Scientists expect a strong increase of climate change-related risks if the global temperature rises beyond 1.5-2.5°C. As such, at COP 11 in Durban it was agreed to act to limit global warming to below 2oC. This decision informed the voluntary mitigation targets submitted by parties at COP 16 in the Copenhagen Accord.
However, these voluntary mitigation pledges by the parties have been demonstrated to be insufficient to comply with the 1.5oC – 2oC limit. An expert study convened by UNEP in 2010 quantified the emissions gap (the gap between actual emissions and the aggregate global emissions permissible to stay within the 2oC limit by 2020).
According to the UNEP “Emissions Gap Report” of 2010 (updated in 2011 and 2012), in order to have a chance to comply with the 2oC limit by 2020 aggregate global annual emissions must not exceed 44 Gt CO2eby 2020. If all the voluntary mitigation pledges of the Copenhagen Accord are met, this would still result in in global emissions of 52 Gt CO2e. This would mean that if no additional action is taken between now and 2020, the emissions gap in 2020 would be 8Gt CO2e. Thus the ambition level represented by the Copenhagen is already too low to achieve the desired emissions reductions.
Given the implications of global warming of 2oC and higher for Africa, there is urgent need to ensure that urgent policy is taken to increase the emissions reduction ambition BEFORE 2020. COP 21 is thus an important opportunity to develop a global framework that will increase this ambition.
It is important to note that at the COP 17 in Durban (2011), the Parties agreed to negotiate a legally binding framework until 2015, emissions mitigation obligations for all countries from 2020 onwards, and to close the ambition gap before 2020. Hence it is not enough to concentrate on post-2020 action.
It is also significant that at COP 20 in Lima, China, India, and the United States have all signaled that they will not ratify any treaty that will commit them legally to reduce CO2 emissions.