The European Union has recently published its Strategic Vision “A clean planet for all” along with the In-Depth Analysis supporting it. In it, the European Commission claims that an 80% reduction of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 can be taken as being in line with the Paris Agreement’s long-term temperature goal.
In this paper, published by Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research, we discuss how the Commission’s relabelling of the former “hold-below-2°C” pathways associated with the 2010 Cancun Agreements as the Paris Agreement temperature goal – “hold warming well-below 2°C, limit to 1.5°C ” is not correct. By design, the Paris long-term temperature goal is a strengthening of the former 2°C goal.
In this paper, strong arguments are provided that this implies achieving a lower peak warming and a higher probability of limiting warming to 2°C. Further, the "hold-below-2°C" pathways do not provide guidance in terms of lowering peak warming and increasing the probability of limiting warming to 1.5°C, an integral part of the Paris LTTG (unless with negative emissions at a scale the IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C does not deem feasible).
At the same time, the IPCC SR1.5 is very clear about the increases in climate risks between 1.5°C and 2°C, which relates to the clause of the LTTG that holding warming well below 2°C significantly reduces the risks and impacts of climate change. This provides a clear argument for lower limit to peak warming.
Despite the shortcoming with regard to interpreting “well-below-2°C”, the EU Strategic Vision is a clear shift away from the lower end of the former “80-95%” reduction target by 2050 towards achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in 2050. This is based on the In-Depth Analysis, which shows that a greenhouse gas emission reduction of 90% by 2050 compared to 1990 is necessary to keep 1.5°C in range, while limiting negative emissions even calls for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in 2050.
Hence, the “net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in 2050” target chosen in the Strategic Vision is a reasonable choice in light of the Paris Agreement and the IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C, but 80% reduction by 2050 is not. Thus, the lower end of the current “80-95%” EU target is insufficient.
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