World has three years to prevent dangerous climate change

Former UN climate head Christiana Figueres has penned a letter together with other climate experts warning that ‘high-speed’ and immediate action must be taken if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change. 2020 is the year that the US will be able to legally withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

A group of climate experts has published a letter in the scientific journal Nature arguing that aggressive reduction of fossil fuel use is key to averting deadly heat extremes and unmanageable sea level rise.

“We stand at the doorway of being able to bend the greenhouse gas emissions curve downwards by 2020, as science demands, in protection of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and in particular the eradication of extreme poverty,” said Christiana Figueres, lead-author of the Nature comment and former head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

“This monumental challenge coincides with an unprecedented openness to self-challenge on the part of sub-national governments inside the US, governments at all levels outside the US, and of the private sector in general. The opportunity given to us over the next three years is unique in history.”

Figueres is the convener of Mission 2020, a broad-based campaign calling for urgent action now to make sure that carbon emissions begin an inexorable fall by 2020.

The other authors and co-signatories of the Nature comment comprise over 60 scientists, business and policy leaders, economists and analysts from around the world, including Paul Polman, Chief Executive Officer of Unilever plc; Anthony Hobley, Chief Executive of Carbon Tracker; and Gail Whiteman from Lancaster University.

According to the authors, 2020 is crucial because it is the year in which the US will be legally able to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. But 2020 also stands out for science-based considerations: recent research demonstrates that it becomes almost unfeasible to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius if we delay climate action beyond 2020.

“The climate math is brutally clear: While the world can’t be healed within the next few years, it may be fatally wounded by negligence until 2020,” Hans Joachim Schellnhuber from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and co-author of the Nature comment, said in a statement.

The authors set six milestones for a clean industrial revolution, from energy (pushing renewables to 30 per cent of total energy supply and retiring all coal-fired power plants) to transport (electric vehicles making up 15 per cent of new car sales globally, up from roughly 1 per cent today) and finance (mobilise 1 trillion US dollars a year for climate action).


Image credit: Arend Kuester, flickr/Creative Commons

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