High-level UN working group says 2°C warming limit is too high

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A high-level UNFCCC’s “Structured Expert Dialogue” (SED) published a summary of its report earlier this month wherein they have stated that the globally-agreed warming limit of 2?C as a ‘guardrail’ isn’t safe, and that Governments should aim for 1.5?C instead.

Experts have revealed that limiting global warming to 2°C is feasible and will bring about many co-benefits, but poses substantial technological, economic and institutional challenges. The experts urge that the 2 °C limit should therefore be seen as a line that needs to be stringently defended. Less warming would be preferable and efforts should be made to push the defence line as low as possible.

“We are therefore of the view that Parties would profit from restating the long-term global goal as a ‘defence line’ or ‘buffer zone’, instead of a ‘guardrail’ up to which all would be safe”, reads one of the quote from the report.

Experts say that if governments come to an understanding on this limit, it could pave way for emission pathways that will limit warming to a range of temperatures below 2 °C. In the very near term, such aspirations would keep open as long as possible the option of a warming limit of 1.5 °C, and would avoid embarking on a pathway that unnecessarily excludes a warming limit below 2 °C.

The report also notes that significant climate impacts are already occurring at the current level of global warming and additional magnitudes of warming will only increase the risk of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts.

Climate Analytics CEO Bill Hare said: “The findings of this report vindicate the stance of SIDS and LDCs in insisting on the review and in keeping the 1.5°C goal in sight during the climate negotiations. The report should lead to increasing recognition of the legitimacy and significance of the 1.5°C goal from governments.”

Other climate change experts are of the opinion that SED’s statement is a clear one and hugely relevant to the ongoing negotiations which could eventually lead to a possible treaty in Paris later this year.

“The problem is that, while Paris is likely to be an official success, it’s not at all clear that it’s going to set us up for the extremely challenging transition that will be necessary if we’re going to successfully “defend” the 2°C line”, says EcoEquity.

Though the report is based on views of experts and interested parties, it doesn’t take precedence over the 5th Assessment Report of the International Governmental Panel on Climate Change.