Biggest barrier to tackling climate change threat is collective and individual failure of political will

November 25th, 2012 by WWF

Governments are falling far short of their commitment to keep global average temperature rise below the accepted 2°C goal, putting the world on the brink of climate catastrophe.

The UN Environment Program’s Emissions Gap Report 2012 identifies a huge gap between current pledges to cut polluting greenhouse gas emissions for 2020 and the benchmark of 44 gigatonnes that offers a credible pathway to staying below 2°C.

In 2011, UNEP put the gap between pledges and what’s needed at 6-11 gigatonnes – but has now increased this estimate to an alarming 8-13 gigatonnes. In context, annual emissions from the US and China are currently around 7 and 10 to 11 gigatonnes, respectively.

“UNEP’s assessment confirms that the world is standing on the brink,” said Samantha Smith, Head of WWF’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative.

“On current levels of ambition, we are heading for warming of 4°C this century – a prospect that the World Bank this week described as ‘devastating’. In the face of such sobering assessments by some of the world’s largest institutions, we have to ask – what will it take for our leaders to listen and act?”

Keith Allott, WWF-UK’s Head of Climate Change, said “six years ago, on his famous trip to the Arctic, David Cameron pledged leadership on climate change. The world has never been in more need of such leadership, yet Mr Cameron has lost his voice on the issue both at home and internationally. The Prime Minister urgently needs to prove to the world, and to the UK public, that he has not gone cold on climate change – and that he can be the leader he promised to be”.

There are a range of actions that can be taken immediately to begin to close the gap, including at the UN climate summit in Doha which begins next week:

  • Governments must agree clear processes to increase ambition further before 2020, in the context of a promised new international agreement to be struck in 2015.
  • Governments must agree on robust common accounting rules for greenhouse gas emissions, and also agree to retire the large amounts of surplus “hot air” emission credits currently swilling around in the system.
  • Countries, including European countries, should also move to the top end of their emission pledges for 2020, and come forward with credible plans for meeting or exceeding them.
  • Governments must agree strong reforms to carbon market mechanisms to prevent double counting of offset credits and to rule out offsets that do not need to clear net emission reductions.

Samantha Smith said “UNEP shows clearly that it is still feasible to get back on track for a safer climate future, but that every year’s delay makes the task harder. The solutions are all in our grasp – energy efficiency, clean renewable energy, smarter transport systems, action to protect our forests and a move to more sustainable agriculture.”

“By far the biggest barrier to delivering these is the collective and individual failure of political will. Unless we act urgently, future generations will not forgive us,” she said.

 

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