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1. Introduction

Lead authors: Kelly Levin, Murray Ward
Contributing authors: Claudio Gesteira, Fabian Wagner


Following the 15th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, forty-two18 industrialized countries submitted quantified economy-wide emission targets for 2020. In addition, forty-three19 developing countries submitted nationally appropriate mitigation actions for inclusion in the Appendices to the 2009 Copenhagen Accord20. These pledges21 have since become the basis for analysing the extent to which the global community is on track to meet long-term temperature goals as outlined in the Copenhagen Accord:

  • (Para 1)…To achieve the ultimate objective of the Convention to stabilize greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system, we shall, recognizing the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below 2 degrees Celsius, on the basis of equity and in the context of sustainable development, enhance our long-term cooperative action to combat climate change.
  • (Para 2)…We agree that deep cuts in global emissions are required according to science, and as documented by the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report with a view to reduce global emissions so as to hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius, and take action to meet this objective consistent with science and on the basis of equity.
  • (Para 12)…We call for an assessment of the implementation of this Accord to be completed by 2015, including in the light of the Convention’s ultimate objective. This would include consideration of strengthening the long-term goal referencing various matters presented by the science, including in relation to temperature rises of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

This publication aims to assess the following questions: are countries’ pledges of action collectively consistent with and, if implemented, likely to achieve the 2° C and 1.5° C temperature goals? If not, how big is the gap between emission levels consistent with these temperature goals and the emissions expected as a result of the pledges?

Notably, the 2020 emission reduction pledges were not decided through a quantitative top-down approach to emissions management, i.e. one that would begin with agreed-upon temperature limits and then be followed by negotiation to distribute the burden of emission reductions necessary to meet these limits. Therefore, at this time we can only analyse the emerging “global deal” on climate change by summing pledges from the bottom up—in other words, based on offers already brought forward voluntarily by countries.

Box 1a: For Details on 'Understanding temperature limits', Click Here