A UN climate change deal is expected to be reached today (Saturday), which will commit the world to trying to limit global warming to 1.5C (34.7F)- despite warnings that the target cannot be achieved because people will not vote for the costly policies it would entail.
The highly ambitious goal – tougher than the UN’s original 2C target – would require such a radical shift to expensive green energy that it would be impossible in a democratic society, a leading academic warned last night. It would also need still untested technologies to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, others said.
Ministers at the UN talks in Paris were yesterday preparing to negotiate through the night for the third night running, with French organisers insisting the deal should be concluded today, after missing yesterday’s deadline.
Owen Paterson: Page 27
The UN has a long-agreed target of trying to limit warming to 2C above pre-industrial levels, the threshold scientists forecast will herald the most dangerous impacts of climate change. Meeting that target is widely acknowledged as very difficult, with warming already at 1C and current policy pledges leaving the world on track for 2.7C warming this century.
But many of the countries that are most vulnerable to climate change – such as small Pacific island states – have been pushing for a tougher target of 1.5C. The UK, EU, US and Brazil have backed its inclusion in the deal in return for the vulnerable countries’ support on other elements of the deal.
The draft UN agreement says its goal is to “hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C”.
Professor Michael Grubb of University College London said achieving 1.5C would require “higher energy prices” and more onshore wind farms.
“However much people profess to care about climate change, they do not seem willing to vote for this – nor do politicians seem willing to really try and persuade them,” he said. “All the evidence from the past 15 years leads me to conclude that actually delivering 1.5C is simply incompatible with democracy.”
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