18 June 2015, Carbon Brief, China has greatest potential to raise climate ambition: The world is not on track to avoid dangerous climate change and China has the greatest potential to close the gap in climate ambition, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). In a special report on energy and climate change the IEA has added up the combined impact of current climate pledges and other likely policies, including China’s hotly anticipated contribution for the post-2020 period. Dr Fatih Birol, IEA chief economist, says in an interview with Carbon Brief that these pledges are far from what would be needed to limit warming to below 2C. We’ve taken a look at which countries would make the biggest contribution to bridging the gap towards 2C, under the IEA’s cost-neutral bridge scenario.
Climate ambition gap
The climate ambition gap is widely recognised. Last week, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres told Carbon Brief it was “completely clear” that current pledges would be insufficient to avoid 2C of warming above pre-industrial temperatures over the course of the century – the internationally agreed climate target. The IEA’s new assessment suggests they would instead put the world on track for 2.6C by 2100 and 3.5C after 2200. Their long-term impact may be “rather small”, says Birol, but that’s largely because they extend at most 15 years out to 2030. The pledges collectively bend the world’s emissions trajectory (blue line, below) away from business as usual emissions (green line) by 6 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (GtCO2). Even in the short term, however, the gap between the pledges and what would be needed for 2C (yellow line) grows rapidly, reaching 9GtCO2 in 2030.
Emissions growth under the IEA’s ‘current policies’ scenario, corresponding to business as usual (BAU), compared to the path with current climate pledges, the IEA’s bridge scenario and a scenario consistent with 2C. Source: IEA special report on climate and energy, IEA World Energy Outlook 2014. Chart by Carbon Brief.