It’s clear that the Copenhagen Accord agreed to at last month’s UN talks doesn’t promise to do nearly enough to address the climate problem. But how far does it fall short?
The commitments to emissions reductions, which will be included in the Accord by the end of January (but can already be surprised from national pledges), would allow warming to reach at least 3°C above pre-industrial levels, according to the best available science (and according to a leaked UN document). And the financing to help the world’s most vulnerable adapt to climate change will only cover impacts resulting from 1.5°C of warming. The Copenhagen Accord thus leaves a 1.5°C gap of climate change unaccounted for – in other words, between the 1.5°C of change that we’ll have adapted to and the 3°C we’ll experience, there will be unavoided impacts, writes Martin Parry of the Grantham Institute and Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London over on Nature Reports Climate Change.
Some sectors will, of course, be worse hit by unavoided impacts than others. The food and health sectors, for example, might be able to adapt and thus avoid impacts of up to a 1.5 °C rise by 2030, the water sector up to a 2°C rise by 2050 and coasts up to a 2.5 °C rise by 2080. But for ecosystems, many climate impacts simply cannot be avoided whatever the scale of funding available.
The ‘1.5C gap’ and its unavoided impacts are nicely illustrated in the figure below.
Caption: Schematic shows the 1.5 °C gap of unavoided impacts likely to result from current international commitments to adaptation funding and mitigation, as laid out in the Copenhagen Accord. The global climate impacts are taken from the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The full commentary is available here [free access].