COP21 calculator launches to show scale of action needed at Paris summit

by Search Gate staff. Published Tue 20 Oct 2015 09:53
Calculator helps understand nations' climate ambitions

Climate-KIC UK has helped develop the COP21 Calculator – the first interactive model showing the effectiveness of nations’ COP21 pledges to prevent dangerous climate change.

Countries have since February 2015 been publishing their climate pledges to 2030, or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), to build a global roadmap for an effective binding deal at COP21, Paris in December.

Until now, assessments of these INDCs have not taken cumulative emissions fully into account. For the first time, using the COP21 Calculator, anyone can see what would happen if countries curbed emissions in line with their pledges, assimilating climate science and international climate policy.

The model is simple, transparent and interactive, providing users with an opportunity to experiment with a broad range of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission possibilities over the period 2013-2100 from key geographies and at a global scale.

Importantly, the tool includes an in-built mechanism for characterising emissions lock-in mechanisms, clearly demonstrating the critical need for early and sustained action. For example, users can see for themselves that if 2013-2030 actions do not go far enough then even best efforts post-2030 will not keep warming within accepted safe levels.

The COP21 Calculator shows that the combined current pledges (INDCs) represent a meaningful step towards a sustainable future: the emissions pathway from INDCs in their current form will slow global warming by a maximum of 2 degrees C by 2100 (equivalent to cutting of about 40% of cumulative emissions over the period 1870-2100).

This reduction would have a significant impact on the projected global temperature, placing the world on a trajectory of no more than 4 degrees of warming by 2100 compared to 6 degrees under the high-end of the business as usual scenario.

The globally accepted threshold for avoiding dangerous climate change impacts is 2 degrees. Using the Calculator, it is possible to dynamically assess how much more heavy lifting is needed in the short, medium and long term if we are to stay below this 2 degrees threshold.

A large gap still remains between the current INDC pledges and the emission commitments required for limiting warming to safe levels. The COP21 Calculator illustrates the need for governments in Paris to take sharp action to ramp up emission reduction commitments and to sustain the effort over the decades to come.

Dr Jeremy Woods, Programme Lead for Climate-KIC UK at Imperial College, said: “The COP21 Calculator clearly highlights that we can meet our 2 degrees target while maintaining good lifestyles and a prosperous economy – but to be successful the world needs to act now and transform the technologies, knowledge base and fuels we use and make smarter use of our land.

“INDC declarations ahead of COP21 in Paris are an important first step along the wider review path. We hope that clarity of the task ahead will enable negotiators at COP21 to ensure a firm process is put in place to increase the ambition of country pledges beyond 2020.”

On our current track, the world is heading towards total (cumulative) emissions of around 6,700 billion tonnes of CO2 (GtCO2e) by 2100 (since 1870).

By 2030, in the absence of the INDCs, the world would have emitted 3,745 GtCO2e[1] since 1870, whilst with the INDCs the calculator team estimates that the world will emit 3,645 GtCO2e.

In order to be on a safe pathway heading for the 2 degree C target, cumulative emissions need to have been below 3,550 GtCO2e by 2030 and below 4,600 billion tonnes of CO2 by 2100.

This leaves a carbon budget of less than 1,000 billion tonnes of CO2e that could be emitted post-2030 up to the end of the century whilst staying within the 2 degrees C budget.

Dr. Rajiv K Chaturvedi, Researcher for Climate-KIC UK at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, said: “Climate agreements in the past have not been successful due to differences between the developed and developing nations on pledges related to required emission reductions. Encouraging signs are emerging from the developing world this year in form of their ambitious INDCs and this gives us a hope for an effective agreement in Paris.”

The climate calculator allows the user to track and project the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from: China, US, EU, India, Russia, Brazil, Japan, Canada, Australia and the Rest of the World (RoW), over the period 1870 to 2100.

China, US, EU, India, Russia, Brazil, Japan, Canada are the world’s highest GHG emitters, and together with Australia accounted for two-thirds of global GHG emissions in 2010.

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