The World Is Falling Behind In Its Goal Of Limiting Warming To 2°C, Report Finds


Meeting a goal of limiting warming to 2°C is becoming increasingly difficult as the world falls behind in implementing needed carbon reduction policies, according to a new report.

The sixth annual Low Carbon Economy Index, published by PwC, examined what progress different countries have made in reducing carbon intensity, or the ratio of emissions produced to GDP. Overall, the report found, progress toward keeping global warming to 2°C has been slow.

“While all governments at the UNFCCC reiterate the goal of limiting warming to 2°C, implementation has fallen short of this goal,” the report reads. “Current total annual energy-related emissions are just over 30 GtCO2 and still rising, a carbon ‘burn rate’ that would deplete the carbon budget for the entire century within the next 20 years.”

CREDIT: PwC Low Carbon Economy Index 2014
CREDIT: PwC Low Carbon Economy Index 2014

PwC’s Jonathan Grant told Reuters that right now, carbon reduction promises that countries have made “really put us on track for 3 degrees.”

“This is a long way from what governments are talking about,” he said.

The report found that, if countries want to get on track in lowering their emissions toward a 2°C goal, the world needs to cut its carbon intensity by 6.2 percent each year from now until 2100 — more than five times the current rate for the global economy. That rate would also be “double the decarbonisation rate achieved in the UK during the rapid shift to gas-fired electricity generation in the nineties,” the report notes.

The report cites the IPCC’s warnings on the consequences of failing to rein in warming, including “water stress, food security threats, coastal inundation, extreme weather events, ecosystem shifts and species extinction on land and sea.”

“In a highly globalised economy, no country is likely to be spared as the impacts of climate change ripple around the world, affecting interdependent supply chains and flows of people and investment,” the report reads.

The report also found that for the first time in the six years that the PwC has been publishing the report, developing economies such as China, Mexico, and India cut their carbon intensity at a higher rate than developed countries, such as the U.S. and Japan.

The report highlighted the international climate talks that will occur over the next two years, including the U.N. Climate Leaders’ Summit in New York City this month and the climate talks in Paris in 2015 as negotiations to watch to determine whether countries will get on track with their emissions reductions. The goal of the Paris conference is to get all participating countries to agree to a legally-binding climate agreement, so tracking the progress of the talks in New York City and in Lima, Peru this December will be key in predicting whether or not that deal will happen.

“Overall, to stay within the global carbon budget, annual energy-related emissions by the G20 bloc need to fall by one-third by 2030 and just over half by 2050,” the report states. “Much of the debate in climate negotiations has centred on responsibility and how to share the burden between developed and developing countries, as defined in 1992 in the UNFCCC. Regardless of how the carbon budget is split, it is clear that both developed and emerging economies face the challenge of growing their economies whilst radically curbing emissions.”