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In Paris, nations agreed on groundbreaking long-term climate goals:

 

1-5-1-9-circle-spot-illustration-1-100pxHolding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels….

— Paris Agreement, Article 2

balance-emissions-removals-spot-illustration-1-100px[P]arties aim… to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century….

— Paris Agreement, Article 4

 

It turns out that, taken together, that means the world committed to mid-century balance.

Today, climate emissions are flowing into the atmosphere from coal, oil, gas and deforestation about twice as fast as they are draining into plants, soils and oceans. So CO2 in the atmosphere is rising — like a bathtub, it is filling up. To stop rising CO2 levels, the emissions and removals need to be equal. That is how you get balance, also known as net zero.

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We ran 604 scenarios. In order to keep temperature rise well below 2ºC, the world needs to reach balance between 2034 and 2071.
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We looked temperature-by-temperature, to see when the world needs to be in balance to deliver on the Paris Agreement.

The current nationally-determined climate pledges show that the world is not on track to achieve the Paris long term goals. Emissions and Removals are out of Balance.

Current pledges do move the world closer to balance — emissions and removals are much closer together by 2030 in the “Paris Pledges” scenario — but we need to do more, too.

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The vast majority of historic emissions come from developed countries — the purple lines below. Developing countries — in green — are rapidly growing in terms of wealth and emissions, but they typically have less capacity to act on climate change. Developing countries need financial and technological support to make the necessary reductions the world needs to adhere to the long-term temperature goals.
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Under the 1.9°C scenario shown above, the Paris commitments are all fully implemented by target years. All developed countries that have not already done so peak emissions as soon as possible, and cut emissions 6 percent each year thereafter. All developing countries that have not already done so peak in the mid-2030s, and all cut 4 percent each year thereafter.

Developed countries can and should move first, and lead the world to reach net zero emissions by the middle of the century. And they should reflect this in their upcoming mid-century strategies.

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If the world can reach balance by the middle of the century, we can have the world we want.

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Climate Advisers is a mission-driven policy and politics shop working to deliver a strong low-carbon economy. In the United States and around the world, we create and implement large-scale, cost-effective strategies to strengthen climate action and improve lives. We work with philanthropies, think tanks, advocacy groups, international institutions, companies and governments. Our team includes globally recognized thought leaders on climate and energy, forests and lands, and sustainable development.

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