Blog: Chris Broome – Emission cuts are too lax to avoid dangerous climate change

In the following BBC article, climate scientist  Jim Skea,  describes how new EU climate targets – 40% emissions  cuts by 2030 – are too lax to give confidence that we can avoid dangerous climate change:-
I suggest here is a very close parallel with the UK’s Climate Change” Act. That too requires 80% emissions cuts by 2050, with intermediate targets in the meantime.  But again, there is no overall “Carbon Budget” for the entire period to 2050. So the percentage cuts required can be met by steeper reductions towards the end of the period, even though that would lead to higher cumulative emissions overall. So if the intermediate and 2050 targets are all just met, the chances of 2⁰C of global warming being exceeded are still very high.  Jim Skea  does not refer to this principle but makes an additional point that is also true. He says that if 40% cuts are made by 2030, it will still be extremely difficult in practical terms to get from there to 80% overall cuts to 2050.
The EU Climate Commissioner, Connie Hedegaard’s reaction is especially interesting, due to the political implications. She defends the new agreement, saying it puts the EU back on track to meet 2050 targets. I suspect she says this more because she is relieved that an agreement has been painstakingly hammered out, rather than that she actually believes it. Similarly, UK Government spokespeople are constantly telling us how particular policies will help us to meet our Carbon Budgets. They then lose sight of what ultimately needs to be achieved. This is almost universally recognised in political circles as holding global warming within 2⁰C, with the risk that even this average temperature rise will fail to prevent “dangerous” climate change long since forgotten. (That last factor is never touched on in the Guardian article.) It is particularly alarming that academics – who are often asked to assess new proposed policies against Carbon Budgets – then get caught up in the same way of thinking.
So when you hear a spokesperson assure us a particular policy is “in line with our climate targets”, always consider what targets they mean.
Best Regards,
Chris Broome