We are headed for the next round of climate pledges in 2020. So, what do we need to do to stay within 1.5 C? This is based mainly on the new UN Emissions Gap Report 2019

They talk about the need to "triple or quintuple" our reductions. But that figure is not about the pledges or economic cost, it is just about the CO2 emissions reductions. Now we have the renewables industry which is responsible for much of the reductions so far, and had to be developed pretty much from scratch - and with a big reduction in price of renewables, four fold reduction in solar panels in just 8 years - then it is easier to do further reductions.

The UK and California have both committed to zero emissions by 2050. Finalnd to zero emissions by 2035. It can be done!

Here is a video with me talking about this article:

(click to watch on be)

See also

(mentioned in video)

This is another article I'm writing to support people we help in the Facebook Doomsday Debunked group, that find us because they get scared, sometimes to the point of feeling suicidal about it, by such stories.

Do share this with your friends if you find it useful, as they may be panicking too

First, this is not about human extinction or collapse of civilization, or not being able to feed everyone. It is about a possibility of near extinction of corals, of more stress and climate migrants (mainly internal to their countries), moving backwards rather than forwards on sustainable development goals of zero hunger, health for all, etc, and increasing heat waves / hurricanes / wild fires. It is not about a mass extinction or extinction of higher animals or trees or birds, but it is about increased stress on nature services and risks of extinctions of some species.

There is no climate cliff edge according to the best science but every half degree matters.

For some background:

The new UN report says that compared to the 2005 pledges, unconditional pledges reduce emissions by 8 gigatons from 64 to 56, the 2 C easiest path is a reduction to a total of 41 or nearly 24 from 64 and the 1.5 C path reduces to 25 or nearly 40 from 64 or five times that 8 gigatons reduction.

However this is definitely possible. The UK has already committed to zero emissions by 2050 as have the state of California, some countries are well ahead (Finland commits to zero emissions by 2035), and the EU aren’t far off it. Others have to step up their commitments to match and the ones that already target 1.5 C - if they can reduce their emissions even further so much the better.

This shows how far we have got with our Paris pledges to date, and how much we still have to do.

This is another graph showing it in more detail.

(from the UN report)

However there have been big reductions in the cost of renewables, more than expected:

(from the UN report)

It’s reached the point where for most of the world, renewables already are the cheapest source of new power generation, and projected to compete with the operating cost of existing powerplants by 2020 (meaning it would be no longer economic to keep them running in the competition with renewables):

Renewables are currently the cheapest source of new power generation in most of the world, with the global weighted average purchase or auction price for new utility-scale solar power photovoltaic systems and utility-scale onshore wind turbines projected to compete with the marginal operating cost of existing coal plants by 2020. These trends are increasingly manifesting in a decline in new coal plant construction, including the cancellation of planned plants, as well as the early retirement of existing plants. Moreover, real-life cost declines are outpacing projections.

This shows how we could have limited to 1.5 C relatively easily if we started in 2000. We can still do it but need steep reductions in 2020. It shows the drop in emissions needed if there are no negative emissions, graph by Zeke Hasfather:

It’s no surprise emissions are still increasing as the next round of pledges is in 2020 and China particularly only committed to peak before 2030 (China is the world’s largest CO2 emitter).

Amongst the top emitters, the EU is already reducing emissions as is the USA, but India and China are still increasing.

We need deep pledges in 2020 or even deeper in 2025 if we don’t do it in 2020.

The new report includes a calculation for the statement you often here that we will use up our entire 1.5 C budget by 2030 if we just continue with current policies.

The IPCC SR1.5 reported that for limiting warming to 1.5°C with 50 per cent probability, the remaining carbon budget from 2018 onward amounts to 580 GtCO2. This would be further reduced to 420 GtCO2 for having a 66 per cent probability of success of limiting warming to 1.5°C. Further taking into account reinforcing Earth-system components, such as permafrost thawing, could reduce these estimates by a further 100 GtCO2. Starting from a current level of global CO2 emissions of 41.6 GtCO2 in 2018 (Le Quéréet al. 2018) and assuming a straight trajectory to 2030, the current unconditional NDC scenario implies cumulative emissions of about 510 GtCO2 (range of 495–528 GtCO2) until 2030. Therefore, current unconditional NDCs until 2030 already go beyond the carbon budget limits set for 1.5°C.

Zero emissions by 2050 is possible. The UK has committed to it. The EU isn’t far off committing. This shows we can do it.

Some of the things we can do include:

  • Stopping fossil fuel subsidies.
  • Zero emission public transport
  • Zero emission buildings

China have a lot to do and are key to it as without deep reductions in China it will be hard for the rest of the world to stay within 1.5 C. However they have said they aim to map out a path to zero emissions later this century. Its not quite the same as zero emissions by 2050 but if they do this, then it will help make it easier to reach 1.5 C with increasing pledges again later in 2025.

This is the P1 path from the 2018 report - the easiest path to 1.5 C and the path that we now have as the informal aspirational target for the Paris agreement for most countries - though they havent formally adopted it as a target or accepted the results of the report.

The brown area there is for agriculture, land use change and forestry. It removes an extra few percent but that does help make a big difference.

As an example, this project in China greened the Löss Plateau, which is the size of Belgium - you might think this is image manipulation, but no, this is a real project:

Loss Plateau in September 1995

Loess Plateau in September 2009. See Greening the desert

It is amazing what they did in China's Loess province,. This documentary, “Hope in a Changing Climate” - by the soil scientist John D. Liu (2009) covers the project right from the start when it was almost a desert landscape. The second half of the video covers how similar projects have transformed regions in Ethiopia and Rwanda.

Video here:landscape. The second half of the video covers how similar projects have transformed regions in Ethiopia and Rwanda.Video here:


Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment programme puts it like this, (27 minutes in)

"Why do we not invest an equal amount if not more into a shovel-ready technology so to speak which is nature's way of sequestering and storing carbon.

It is actually by investing in our ecological infrastructure and ecosystems in expanding the ability of nature to sequester and store carbon that we have the greatest opportunity to do something.

And the wonderful thing is it's not only carbon sequestration, we're also faced with loss of ecosystems that will affect our food security, our water security, we're losing species on an unprecedented rate, so maintaining, restoring, protecting, expanding natural ecosystems has multiple benefits, immediate in terms of climate change but also fundamental to the future of many of the services that we simply take for granted from nature."

Something like this not only takes a large amount of CO2 out of the atmosphere, but becomes an ongoing sink of carbon from then on.

We can also have a certain element of carbon capture and storage. There’s a steel plant in Abu Dhabi already capturing its CO2. In future cement plants will also capture CO2 and there’s the possibility of using captured CO2 productively to make cement or reinforce it, for instance. Details towards the end of this article:

Finland plan to burn forestry wastes with carbon capture and storage as part of their zero emissions by 2035 target.

Others will be doing carbon capture and storage of the emissions from burning agricultural wastes.

They discuss the Low Energy Demand scenario of the 2018 report:

Unlike other 1.5°C pathways, the LED scenario shows how the ambition of the Paris Agreement is reachable by lowering energy demand by 40 per cent, while at the same time increasing the provision of energy services without having to rely on negative emission technologies or carbon capture and storage

The 2018 report has a section about how land conservation, restoration and management has a largely unexplored role to play for removing carbon dioxide

Integrated assessment modelling has not yet explored land conservation, restoration and management options to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in sufficient depth, despite land management having a potentially considerable impact on the terrestrial carbon stock (Erb et al., 2018). Moreover, associated CDR [Carbon dioxide removal] measures have low technological requirements, and come with potential environmental and social co-benefits (Griscom et al., 2017).

Then, comparing high end scenarios with large amounts of carbon dioxide removal the 2018 report says:

In contrast, the low end is populated with pathways with no or limited overshoot that limit CDR to in the order of 100–200 5GtCO2 over the 21st century coming entirely from terrestrial CDR measures with no or small use of BECCS. These are pathways with very low energy demand facilitating the rapid phase-out of fossil fuels and process emissions that exclude BECCS and CCS use (Grubler et al., 2018)and/or pathways with rapid shifts to sustainable food consumption freeing up sufficient land areas for afforestation and reforestation (Haberl et al., 2011; van Vuuren et al., 2018). Some pathways uses neither BECCS nor afforestation but still rely on CDR throughonsiderable net negative emissions in the AFOLU sector around mid-century (Holz et al., 112018b).

Chapter 2: Mitigation pathways compatible with 1.5°C in the context of sustainable 3developmen

We can probably already rule out the highest emissions scenarios - we are likely to be at or below the RCP 4.5 - that’s around 3°C compatible, by 2040 just through falling costs of clean energy combined with current policies.


Carbon Action Tracker says we are currently headed for 2.9 C.

The new UN report says 3.2 C for unconditional pledges and 3 C if conditional pledges are included (ones conditional on funding by the wealthier countries).

Carbon Action Tracker comes to a similar conclusion, saying we can reach 2.9 C with optimistic policies.

CAT - Warming Projections Global Update - September 2019 UNSG Summit NYC


We need to motiate ourselves with positive messages, not just focus on what is going wrong. Psychologically this is very important in terms of the narrative, to help us to move in the direction of doing something about all this. We already are but a more positive approach may help us do this more effectively.

This talk may help you if you are thinking about how to motivate both yourself and others, and also governments, to act on climate change:


To help motivate you you may like to watch some of these videos of some of all the positive things happening in the world as regards climate change.

Videos of good things that are happening in the world for climate change and biodiversity


Many feel helpless, faced by climate change and biodiversity loss. Other people and governments seem to be doing nothing (actually they are doing lots but the news is not shared). There seems nothing they can do personally and the whole thing seems hopeless.

This is so far from true. One person can’t do much but collectively through our life choices we can help transform the planet. Indeed, governments can’t do it by themselves, we are needed too.

The IPCC, and IPBES say a transformative change is needed at all levels in our society to combat climate change and biodiversity loss. This is empowering because it means there is much we can do ourselves already, even if we are in a country where the government is not yet doing anything.

They say that we need changes at a personal level complemented by changes at community levels, and government levels. We also need intergovernmental co-operation and co-operation of cities and communities that cross national boundaries as well as collaboration between governments and local communities.

To take a familiar example, recycling would never work if people didn't separate their rubbish and put it in the appropriate recycling bins. That transformation happened in the UK in my lifetime - in the 60s and 70s hardly anyone recycled. Now just about everyone does, in the UK at least.

It’s the same with food waste, once consumers realize that it is a significant issue for the environment and the planet, they are likely to voluntarily choose to act to reduce the amount of food they waste in the kitchen.

It’s the same also with meat. Once we know about the impact of intensively farmed meat on the planet, then many may choose to eat less meat. This is working already. We don’t all need to act, it’s enough if a significant number of us do, to make a big difference.

You do not have to do all of these things, or any of them. It may help to think it more in a positive way. If you want to help the planet, these are all things you can do that will make a difference, if significant numbers of us do the same.

There are many excellent and strong reasons to act promptly on climate change. It is important to combine food security with preserving biodiversity and nature services. But IPBES made it clear we don't face a future where it is impossible to grow enough crops to feed everyone.

12 Simple lifestyle changes to help reduce global warming and biodiversity loss

See also

Positive side of climate change facts, after two years of action, heading for 3°C with 1.5°C well within reach

Debunked - that we are in the middle of the sixth mass extinction

Let’s save a million species, and make biodiversity great again - UN report says we know how do it

Yes our generation’s children are headed for a world with nature and wonder in it - and their children too

Rising Seas - Ingenious Ways Netherlands, Florida And Bangladesh Can Adapt - Barriers And Sponges - And Floating Gardens

No Scientific Cliff Edge Of 12 Years To Save Planet (or 18 Months) - Can IPCC Challenge 'Deadlines Make Headlines' Misreporting?

24 Ways World Is Better - Famine Hugely Reduced - Literacy Soaring - Life Expectancy Up - Degraded Landscapes Restored, ... good news journalists rarely share

We can grow enough food for everyone through to 2100 and beyond on all scenarios

Some of the worst doomsday fear fact checking errors in the mainstream press - most are about climate change

How well are countries doing with their 2015 Paris pledges?


If you see any mistakes in this however small, or have any suggestions or questions, be sure to comment below, thanks!

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