The new draft is weaker than Copenhagen, say scientists

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Earth Journalism Network, Paris

After assessing the new draft agreement, scientists say the new draft in Paris is weaker than Copenhagen.

At the moment I would view the current text as weaker than that which came out of Copenhagen. It’s not consistent with science.” Kevin Anderson, Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre for climate change research, said at a press conference at December 11 noon.

After postponing twice, the second draft Paris agreement came out at 21:00 on December 10. The draft is further reduced to 27 pages. It's much cleaner compared to the fat text at the begining of the negotiation, but major disagreements on transparency, finance and differentiation are still under negotiation.

As to long-term goal, the new draft agreement aims to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and further limiting temperature warming to 1.5 °C. However, options that would set clear guidelines in future practice are taken out, and new item “greenhouse gas emissions neutrality” pop up in article 3 in place with emission reduction.

Scientists shows their dissappointment on the inconsistency with science in the text, as options consistent with science are replaced by vague formulations. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research, says the long-term goal on limiting global warming to 1.5 °C and 2 °C is in line with science, but the rest of the text failed to "sufficiently operationalize" the long-term goal. 

Johan Rockstrom, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, warns statements like “greenhouse gas emissions neutrality” would allow for the opening up of massive carbon sinks. It would open a risky future for further burning on fossil fuels.

Based on UNEP’s Global Emission Report, all INDCs adds up are not enough to keep us safe from 2°C temperature warming. Still, we have a huge emission gap to be filled. In order to do that, we have to cut emission to zero by 2050.

According to Johan Rockstrom, current INDCs do not put us on track to achieving 1.5°C by the end of the century.  If we stick with the INDCs, we will be expecting a global warming with 2.7°C and 3.7°C temperature rise - far above the long-term goals. 

“You can’t have a situation of saying 2-degree in one hand, but on the other hand our INDCs don’t add up to achieve the goal and say nothing about de-carbonization”, he said.

In an earlier discussion in Paris, Kevin Anderson have already shown negative attitude towards 1.5°C temperature control target. In the press conference, he showed further disappointment on the draft, which as he put it, is unfair to the poor and climatically vulnerable non-whites in the southern hemisphere.

“It’s too late for 1.5 °C. Unless massive negative emission technologies are largely applied or we had already peaked our emission in the past, but either are practical.” He said. 

In today’s conference, he says based on current situation, the chance to achieve 2°C target is also very slim.

Scientists say they understand that “neutrality” is a compromise in language to reach a final deal, but for developing countries, especially small island countries and least developed countries, sacrificing requirements on human rights, loss and damages, doesn’t seem to be a good deal. 

Immediate actions on mitigation are needed, said scientists. If actions are not taken from right now, there is high chance that we will have used up the entire carbon budget beore 2020. Furthermore, countries should update their INDCs long before 2030 and have them reviewed regularly, but those discussions are not on the table.