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UN Climate Change Newsroom


These pages and sections capture news of climate change and stories about the groundswell of climate action by governments, companies, cities, the UN and civil society around the globe. To provide feedback, email us at press@unfccc.int Photo©Naziha Mestaoui

On June 2, countries under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) welcomed a significant new review of whether the internationally agreed goal to keep the global average temperature from rising beyond 2°C above pre-industrial levels is adequate to meet the current challenge of climate change.

The full report of the structured expert dialogue, which can be seen on the UNFCCC website here, was ordered by governments and is the result of a face-to-face dialogue between over 70 experts and Parties to the UNFCCC.

A central conclusion of the report is that it is critically important to stay within 2°C or lower in order to avoid the worst climate impacts and, since serious climate impacts are already happening, this means that the 2°C is only a “defensive line” and all efforts should be made to stay substantially below it.

Science Beginning to Converge on Key Findings for Policy-making

Joseph Alcamo, Special Science Adviser to UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, said: "It is sometimes said the climate negotiations are slow because the science behind climate change is so complex and difficult to translate into policy."

"But the good news from the structured expert dialogue report is that scientists are beginning to converge on some key and clear findings of great relevance to policymaking, for example, that to stay within the 2°C or lower limit it is urgent to set milestones for global emission reductions. Over the last six months a consistent message has come from the UNEP Emissions Gap 2014 Report, from the IPCC Synthesis Report, and now from this report,"said Mr Alcamo, a former UN Environment Programme Chief Scientist and now Executive Director of the Center for Environmental Systems Research at the University of Kassel.

Governments are scheduled to reach a new, universal climate change agreement at their annual UN conference, in Paris, in December. They will do so in the context of a remarkable groundswell of positive climate action in the past few years: national policy changes and new climate laws, clean technology advances, corporate and investment shifts to clean energy and sustainable business and thousands of climate action initiatives by cities and regions.

"Faster than expected progress is being made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This means that a 2 degree or lower limit is looking more feasible than ever," said Mr Alcamo. "This report underlines the fact that emissions can be brought down by boosting energy efficiency, expanding the use of renewable energy, and adopting sustainable agriculture, and these will have many benefits to the environment and economy, including providing millions of jobs. But postponing emission reductions will lead only to higher costs and greater risks to society,"" he said.

Main Messages of the Report

The report summarizes its findings in 10 main messages, which need to be read in conjunction with the detailed analysis. These include:

  • A long-term global goal defined by a temperature limit serves its purpose well.
  • Limiting global warming to below 2 °C is still feasible and will bring about many co-benefits, but poses substantial technological, economic and institutional challenges.
  • This effort necessitates a radical transition, not merely a fine tuning of current trends.
  • The world is not yet on track to achieve the long-term global goal, but successful mitigation policies are known and must be scaled up urgently.
  • Assessing the adequacy of the long-term global goal implies risk assessments and value judgments not only at the global level, but also at regional and local levels.
  • 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.
  • 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.

The findings in the report are the views expressed by the experts and Parties and do not take precedence over the 5th Assessment Report of the International Governmental Panel on Climate Change, which is the formal, government-accepted document on climate science.

Ultimate Objective of the UNFCCC

The ultimate objective of the UN climate change Convention is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human induced) interference with the climate system. The objective, anchored in the 1992 Convention text, states that such a level should be achieved within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened, and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.

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