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Behavior Change
Global Economies Must Decrease CO2 Emissions By 5 Times Current Levels

Global economies must cut their energy-related carbon emissions for every dollar of GDP by 6.2 percent — more than five times the rate currently achieved — every year from now to 2100 in order to to limit global warming to 2°C, according to a new report by PwC.

Scientists agree 2°C of warming is the limit needed to ensure the serious risks of climate change impacts are avoided worldwide.

For the sixth successive year of PwC analysis, The Low Carbon Economy Index, 2 degrees of separation – ambition & reality finds that the global carbon intensity (greenhouse gas emissions per GDP) reduction target has been missed. The gap between what countries are doing and what’s needed continues to grow.

Current total annual energy-related emissions are just over 30 GtCO2 and rising, on the back of GDP growth of 3.1 percent. In the same period, carbon intensity was reduced by only 1.2 percent, a fraction of what was needed. As a result the global challenge going forward is tougher than before.

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On a brighter note, the Index’s G20 analysis found Australia recorded a decarbonization rate of 7.2 percent over 2013, putting it top of the table for the second year in a row. Three other countries — the United Kingdom, Italy and, China — achieved a decarbonization rate of between 4 and 5 percent. However, five countries increased their carbon intensity over 2013 — the United States, France, India, Germany, and Brazil.

Current rates of carbon intensity mean the total amount of carbon the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has advised the world can emit this century to limit climate change to 2°C, will be depleted within 20 years. It has been nearly a year since IPCC announced it is 95 percent confident that human influence is the dominant cause of global warming.

Fret not, as PwC analysis shows encouraging signs that momentum is building in critical areas for low carbon economic growth. The E7 outperformed the G7 in carbon reduction (1.7 percent vs. 0.2 percent) for the first time in six years, indicating how it can be possible to maintain economic growth while slowing the rate of growth in emissions. Likewise, renewable electricity generation, excluding hydroelectricity, grew at 16 percent — a continuing trend for last decade with double digit growth every year. Renewables now account for nearly 10 percent of total energy mix in six of the G20 economies.

The research was released ahead of the a UN summit on climate change in New York on September 23 to be attended by world leaders, aiming to up the ante on national commitments to reduce GHG emissions. It shows the disconnect between the global climate negotiations aiming for a 2°C limit on global warming, but national pledges may only manage to limit it to 3°C, and current trajectory actually on course for 4°C.

In March, IPCC issued a report that says the effects of climate change are already occurring on all continents and across the oceans and the world, in many cases, is ill-prepared for risks from a changing climate. There are opportunities to respond to such risks, but they will be more difficult to manage as warming continues to increase.


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