The draft Paris Agreement acknowledges the need to limit warming to well below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) above pre-industrial levels and the need to try to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C to avoid the worst climate impacts. However, these temperature goals do not give obvious guidance to investors and policymakers on what changes they need to make and how fast they need to make them. So COP21 negotiators added a complementary, operational long-term goal to help work toward the temperature target and measure progress. The long-term goal is critical to catalyze climate actions and shift to low-carbon investment patterns.Negotiators have wrestled with the language for the long-term goal. In the climate conference’s last days, a new proposal surfaced for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions neutrality in the second half of the century, on the basis of equity and guided by science in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.Here are five key questions and answers about this critical concept:What is GHG emissions neutrality?Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions neutrality should be interpreted to mean net zero anthropogenic GHG emissions from all sectors. It is achieved first and foremost by reducing total GHG emissions to as close to zero as possible. Any remaining GHGs would be balanced with an equivalent amount of removals (such as enhanced sequestration in the land sector) or negative emissions (possibly using future technologies like bioenergy combined with carbon capture and sequestration, although these remain unproven at scale).How is that different from carbon neutrality?GHG neutrality covers all greenhouse gas emissions, which means emissions from carbon dioxide as well as other greenhouse gases like methane. All of these gases would reach net zero in a GHG neutral scenario. In contrast, carbon neutrality deals only with carbon dioxide emissions. In 2012, 23% of emissions were non-CO2 greenhouse gases.When do we need to achieve GHG emissions neutrality?There are two different temperature goals in the current agreement text, with Parties acknowledging the need to limit warming below 2 degrees C and try to limit it to 1.5 degrees C. Depending on the temperature goal, the total amount of emissions – or carbon budget – that we can emit, as well as the timing of those emissions to ensure plausible rates of emissions decline, changes.To have a likely chance of limiting warming to below 2 degrees C, we need to reduce GHG emissions according to the following timeframe:Carbon dioxide emissions have to drop to net zero between 2060 and 2075Total GHG emissions need to decline to net zero between 2080 and 2090To achieve GHG neutrality with a likely chance of limiting warming to below 1.5 degrees C, we need to reduce GHG emissions according to the following timeframe:Carbon dioxide emissions have to drop to net zero between 2045 and 2050Total GHG emission need to decline to net zero between 2060 and 2080What kind of transformation does GHG emissions neutrality require?With a long-term goal of GHG emissions neutrality, the world would make a commitment to pursue zero-carbon transformation across various systems and sectors. For example, according to the IPCC, in the majority of stringent mitigation scenarios with a likely chance of limiting warming to 2 degrees C, the electricity sector increases its share of low-carbon energy from the current level of 30 percent to more than 80 percent by 2050. Fossil-based electricity generation without CCS would be phased out by the end of the century. Transformation of other sectors and enhanced carbon storage like that achieved by increased landscape restoration would also be required.Why is getting to GHG neutrality so important?Climate negotiators recognize the need to avoid the most extreme impacts of a warming world by limiting temperature rise to 1.5 or 2 degrees C. To chart a course on that path, a goal of GHG neutral emissions is essential. While some earlier drafts of the agreement were more specific about the necessary scale and rate of GHG emissions reduction, it is clear that to reach GHG emissions neutrality with a likely chance of limiting warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees C, we must phase out emissions altogether well before the year 2100. Unabated fossil-fuel use must cease this century. The long-term goal of GHG emissions neutrality, coupled with the goal to limit warming to below 2 degrees C or 1.5 degrees C, commits governments around the world to ending high-emitting behavior. It will also require ramping up efforts to reach net zero GHG emissions in time to limit the worst consequences of climate change.
Related posts:Government, environmental groups agree to temporarily postpone approval of waste gasification Municipalities challenge moratorium on solid waste gasification projects Delays, excuses and gripes mark approaching deadline for distributed electricity generation in Costa Rica Citizen group voices support for government moratorium on thermal conversion of solid waste to electricity A few years ago, U.S. expat Michael Styles came up with an idea: He wanted to bring solar panels to San Ramón, a bucolic town in the hills of Alajuela province. At the time, Styles ran an art gallery in San Ramón and had a strong interest in community development. Styles approached his friend Cesar Carrillo about how realistic the project might be.“He asked me whether it was crazy,” recalled Carrillo with a laugh.Styles has since returned to the United States, leaving behind the organization he founded, the Community Action Alliance (CAA). The CAA’s mission is to improve living conditions in San Ramón and cultivate relationships between the town’s Costa Rican residents and its sizeable expat population. The volunteer group has done inestimable good in San Ramón, but on Nov. 16, members will celebrate their finest accomplishment yet: 25 solar panels on the roof of Jorge Washington Elementary School, generating 5.5 kilowatts of electricity. After three years of slow and difficult work, CAA and its allies will fete the occasion with music, food, and an inauguration ceremony.There is much to commemorate: Not only does Jorge Washington turn 75 years old this month, but it is allegedly the first urban public school in Costa Rica to harness solar power effectively.“We wanted to be the first cantonin Costa Rica to be carbon-neutral certified,” Carrillo told The Tico Times. “We wanted to show the panels somewhere visible.”While the panels themselves aren’t easy to spot, Jorge Washington is the perfect venue to make a good impression. The school is large, stately, and located in the middle of downtown San Ramón. On any given afternoon, the school is frenetic with screaming, racing children. The facility has two internal basketball courts that also serve as playgrounds, and its auditorium is enormous. If Costa Rica needed a model public school, Jorge Washington would be it.The idea to use solar energy in San Ramón developed organically. Styles and Carrillo had pursued “sister city” status with Austin, Texas, and when they committed to the solar concept, they decided to buy their panels from an Austin-based company, PSIDA. They wanted to place the panels in a public building that would significantly benefit from green energy, so they proposed the project to the director of Jorge Washington, Aida Mendez Jimenez. Cesar Carrillo and Aida Mendez Jimenez stand in Mendez’s office at Jorge Washington School. Robert Isenberg/The Tico Times“Our electricity bills have always been very high,” said Mendez. “Our school had been participating in a peace and environmental project with UNESCO, and we have long been interested in the environment.”In order to raise money for the $12,000 project, CAA conscripted an army of collaborators: A public book sale in May and a barbeque hosted by the school raised more than half the necessary funding, but the school had to continue its fundraising efforts to afford the panels. Thankfully, the school received free installation by SEVSA, a green energy company based in Costa Rica. The only significant hiccup was coordinating with the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE): Organizers say that activating the solar panels, a process that usually takes only a few months, instead took nearly a year.“But this technology is new,” explained Carrillo. San Ramón is not nearly as solar-savvy as other communities in Costa Rica, and it took time to make arrangements with ICE. When ICE finally inspected and approved the panels, it took only a moment to switch them on. Workers lift a panel to the roof during the installation process. Courtesy Community Action AllianceToday, the panels lie on top of Jorge Washington’s high roof, and they are invisible to passersby below. Carrillo and Mendez expect the panels to halve the school’s electric bill during busy weeks, and the school will continue to produce electricity – earning credits from ICE – during weekends and between semesters.To mark the school’s 75th birthday, the two-week celebration culminates in a “Health-Nutrition-Sports Day” on Nov. 30, which will include exercise classes, a student basketball tournament, and a multicultural breakfast buffet.As the ambitious project draws to a close, Carrillo is especially grateful to the hundreds of volunteers who have helped make Styles’ dream into a reality. Carrillo and Mendez have appreciated how collaborative the Costa Rican and expat populations have been in San Ramón.“Many expats in Costa Rica live in condominiums,” said Mendez. “They don’t immerse themselves. Here, people have open doors. People are welcome in each other’s homes. We are not closed off. We like to think outside of ourselves.”For more information about the Community Action Alliance, the solar panel project, and Jorge Washington’s anniversary plans, visit the CAA website. Facebook Comments
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