Cutting global emissions in half by 2030? With new roadmap, it’s possible

Tropical forest in Gunung Gede National Park.

Tropical forest in Gunung Gede National Park, Indonesia. (© Conservation International/photo by Haroldo Castro)

The only solution to stop climate change is to reduce emissions — immediately, according to a report released Thursday by two renowned climate experts.

Authored by a group of scientists and leaders including Christiana Figueres, a Lui-Walton distinguished fellow at Conservation International, and Johan Rockström, Conservation International’s chief scientist, the “roadmap” lays out what each sector of the global economy — energy, food and agriculture, transport, etc. — needs to do to stop climate change. The catch? Most of the action must be undertaken in the next year.

This roadmap was released as a part of the Global Climate Action Summit in California, the largest climate-focused meeting since the Paris Agreement in 2015. Their goal: To “take ambition to the next level” and focus on what all sectors of the global economy need to do to stop climate change.

According to the report, greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2020 at the very latest, after which emissions will need to be cut in half every decade until 2050. At that pace, emissions would be halved by 2030. The report is based on the Carbon Law, an approach proposed by Rockström and colleagues at the Stockholm Resilience Centre that looks at what must be done to be in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement. Following this timeline (with emissions peaking by 2020) leaves little over a year to make sizeable reductions in their emissions.

This timetable is not only possible, the authors claim, it’s plausible: “The potential exists to reduce emissions by about 70 percent through rapid diffusion of existing technologies and behavioural change.” Figueres and Rockström are optimistic that actions can be taken in time.

“Disruption is here,” said Figueres. “Three unstoppable forces are pushing us towards a future of prosperity, growth and clean energy: climate leadership, market forces and the digital revolution.”

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What can the world’s leaders do to drastically cut their emissions? Turn to technology, invest in the booming clean energy sector and implement stronger policies — today. Clean energy alone will be able to provide more than 50 percent of global electricity supply by 2030.

“The world is at a critical juncture and the stakes could not be higher,” said Rockström. “Greenhouse gas emissions need to peak by 2020 and then fall dramatically — approximately halving every decade in order to reach the Paris Agreement’s terms. The consequences of missing this goal are potentially catastrophic for humanity. Yet all solutions exist to begin halving emissions immediately. Now is the moment to move from incremental to exponential action.”

To help countries, cities and companies track their progress as they follow the roadmap and align their efforts with the Paris targets, there is a digital dashboard originally developed for the Swedish government to help them achieve their goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2045.

Olivia DeSmit is a staff writer for Conservation International.

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