Efforts to help keep world temperature rises under 2C will fail, says thinktank, even if UK sticks to policy on carbon emissions
Britain will find it 'impossible' to meet its target as part of the world's battle to ensure temperatures do not rise more than 2C - a key threshold for dangerous climate change, according to a study by a panel of leading experts.
The report 'Carbon Scenarios' by the Stockholm Network thinktank says that if existing policies and hopes of international agreement on reducing emissions were implemented, there would still be a 90 per cent chance the temperature rise would reach about 3C, a level that experts fear would provoke 'feedback' of more carbon by melting permafrost, threatening the world's forests.
If governments let policies 'stall and backslide' - as many appear to be doing - the rise would be 4.8C, says the study, to be published tomorrow. 'The two-degree target is impossible, and [a] three-degree target is implausible,' said Paul Domjan, energy fellow at the London-based European thinktank and an author of the report.
Domjan said the modelling, done by the world-renowned Hadley Centre at the Met Office but using emissions calculated by the Stockholm Network, highlighted three problems: 'Current policy comes in too slowly, it internationalises too slowly and it binds developing countries too late.'
Privately, many climate scientists believe it will be impossible to meet the 2C target, but they are reluctant to say so because they do not want to discourage moves to cut emissions.
The report says dangerous temperature rises could be avoided by a 'step change' in emissions reductions. To do this, the thinktank advocates a global cap on production of fossil fuels which would be auctioned to energy generators to raise money to compensate producers and pay developing nations to help adapt. 'Wealth transfer isn't an addendum, it's the most important part of carbon policy, because without it the developing world won't introduce emissions reductions and without emissions reductions we won't have lower temperatures,' Domjan added.
The report comes as Environment Secretary Hilary Benn prepares to announce tomorrow whether the government will increase its pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions from 60 to 80 per cent when it begins the second reading of the historic Climate Change Bill.
The bill was welcomed as the world's first binding targets for carbon reductions, but criticised as too weak, leading to amendments in the Lords, including a commitment for Britain to pursue policies consistent with an increase of only 2C and to include aviation emissions at a later date. Most experts agree that to hit a rise of 2C, Britain and other developed countries would have to slash emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. Benn must respond to those amendments when the second reading is introduced, either by accepting them or explaining why the government has changed or rejected them.
Department for the Environment officials said the bill had been 'strengthened quite significantly' by the amendments, but 'remains largely unchanged', both raising and dashing hopes that they have accepted some or all the changes. Some campaigners fear the government, under pressure over rising oil prices not to introduce what are seen as expensive 'green' policies, are not ready to bow to the demands in full.