We Should Focus on Global Emission Totals, Not National Percentage Reductions: Lord Nicholas Stern

nicolas stern photo

photo: World Economic Forum/Sebastian Derungs via flickr.

There were some exceptions, but most world leaders, current and past, who spoke during Climate Week seemed to deliberately avoid talking about specific emission reduction targets. Given the wide gap between attitudes in the developed and developing world on this issue, perhaps that was wise diplomacy, but it's poor science. However, as The Telegraph reports, economist Lord Stern suggests that perhaps a change in language here can break the climate deadlock:Stern says that instead of focusing on the percentages of emission reduction, we should frame the discussion in terms of gigatons of emissions -- bringing down our current 50 gigatons of CO2 equivalent to 20 gigatons by 2050, with a mid-term target of 35 gigatons by 2030.

These are the key figures, 35 gigatonnes of carbon-dioxide-equivalent by 2030 and 20 gigatonnes by 2050, that must guide any agreement on national targets for emissions reductions. By focusing on these totals for global annual emissions, and not percentages relative to earlier levels, we can focus where the science takes us, on the overall path of annual emissions over the next few decades. In other words, we must focus on whether the planned national emissions targets are consistent with the constraints of the global emissions totals.

Thoughts? Do TreeHugger readers think that shifting the focus from percentages to total levels will really bring developed and developing countries into line with scientific recommendations?

Read all of Stern's thoughts on breaking the climate deadlock: The Telegraph
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