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Emission reduction targets don’t add up to safe climate, warns Centre for Alternative Technology

01 October 2015

Energy modellers at environmental charity, the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) say governments must pledge to reduce emissions further, and draw on their report 'Who’s Getting Ready for Zero?' to demonstrate that zero is possible.

1 October 2015 marks the deadline for countries to submit their emission reduction targets for 2025 and 2030, known as INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions), ahead of the Paris climate talks, being held in December 2015.

Paul Allen, Zero Carbon Project coordinator at CAT said: “The climate targets so far submitted to the UN by governments collectively lead to global emissions far above the levels needed to hold warming to 1.5 degrees. The science demands global emissions must head to zero as quickly as possible. Big emitters like the EU, US, China, Japan and Australia need to make much deeper cuts to their greenhouse gas emissions.”

The Centre for Alternative Technology alongside Track 0 recently released ‘Who’s Getting Ready for Zero?’– a report mapping out how different actors at national, regional and city levels are already working out how to develop and decarbonise using science-based timeframes. The report draws on results from over 100 scenarios that demonstrate how we can reach low or zero emissions before the second half of the century. The national decarbonisation scenarios include sixteen of the world’s largest emitters, responsible for 75% of the world’s carbon emissions.

Dr Philip James, energy modeller at CAT said: “What Who's Getting Ready for Zero? shows is that there is a growing body of robust, peer-reviewed work, rooted in the reality of energy systems, which shows that INDCs can be much more ambitious. What these reports clearly demonstrate is that the greatest barriers to the conversion described are neither technical nor economic, they are social and political.”

Kim Bryan, Communications Officer at CAT said: “Climate change is a huge threat to humanity, yet many of the solutions for climate change are also solutions to tackling global poverty. We need to see this as an opportunity to make the transition from fossil fuels to 100% renewables, and build an energy democracy that supports development priorities and sustainable energy.”

The following countries all have decarbonisation scenarios which show how they can reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and power up using renewable energy. Their INDC targets fall significantly short of where they need to be in order to keep global temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius. However there are also some positive examples, as illustrated by Costa Rica.
Japan: INDC target - GHG reduction of 26% below 2013 levels by 2030
Following the Fukushima disaster in 2011, the report A sustainable energy outlook for Japan was produced for Greenpeace by a team comprising the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies, Tokyo, Japan; the Institute of Technical Thermodynamics, Stuttgart, Germany; and the Institute for Sustainable Futures, Sydney, Australia. It demonstrated that:
• Japan could still meet its pledge of reducing GHG emissions by 25% below 1990 levels by 2020, and go on to reduce CO2 emissions by around 75% from 2007 levels by 2050
• By 2050 energy demand would be reduced by around 50% and the majority of energy would come from renewable energy sources such as geothermal, solar, biomass, wind and hydro
• It is also estimated that the scenario would create hundreds of thousands of jobs in Japan
Australia: INDC target - GHG reduction of 26-28% from 2005 levels by 2030
Decarbonisation scenario produced by Beyond Zero Australia coalition shows that:
• The key technologies for Australia are concentrating solar power and wind power
• Moving to a 100% renewable stationary energy system is possible over a ten-year period
• The investment required for the stationary energy plan represents 3% of Gross Domestic Product over the ten years
USA: INDC target - GHG reduction of 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025
The Solutions Project presents science-based roadmaps for each of the 50 United States to reduce energy demand and switch to 100% renewable energy systems. The project shows that:
• All new energy sources can be renewable by 2020, with 80-85% replacement of fossil fuels by 2030, and a 100% renewable energy system by 2050
• Around 4.5 million 40-year construction jobs and around 2.2 million 40-year operation jobs could be created for the energy facilities alone, exceeding job loss of 3.9 million
• The greatest barriers to the conversion described are neither technical nor economic, they are social and political
EU: INDC target - GHG reduction of 40% below 1990 levels by 2030
Scenarios such as the UK’s Zero Carbon Britain, Denmark’s Vedvarende Energi and the German Kombikraftwerk project show that EU nations can make a rapid transition to 100% renewable energy systems. Along with other studies, they show that:
• The EU can be powered by 100% renewable energy systems, using its resources of wind, sun, hydro and biomass
• Energy storage and demand management, along with back-up power stations using biomass and biogas can ensure that a renewable energy powered EU has stable electricity grids and can meet its demand at all times
• Large potential exists to improve the EU’s energy efficiency, for example in buildings and transport, and much heating and transport can be switched to highly efficient systems powered by clean electricity
China: INDC target - lower the carbon intensity of GDP by 60-65% below 2005 levels by 2030
A study by universities in Korea, Mongolia and Finland has shown that even in the highly industrial region of North Eastern Asia, a 100% renewable electricity system could be achieved.
• It shows that North-East Asia has excellent renewable energy potential which could, if distributed around the region using a high voltage direct current transmission, meet demand in highly populated areas of China, Korea and Japan.
• Three different scenarios are explored, varying by the level of centralisation or decentralisation of the system. The cost of electricity in all these scenarios is found to be affordable.
• The researchers conclude that a 100% renewable electricity system in North-East Asia is not wishful thinking – it is a real policy option.

Costa Rica: INDC target - carbon-neutral by 2021, conditional on getting external financial support
The Costa Rican government has set the ambitious target to achieve carbon neutrality by 2021. It is making good progress but will need additional policies to achieve this pace-setting pledge.
• It has a target to achieve 100% renewable electricity generation and is making good progress. Costa Rica already gets over 90% of electricity from a combination of wind, hydro, and geothermal.
• Land use is key to achieving carbon neutrality. A tax on petrol in the country is used for payments to landowners for growing trees and protecting the carbon capturing and highly biodiverse rainforests.
• Fossil fuels are still relied upon for transport and industry. Decarbonising the transport sector remains a key challenge for Costa Rica to achieve carbon neutrality.

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