We need to set definite greenhouse targets from now until 2050 and beyond, to mobilise collective action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to give individual organisations and communities an idea of the challenges that faces them in particular.
How much should the world reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in order to keep global warming from reaching dangerous levels?
What targets should each country adopt in order to make a fair contribution to global emission reduction?
If a world cap and trade system was introduced for greenhouse emissions, at what levels should emissions be capped, and how quickly should the cap be reduced?
Melissa Fyfe, Age, July 6, 2004
In its blueprint for action released yesterday, Climate Change - Solutions for Australia, the Australian Climate Group called for a 60 per cent cut in Australia's greenhouse gas pollution by 2050, matching the United Kingdom's target.
"Climate change has the potential to threaten millions of lives, the capacity of the world to feed itself, the availability of fresh water, the control and spread of disease, the survival of species, the direction in which our oceans flow and the severity of our weather."
ABC - 7.30 Report, 5 July 2004
Australia faces a future of water shortages and extreme weather events unless it dramatically cuts greenhouse gas emissions, says a new report: "Climate Change - Solutions for Australia".
The report proposes a range of changes, including a 60 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050.
Stephanie Peatling, SMH, 19 July 2004
Chief Scientist, Robin Batterham, said Australia must halve its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
This contrasts with the recently released white paper on energy policy which broadly supported Australia's continuing use of fossil fuels, a major source of man-made greenhouse gases.
Dr Batterham said he supported the Federal Government's decision not to ratify the Kyoto protocol on climate change because the reductions it set were not high enough. "I'm talking about enormous reductions - 80 per cent by the end of the century," Dr Batterham said. "Fifty per cent by 2050, I think, is realistic."
Dr Batterham did not set out a specific timetable for the significant reductions but said it would take "every which way" to achieve cuts of that magnitude.
Britain has committed itself to a 60 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050.
Dr Batterham's British counterpart, Dr David King, said earlier this year that climate change was "more serious even than the threat of terrorism".
Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (UK), June 2000
Given the present state of knowledge of the climate system, we support the proposal that an atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration of 550 parts per million by volume (ppmv) - approximately double the pre-industrial level - should be regarded as an upper limit that should not be exceeded. The current concentration is some 370 ppmv. (Summary.4)
If 550 ppmv is selected as the upper limit, UK carbon dioxide emissions would have to be reduced by almost 60% from their current level by mid-century, and by almost 80% by 2100. Even stabilisation at a very high level of 1,000 ppmv would require the UK to cut emissions by some 40% by 2050. (4.51)
The most promising, and just, basis for securing long-term agreement is to allocate emission rights to nations on a per capita basis enshrining the idea that every human is entitled to release into the atmosphere the same quantity of greenhouse gases. (Summary.7)
But because of the very wide differences between per capita emission levels around the world, and because current global emissions are already above safe levels, there will have to be an adjustment period covering several decades in which nations quotas converge on the same per capita level. This is the principle of contraction and convergence, which we support. (Summary.7)
David Kemp, Australian Minister for the Environment, 17 September 2002
"[There is a] great difference between the Montreal Protocol, in which all countries are accepting obligations and Kyoto, where the obligations are falling only on a group of countries, the developed countries. Instead of covering all the relevant emissions, Kyoto is only covering 25 per cent of the emissions. Instead of aiming at the complete global action necessary to address the problem, as the Montreal Protocol does, Kyoto is going to deliver a one per cent reduction at best in global greenhouse gas emissions over the time of the Protocol, whereas what the world needs by the end of this century is a reduction of 50 to 60 per cent. "
New Scientist, 10 December 2003
To keep below the 2 °C ceiling will mean keeping global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, the most important greenhouse gas, below about 450 parts per million. The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution has decided that a 60 per cent cut in global emissions by 2050 is needed.
The average global citizen is responsible for pumping just over a tonne of carbon into the air each year. To prevent dangerous climate change, while allowing for some population increase, the world has to reduce that figure to around 0.3 tonnes per head.
Because some nations will find it harder than others to meet their targets, especially early on, the C&C formula also embraces the idea of countries trading emissions permits.
Global Commons Institute
We should try to keep atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations from exceeding 450 ppm. That requires a contraction in CO2 emissions. Countries should share the contraction burden fairly. All countries should converge on the same per capita CO2 emissions over time, eg by 2045.
John Broad, Third World Network, 1999
The adoption of a global programme of ‘Contraction and Convergence’ offers the potential to break the stalemate in the international negotiations on climate change and to set in place a far more effective and inclusive political mechanism to curb the consumption of fossil fuels in all countries.
‘Contraction’ refers to the need to reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases to a level that would result in establishing what science regards as a probably tolerable atmospheric concentration. Effectively this would create a global ‘budget’ of greenhouse gas emissions. This budget necessarily declines over time until a stable point is reached.
‘Convergence’ allocates shares in that budget to the emitting nations on the basis of equity. First, the budget is global; every country has shares in the atmosphere and any treaty that allocates its absorptive capacity only to a selection of countries effectively deprives the others. Second, the current situation whereby allocations are generally proportional to wealth would cease. Third, allocations should converge over time to a position where entitlements are proportional to population. After convergence, all countries would contract their greenhouse gas emissions equally until the necessary contraction limit is reached. No inflation of national budgets in response to rising populations would be permitted after an agreed set date.
Its per capita basis provides an organising principle for the negotiations which all the parties recognise as fair and equitable. Essentially, humanity is facing a global security crisis and needs to drastically ration what is currently a vital resource, the absorptive capacity of the atmosphere.
Developing countries would have a direct incentive to conserve energy and transfer quickly to renewable, non-fossil-fuel-based energy paths. For under the ‘Contraction and Convergence’ mechanism, they will acquire surplus emission entitlements which they can sell on the open market to finance the creation of renewable energy infrastructures. These in turn will increase their surplus entitlements.
Industrial countries, with their much higher per capita energy use and thus greenhouse gas production, may choose to buy emission permits to gain a little time. But they will need to make major cuts and their main efforts would need to go into conservation and renewable technologies. With appropriate monitoring, verification and enforcement, this trading mechanism, administered by a democratically accountable international body, could help achieve overall contraction more rapidly and cheaply, and certainly it should not suffer from the ‘leakage’ expected to result from the sub-global mechanisms set up under the Kyoto Protocol.
Andy Coghlan, New Scientist, October 2003
Oil and gas will run out too fast for doomsday global warming scenarios to materialise, according to a controversial analysis presented this week at the University of Uppsala in Sweden. The authors warn that all the fuel will be burnt before there is enough carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to realise predictions of melting ice caps and searing temperatures.
Coal-burning could easily make up the shortfall, but would be even worse for the planet.
Their analysis suggests that oil and gas reserves combined amount to the equivalent of about 3500 billion barrels of oil - considerably less than the 5000 billion barrels estimated in the most optimistic model envisaged by the IPCC.