Paris Agreement climate proposals need a boost to keep warming well below 2 °C

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The Paris climate agreement aims at holding global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius and to “pursue efforts” to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius. To accomplish this, countries have submitted Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) outlining their post-2020 climate action. Here we assess the effect of current INDCs on reducing aggregate greenhouse gas emissions, its implications for achieving the temperature objective of the Paris climate agreement, and potential options for overachievement. The INDCs collectively lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to where current policies stand, but still imply a median warming of 2.6–3.1 degrees Celsius by 2100. More can be achieved, because the agreement stipulates that targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions are strengthened over time, both in ambition and scope. Substantial enhancement or over-delivery on current INDCs by additional national, sub-national and non-state actions is required to maintain a reasonable chance of meeting the target of keeping warming well below 2 degrees Celsius.

At a glance


  1. Global greenhouse gas emissions as implied by INDCs compared to no-policy baseline, current-policy and 2 °C scenarios.
    Figure 1: Global greenhouse gas emissions as implied by INDCs compared to no-policy baseline, current-policy and 2 °C scenarios.

    White lines show the median of each range. The white dashed line shows the median estimate of what the INDCs would deliver if all conditions are met. The 20th–80th-percentile ranges are shown for the no-policy baseline and 2 °C scenarios. For current-policy and INDC scenarios, the minimum–maximum and 10th–90th-percentile range across all assessed studies are given, respectively. Symbols represent single studies, and are offset slightly to increase readability. Dashed brown lines connect data points for each study. References to all assessed studies are provided in Box 1. Scenarios are also described in Box 1.

  2. Temperature implications of current INDCs.
    Figure 2: Temperature implications of current INDCs.

    a, GHG emission ranges (20th–80th percentile) of scenarios from the IPCC AR5 Scenario Database with constant policy assumptions from 2010 onwards (blue-to-green shaded ranges), grouped per estimated median global-mean temperature increase in 2100 relative to pre-industrial levels (1850–1900), and range of the scenario subset limiting warming to below 2 °C by 2100 with 50%–66% likelihood (dark orange) from year-2030 INDC levels. The vertical orange lines show the unconditional INDC range in 2025 and 2030, as shown in Fig. 1. The 2 °C range shown in Fig. 1 starts global least-cost mitigation action in 2020 instead of 2010 and is not included here. b, Relationship between global GHG emission levels in 2030 and median global-mean temperature increase by 2100 based on scenarios shown in a. Each dot represents a single scenario. The blue line shows a smoothing spline fit (R2 ≈ 0.93) and the blue-shaded area shows fits to the 5th and 95th percentile over all points. Comparing the central fit with the range of year-2030 GHG emissions implied by the unconditional INDCs shows that INDCs are roughly consistent with a median warming of 2.6–3.1 °C by 2100 (horizontal dark-orange range), and a 2.2–3.5 °C range including scenario projection uncertainty (horizontal light-orange range). Vertical dashed lines and shaded regions show year-2030 GHG estimates for the various scenario sets. c, Annual CO2 reduction rates modelled in scenarios limiting warming to below 2 °C from year-2030 INDC levels (dark-orange range in a; bars, median; vertical lines, spread across all available scenarios) and historical examples (range for France, Sweden and Denmark is based on ref. 74; see Supplementary Text 4). d, Implied cumulative carbon emissions including uncertainties, and comparison to budget ranges for not exceeding 1.5 °C (with 50% probability) and 2 °C (with 66% probability) from refs 9 and 11 (dark bar, lower estimate; light bar, high-range estimate). Historical estimates are from ref. 75. Vertical lines show the range due to scenario spread (Supplementary Text 3 and Supplementary Table 6). Arrows and bars in the first four columns show the projected cumulative CO2 emissions until 2030 for each respective scenario.

Change history

Corrected online 05 July 2016
The Reviewer Information section was included.


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Author information


  1. ENE Program, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Laxenburg, Austria

    • Joeri Rogelj &
    • Keywan Riahi
  2. Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

    • Joeri Rogelj
  3. PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, Bilthoven, The Netherlands

    • Michel den Elzen
  4. NewClimate Institute, Cologne, Germany

    • Niklas Höhne &
    • Hanna Fekete
  5. Environmental Systems Analysis Group, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands

    • Niklas Höhne
  6. World Resources Institute, Washington DC, USA

    • Taryn Fransen
  7. Energy Research Center, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa

    • Harald Winkler
  8. Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (COPPE/UFRJ), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

    • Roberto Schaeffer
  9. National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation, Beijing, China

    • Fu Sha
  10. Graz University of Technology, Graz, Austria

    • Keywan Riahi
  11. Australian-German Climate and Energy College, School of Earth Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

    • Malte Meinshausen
  12. PRIMAP Group, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Potsdam, Germany

    • Malte Meinshausen


The paper was initiated during discussions between M.d.E., N.H., H.W., J.R. and other members of the UNEP Gap Emissions Gap Report author team; all authors were involved in designing the research; the quantitative INDC analysis was coordinated by M.d.E., N.H. and H.F. with substantial contributions from T.F., H.W., R.S., F.S. and M.M.; the analysis of post-2030 implications was performed by J.R., with substantial contributions from K.R.; J.R. created all figures and was responsible for the overall coordination of the paper. J.R. and N.H. led the writing of the paper, with substantial contributions from all authors.

Competing financial interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to:

Reviewer Information Nature thanks O. Geden and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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  1. Supplementary Information (1.5 MB)

    This file contains Supplementary Text, Supplementary Figures 1-4, Supplementary Tables 1-6 and Supplementary References.


  1. Report this comment #68281

    Geoff Beacon said:

    Both the UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology and the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change have acknowledged that there are missing feedbacks in the CMIP5 climate models and that these reduce the IPCC remaining carbon budgets. "From those you raise, this applies to melting permafrost emissions, forest fires and wetlands decomposition."

    Am I right in thinking that these and other feedbacks are not taken into account in this paper?

    Is there any work that estimates the reduction in the remaining carbon budgets – for, say, 1.5°C and 2°C – when when these missing feedbacks are taken into account?

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