ZCBlog: Zero Carbon Britain 2013


2013 is here! Paul Allen takes a moment to assess what lies ahead and his hopes for the new year…

I have recently received an analysis from a group of my colleagues working for the International Network for Sustainable Energy who presented at the COP18 Climate summit in Doha, Qatar. The outcomes do seem to open new doors for climate action, but it is not the breakthrough that we need to keep global warming to sustainable levels (i.e. global warming not above 1.5 – 2 degrees C).

I was most relieved to hear of commitment to a second period of the Kyoto Protocol, from 2013 to 2020, and although there are clear loopholes that allow carry over of unused emissions credits from the first period, there will also strict limits to their use. There was also a call for Kyoto Protocol countries to review their emissions reduction targets by 2014 at the latest. While there are no guarantees, this decision gives a moral obligation for these countries to increase their emission reduction targets before 2020 and provides opportunities for them to do so in the climate negotiations.

A second phase of the Kyoto Protocol was agreed to cover the period 2013-2020 with reduction targets for European countries and Australia. Unfortunately the reduction targets are not ambitious, e.g. EU only committed to reduce 20% from 1990 by 2020, a target the countries almost have reached today. Another problem is that the countries with reduction targets only emit 1/7 of the global man-made greenhouse gases (if Russia joins it will be more, but still only a small part of global emissions will be included).

So as we say goodbye to 2012, we know the limited reductions committed at Doha will not lead to the reductions required for the rate of decarbonisation demanded by the science. It is therefore vital we rest and get ready to take up the cause afresh in the New Year. There is still hope for improvement as the Doha talks agreed a review of commitments by Kyoto Protocol countries, where they will propose new, hopefully more ambitious emission targets in 2014. The new targets should include much more rapid decarbonisation targets from the long industrialised countries to keep global warming below 2 degrees C.

Much more action is needed, from the countries in the Kyoto protocol, but also from major emitters outside the Kyoto Protocol, including USA, Canada, and China. We hope that during 2013, as we draw together the most recent work from a range of academics, universities, think tanks, NGOs and business and industry into the new report and launch a round of communications we hope the ZCB project will help catalyse a change in how the we think about rapid de-carbonisation, bust myths, highlight hidden benefits, break through misunderstanding, and stimulate urgently-needed economic and political debate around how we think about the future. Leaving it to the ‘powers that be’ is clearly not going to be enough!

Paul Allen

Project Co-ordinator

  • Paul, I find your position astonishing.  All that Doha produced was empty words.  Without quantified, dated, commitments from the major emitters – especially China and the US – we will not avoid catastrophic climate change.

    In fact although its probably technically possible to make the necessary reductions in time it’s clearly politically impossible. I argued this 2 years ago – http://climate-cassandra.blogspot.co.uk/2010/12/arithmetic-of-delay.html – the situation has clearly not improved.

    The great challenge is to find something useful to say in a world whose temperature WILL rise 2 degrees – and might rise by TEN.

  • edwin4949

    I am so glad that the custom of looking into your crystal ball and ‘knowing’ what the New Year will have in store has not died out. Such certainty in the face of 20 to 30 years of abject failure to predict the changes in our climate with any degree of accuracy is somehow quaint and rather old fashioned. Keep it up it will make wonderful reading in 10 years when we look back at predictions with a sigh and a knowing look that says ‘Did we really believe that in 2013?’