissions of the United States in 2016, the second largest climate polluter after China.
Cutting greenhouse gas emissions that much would reduce global emissions to about 39 gigatonnes per year in 2030, enough to be on a pathway to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius. The world has already warmed 1 degree Celsius in the Industrial Age.
To get nearer to a 1.5 degrees Celsius world pathway in 2030, the global community would need to take much deeper and more aggressive action. That includes delivering maximum reductions from the 24 actions identified in the report, rather than the more conservative reductions estimated, as well as taking additional action beyond those evaluated in the report. Taken together, these moves to rein in climate change would deliver enormous benefits in avoiding widespread harmful impacts on people, economies and the natural systems on our planet.
Here are some of the measures analyzed in the report with estimates of the amount of greenhouse gas reductions possible per year.
The report groups the actions into three categories:
- On Track, for those within reach
- Scale Up, for those with modest progress so far but great potential, and
- Need Focus, for those in early stages of development.
- Faster deployment of renewable energy—2.2 gigatonnes
- Capping coal consumption in China by 2025—1.0 gigatonnes
- Accelerating the phase-down of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in cooling systems—1.0 gigatonnes
- Developing low-carbon energy in India—0.6 gigatonnes
- Ending deforestation and restoring degraded forests—2.5 gigatonnes
- Curbing methane pollution—1.5 gigatonnes
- On track to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050—1.2 gigatonnes
- Cutting carbon emissions from the apparel industry—1.2 gigatonnes
- Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies globally—2.3 gigatonnes
- Accelerating electric vehicle deployment—0.6 gigatonnes
- Cutting emissions 40 to 60 percent in Europe—0.6 gigatonnes
- Improving industrial energy efficiency—1.6 gigatonnes
- Deploying near-zero emissions buildings—1.6 gigatonnes
- Shifting to less meat-intensive diets—1.0 gigatonnes
“The IPCC has sounded the alarm: the world is on the brink of a climate emergency. But we can still avoid climate catastrophe if leaders act immediately and decisively,” said report co-author Brendan Guy, manager of international policy in NRDC’s International Program. “Many of these pragmatic emissions cutting steps are already in motion, and all of them are immediately doable. The challenge and the opportunity are clear and present: now is the time for leaders around the world to step up climate action.”
The report, Realizing the Promise of Paris: Roadmap to a Safer Climate, is here: https://www.nrdc.org/resources/realizing-promise-paris-roadmap-safer-climate
A blog about the report’s findings is here: https://www.nrdc.org/experts/brendan-guy/major-new-report-shows-roadmap-paris-climate-goals
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC
NewClimate Institute is a non-profit institute established in 2014. We support research and implementation of action against climate change around the globe, covering the topics international climate negotiations, tracking climate action, climate and development, climate finance and carbon market mechanisms. NewClimate Institute aims at connecting up-to-date research with the real-world decision-making processes. Visit us at www.newclimate.org or on Twitter @newclimateinst