UN: Climate Vulnerable Forum urges for strengthening of 2C goal

Devastation in Tacloban, Philippines, after Typhoon Haiyan which has been linked to climate change. Creative Commons: Henry Donati/UK Department for International Development, 2013.

Devastation in Tacloban, Philippines, chair state of CVF, caused by Typhoon Haiyan, which has been linked to climate change. Creative Commons: Henry Donati/UK Department for International Development, 2013.

In a bid to make the case for stronger climate change goals under the UN climate process, 20 of the world’s most vulnerable nations have, today, shown how drastic action to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and hold global temperature rise to below 1.5C could protect those most at risk of climate change impacts.

The Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), an alliance of 20 states, chaired by the Philippines, have today urged the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to reconsider its the current target of holding temperature rise to below 2C, and strengthen this goal to 1.5C when they meet at the UN climate talks in Paris this December.

The governments of the world have previously agreed on the need to limit global temperature rise to less than 2C above pre-industrial times, a threshold beyond which the world would see dangerous and unmanageable levels of climate change.

Many of the world’s most vulnerable nations, including the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and the Africa group have long called for a tighter cap at 1.5C.

When governments meet in Paris at the end of the year, for the latest round of the UN climate talks, they will have to decide on whether or not to strengthen the present 2C goal.

Ahead of this decision, the Forum has today, presented three independent reports to highlight the possible threat to human rights, the workplace, and migration and displacement of the 2C threshold, compared to more ambitious objectives.

Secretary of the Philippines Climate Change Commission, H.E Mary Ann Lucille L Sering said:

The reports underscore just how much difference even half a degree of additional heats makes for people’s lives, for working conditions and for the movement of people. How can we possibly subscribe to more than double current warming given what less than 1C has entailed?

More hot days and hot hours would have serious implications for work hours, and therefore GDP, according to one expert report, with potential losses at 1.5C around half of those expected in a 2.2C warmer world.

In the Philippines, for instance, a 1.5C temperature rise could see a 2.7% increase on loss of work-hours compared to 1995, as well as a US$46 billion decline in GDP by 2050, estimated by HSBC Global Research.

In comparison, it is estimated that a 2C rise could see a 4.9% loss of work-hours and a $83 billion decline in GDP.

A similar trend could been experienced in other countries experiencing an increase in hot days, specifically in tropical countries where most workplaces are situated outdoors or without air conditioning providing heat protection.

The report compiled by the Ruby Coast Research Centre in New Zealand says:

Policymakers need to be made aware of the detrimental effects of labor productivity loss on local economic output and the negative impacts on GDP — an important factor in considering the cost of climate change and the need for mitigation.

The three reports also point out that tougher climate action could significantly mitigate impacts on fundamental human rights, taking factors into account such as food and water security, housing, human and livestock diseases and displacement and migration.

With just 0.8C of warming, migration and displacement are already a present day reality, with the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre estimating that 85% of global displacement between 2008 and 2013 – that’s around 140 million people – was due to sudden-onset, weather-related disasters.

The UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and the Environment, Prof. John Knox said:

Even moving from 1 to 2C of warming negatively affects the full enjoyment of a wide range of human rights. It also makes it correspondingly more difficult for States to fulfill their obligations under international law to respect, protect and promote human rights.

Submitting the report to the UNFCCC, the Climate Vulnerable forum called for states to .be given the opportunity to interact with the experts involved in the consultation ahead of the Paris climate summit, and the decision on whether or not to lower the 2C threshold.

Keeping to within such thresholds will require drastic action by governments across the world.

As the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report made clear, keeping levels of warming below 2C, or the stronger target of 1.5C, will mean massive changes in how we power our economies, a urgent cap in emissions and a rapid phase out of fossil fuel use.

These reductions must be even more significant and action more urgent, to remain below the lower goal of 1.5 of warming, and globally NGOs, civil society and business leaders alike are calling for a complete phase out of fossil fuels and a transition to 100% renewable energy.

With massive strides in the renewable energy industry, and with an increasingly volatile market for fossil fuels, arguments against such a transition are wearing thin.

Sering said:

When we see that warming emissions from the energy sector actually stalled last year despite economic growth, or if we look at the unpredicted pace of low-carbon tech uptake, arguments not to strengthen our aims start to wear thin.

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