Perspective

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

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Abstract

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.

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Change history

  • Corrected online 05 July 2016

    The Reviewer Information section was included.

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Acknowledgements

We thank all involved in the UNEP Emissions Gap Report, in particular J. McGlade, J. Alcamo and B. Metz, the members of the steering committee, all its authors, and the secretariat at UNEP-DTU, in particular A. Olhoff and J. Christensen. We acknowledge and are grateful for the data contributions of, and discussion with, all the global and national modelling groups, in particular M. Rocha, B. Hare, M. Schaeffer (Climate Analytics, Germany, Climate Action Tracker), L. Jeffery (PIK, Germany, Climate Action Tracker), P. van Breevoort (Ecofys, The Netherlands, Climate Action Tracker), A. Admiraal, M. Roelfsema, H. van Soest (PBL, The Netherlands), N. Forsell (IIASA, Austria), L. Cozzi, F. Kesicke (IEA, France), J. Cranston Turner, R. Boyd (LSE, UK), S. Dockweiler (DEA, Denmark), L. Siegel, E. Sawin (Climate Interactive, USA), A. Kitous, K. Keramidas, G. Grassi (JRC, European Commission), G. Iyer (PNNL, USA), and the UNFCCC Secretariat. Without their contributions, this Perspective would have had a much more limited data basis. We thank S. Sterl (NewClimate Institute, Germany) and M. Roelfsema (PBL, The Netherlands) for assistance with data analysis, M. Strubegger (IIASA, Austria) for providing load factor estimates, V. Krey and O. Fricko (IIASA, Austria) for providing capture efficiencies for negative emissions technologies, and J. Cook for critical feedback on the manuscript and figures. We acknowledge and thank the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) for hosting and maintaining the IPCC AR5 Scenario Database. J.R., N.H. and K.R. received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 642147 (CD-LINKS). M.M. is the recipient of an Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellowship (grant number FT130100809).

Author information

Affiliations

  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

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Contributions

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 interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Michel den Elzen or Niklas Höhne.

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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    Supplementary Information

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