Climate Change Leadership – MOOC

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Bending the curves towards a sustainable future

In this video, visiting Zennström climate change leadership professor Kevin Anderson discusses the rapid emissions reductions that are needed if we are to have even an outside chance of meeting the 2°C target.

Anderson outlines that meeting the 2°C target implies that poor parts of the world would need to peak their emissions at 2025 at the latest, and be fully decarbonized by 2050. Wealthier countries would need to bend the curves even faster:

And basically, across the board, wealthier people around the world would need to reduce their emissions at about 10% every single year. […] It means that by 2020 there will be reductions by about 50% […] and by 2035 we will have to have removed all carbon from our energy systems. Within 20 years from today. That’s a huge request, but again, I think it is just about viable.

He emphasizes that these rates of emissions reductions are far beyond what is currently being discussed in any country:

This is an enormous challenge, beyond anything that is currently being countenanced by any country. The EU has put a pledge into the Paris Agreement for only a 40% reduction, less than half of what would be necessary.

The large inequalities in carbon emissions may in fact be an opportunity for progressive climate policies, according to Anderson:

There are huge inequalities in carbon emissions. And that is actually helpful, because it tells us that we need aim our policies at those of us who emit the most amount of carbon dioxide.

Anderson concludes that meeting the 2°C target depends on short-term consumption by the wealthy, not a matter of long-term population growth:

The 2°C framing of climate change is not about the long term, it is about short term. It is a consumption issue, not a population issue. The poor around the planet will not be able to become wealthy enough in the time frame we have to deal with 2°C, for them to become major emitters.

Read more about historic, present and future emissions at Global Carbon Atlas, see the how different parts of the world contribute to current emissions at Carbon Map and calculate different carbon budget in a global and country-based context Global Carbon Budgets.

© Kevin Anderson, CEMUS and Uppsala University