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Paris Agreement goals ‘will not be met with current efforts’

Global emission reductions need to be around 80 per cent more ambitious than current plans in order to meet goals laid out in the Paris Agreement of staying below 2 degrees Celsius warming this century, researchers have said.

A University of Washington study has found that current efforts to drop emissions by about 1 per cent per year are not enough to stay on target, and it recommends countries aim for 1.8 per cent.

“A number of people have been saying, particularly in the past few years, that the emissions targets need to be more ambitious,” said lead author Adrian Raftery. “We went beyond that to ask in a more precise way: How much more ambitious do they need to be?”

The researchers used a statistical approach to model the three main drivers of human-produced greenhouse gases: national population, gross domestic product per person and the amount of carbon emitted for each dollar of economic activity, known as carbon intensity.

It then uses a statistical model to show the range of likely future outcomes based on data and projections so far, finding that current efforts give us just a 5 per cent probability of staying below 2 degrees Celsius warming.

Assuming that climate policies won’t target population growth or economic growth, the authors then ask what change in the 'carbon intensity' measure would be needed to meet the 2 degrees warming goal.

Increasing the overall targets to cut carbon emissions by an average of 1.8 per cent annually, and continuing on that path after the Paris Agreement expires in 2030, would give the planet a 50 per cent chance of staying below 2 degrees warming by 2100, the researchers said.

“Achieving the Paris Agreement’s temperature goals is something we’re not on target to do now, but it wouldn’t take that much extra to do it,” said first author Peiran Liu.

“Globally, the temperature goal requires an 80 per cent boost in the annual rate of emissions decline compared to the Paris Agreement, but if a country has finished most of its promised mitigation measures, then the extra decline required now will be smaller.”

The calls for greater mitigation efforts come as research from The Lancet Countdown finds that thousands of lives in the UK are lost to air pollution, inactivity and unhealthy diets each year which could be saved if the UK takes greater action over climate change.

The study finds that tougher measures to curb emissions would save lives through more plant-based diets, more physical activity from active travel such as walking and cycling and cuts to air pollution from burning less fossil fuel.

If the UK implemented policies to meet international climate goals, it would save 98,420 lives a year by 2040 through better 'flexitarian' diets, which involve less meat and more vegetables, legumes and fruit.

If even more ambitious plans were put in place to make sure health was the focus of climate policy, 100,100 lives a year could be saved through dietary changes, with 50 per cent adopting flexitarian diets and 50 per cent going vegan, the study said.

Lead author Ian Hamilton, executive director of The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change, said: “Our report focuses on a crucial but often overlooked incentive for tackling climate change.

“Unlike the direct benefits of carbon mitigation which are ultimately long term and understood in terms of damage limitation, the health co-benefits of ambitious climate policies have an immediate positive impact.”

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