UN Report: 1.5 Degree Limit to Improve Growth, Jobs and Safety

Marrakech, 16 November – The Low Carbon Monitor, a new report launched by the United Nations Development Programme today, examines the benefits and opportunities of limiting warming to 1.5°C as enshrined in the goal of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Date2016, November 16
2°C of warming entails the virtual disappearance (99% loss) of all coral reefs. Keeping warming to 1.5°C saves at least 10% of all reefs, with chances for survival gradually improving after mid-century.
 

The Low Carbon Monitor report was commissioned by the Climate Vulnerable forum and developed independently with Climate Analytics.

The report’s key findings include the fact that economic growth as measured by GDP would be 10%, or USD12 trillion higher by the 2040s, if the 1.5°C threshold is held, compared to current policies which would see temperature rise to 3°C or more. The report shows that 1.5°C is feasible, requiring global zero CO2 emissions at mid-century and the investment share of renewable power reaching close to 100% of the energy mix.

H.E. Mr. Kare Debassa, State Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change of Ethiopia, current Chair of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, said the 1.5°C limit was a matter of survival for vulnerable countries. “But as developing nations we cannot turn our backs on opportunities for creating jobs, protecting our growth, improving health, and increasing access to energy” he said, adding “we will also thrive working for 1.5.”

Presenting entirely new data, the report indicated that limiting warming to 1.5°C would create 68% more energy-related jobs in 2030 compared with current policies. Renewable energy with off-grid advantages was the key to addressing energy poverty, the report found, while virtually all countries are capable of producing multiples of their current energy needs from renewable sources alone.
For the first time, the report shows that a 1.5°C trajectory reduces by one full month the length of extreme heatwaves each year for most tropical regions by mid-century, while preventing the disappearance of coral reefs and the Greenland ice sheet.

Dr. Michiel Schaeffer, Science Director, Climate Analytics, and Co-Editor of the report said geophysical and biological impacts and risks increase significantly from 1.5°C to 2°C. “For developed and developing countries alike, the much lower climate change damages in a 1.5°C pathway means that economic growth opportunities can largely be preserved. In the absence of climate action, these opportunities would be substantially reduced by the 2040s.”

Mr. Matthew McKinnon, Project Manager, United Nations Development Programme said the report was consistent with recent industrial trends by presenting further evidence to dismiss the view that emission cuts would be incompatible with growth. “It’s the exact opposite: climate change is so threatening to growth that not tackling it has become one of the greatest development liabilities we face,” adding that “the challenge now is to ensure widespread access to the full array of benefits of aggressive climate action.”

Report key findings

Economic

  • If we keep warming to 1.5°C rather than continue with current policies, climate-change damages would be substantially lower and world GDP would be USD $12 trillion, or 10%, higher by 2050, while world GDP growth would be four times stronger by the 2040s – with similar advantages at national level, including for China.
  • 1.5°C is the only warming scenario that prevents major economies, such as Germany, Japan and the US, from entering into permanent recession in the 2040s as climate-change damages outpace “baseline” economic growth. This scenario applies, however, only if these countries take no adaptation measures.

Employment

  • The rapid transition to renewables required for 1.5°C would create 68% more energy-related jobs in 2030 compared with current policies.
  • Under current policies, we would see up to 7% losses of total economy-wide working hours by outdoor heat stress for developing countries, such as Pakistan by mid-century. 1.5°C policies would reduce such losses by as much as half.

Environmental Impacts

  • 2°C of warming entails the virtual disappearance (99% loss) of all coral reefs. Keeping warming to 1.5°C saves at least 10% of all reefs, with chances for survival gradually improving after mid-century.
  • Keeping warming to 1.5°C reduces by one full month the length of extreme heatwaves each year for most tropical regions by mid-century, compared with 2°C of warming.
  • The Greenland ice sheet risks entering irreversible decline at 1.6°C warming, leading to up to 7 meters of long-term sea-level rise.
  • 1.5°C reduces losses to key crops, such as wheat, by 10-15% by 2050 compared with 2°C of warming for regions of Africa and for Central America.

Energy Self-Sufficiency

  • Virtually every country has domestic renewable energy potential 20-80+ greater than current energy consumption levels require

Energy Imports

  • Costs of fuel imports constitute up to a third of the value of all imports in many developing countries and OECD economies such Japan, Turkey, Italy and Spain. 1.5°C policies would reduce inflationary risks from fluctuation in fossil fuel prices. They would also improve the trade balance of fossil fuel importing countries.

Energy Access

  • 1.5°C policies require high proportions of renewable energy capacity, 60% of which needs to be provided off-grid. Such policies bring the greatest possible contribution towards achieving universal energy access by 2030.

Health and Air Pollution

  • 1.5°C policies maximise contributions to reducing air pollution that already kills 7 million people each year worldwide – as many as alcohol or tobacco.
  • By 2050, 1.5°C policies avoid a 5% reduction to productivity of key crops, such as rice and wheat, due to the pollution added by the emissions expected under current policies (on top of the benefits of lower climate change impacts on food crops)

Globalising Action

  • 1.5°C requires global zero CO2 emissions by 2050, with large benefits if 100% renewables in the power sector were achieved.
  • 1.5°C-compatible policies accelerate access to cheap renewable energy, reducing current costs (2009-10) by as much as five times before mid-century due to increased renewable energy installation capacity worldwide.