Climate Change Leadership – MOOC

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The 2° target in the Paris Agreement

In this video Kevin Anderson, second visiting professor in climate change leadership, Uppsala University, discusses the 2°C target in the Paris Agreement in more depth.

He notes that the target to limit global warming to +2°C above pre-industrial temperatures is a dangerous target:

It’s a commonly held view that we need to hold to less than 2°C. […] But it is also worth bearing in mind that poorer parts of the world have been arguing for much lower than that, 1.5°C, because even at 2°C many people will die. They will be poor, they will be generally in the Southern hemisphere, they will be low-emitters, and they will typically be non-white.

There were two very big triumphs in the Paris Agreement, according to Anderson. Virtually all world leaders came together and agreed that climate change is a serious issue – so science won over the climate change deniers. Furthermore, world leaders were able to agree to limit global warming to 2°C or even 1.5°C, and to do this on the basis of the best science and equity.

However, much like Stabinsky said in the previous step, Anderson also notes that in sum the voluntary pledges of intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) of the signatories are currently nowhere close of meeting the 2°C target, and that the treaty relies on speculative negative emissions technologies, which imply that we would find a way to capture carbon from the atmosphere and sequester it. Furthermore, the impact of aviation, international shipping or the need for decarbonization are not taken into account in the Agreement.

It is about climate change and you think that there would be some reference to fossil fuels. [But] nowhere in the 32 page document is there any reference to fossil fuels or decarbonization.

The Paris Agreement nevertheless provides a good starting point for climate action and leadership, he argues:

[W]e can all hold our leaders, that’s our government leaders, organisational leaders […] to account: this is what we have internationally signed up for.


See also

Here you can read Anderson’s comment in Nature from 2015 Talks in the city of light generate more heat. And in an updated article from November 2022 How alive is 1.5? Part one – a small budget, shrinking fast he has written an detailed update to the discussion.


© Kevin Anderson, CEMUS and Uppsala University