Press Releases December 2009 - Bridging the emissions reduction gap in Copenhagen - United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
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Bridging the emissions reduction gap in Copenhagen

Copenhagen, 6 December 2009 - Countries meeting at the United Nations climate change conference may be closer than some observers realise to agreeing the emissions cuts required to give the world a reasonable chance of avoiding global warming of more than 2˚C, according to an analysis launched today in Copenhagen by Nicholas Stern and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

An analysis of national proposals for annual emissions reductions, published on the eve of the UN climate change conference, indicates that the gap between countries' strongest proposed cuts and what is needed may be only a few billion tonnes of greenhouse gases.

The study has been compiled by Lord Stern of Brentford, chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at London School of Economics and Political Science, in collaboration with analysts at UNEP.

The emissions reductions gap identified by the analysis, however, would require a number of key conditions, in particular that developed countries provide developing countries with the right level of financial and technical support for both emissions reductions and adaptation in the most vulnerable countries and communities in the developing world.

It also requires that countries deliver on their commitments and intentions, and interpret the actions of others as sufficient to meet any conditions they may have set.

The research estimates that in order to have a reasonable chance, or 50 per cent probability, of avoiding a rise in global temperature of more than 2˚C, annual global emissions of greenhouse gases in 2020 need to be no more than 44 billion tonnes of carbon-dioxide-equivalent.

The analysis shows that the gap between this target and the most ambitious cuts proposed by countries over the past months and weeks is about 2 billion tonnes of carbon-dioxide-equivalent, with a range of 1 to 5 billion tonnes. If the overall target 44 billion tonnes is exceeded in 2020, it is likely to be more difficult and costly to reach the goal as much stronger action would be required in decades afterwards.

The gap could be filled during negotiations in Copenhagen by combining several additional actions including:

. Developed countries increasing their high intentions.

. Key developing countries offering more than their existing proposals, particularly in the context of serious international support for the developing world, covering both adaptation and mitigation.

. Additional reductions from deforestation and other sources, and in particular international commitments to support and enhance the national efforts of countries such as Brazil and Indonesia.

. Incorporating international emissions from aviation and shipping in order to deliver additional emissions reductions.

Full Release

Lord Nicholas Stern



Further Resources

Report: Bridging the emissions reduction gap in Copenhagen

Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment

Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy

UNEP: Climate Change

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