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1.5°c Vs 2°c: Negotiations heat up

1.5 or 2 degrees of global warming: the subject is being hotly debated at COP21 in Le Bourget, but behind the talk of temperature limits for global warming hide GHG emissions which need to be brought under control.

As COP21 enters its second week of negotiations, the objective to limit global warming to 1.5°C instead of 2°C – a target established in Copenhagen in 2009 – is being hotly debated. The “Climate Vulnerable Forum” which gathers the most at-risk countries in the world has seized on François Hollande’s announcement to fix a new 1.5°C objective and is supported by 113 other countries including Australia, whereas Saudi Arabia flatly refuses to include this figure in the draft agreement. 

But behind the climate change challenge, hides the question of whether or not we’ll be able to reduce our GHG emissions. According to data collected by COP21Horizon, and on what must be added is a very technical subject, discussions on social media containing an emotion register concern (negative or positive) in 43.2% of cases.  Trust is detected in 25.8% of exchanges; trust that we’ll one day be able to control these emissions? On the other hand 10.6% can feel fear and 8% anger.  

 
 

Is the 1.5°c objective realistic? 

“The objective looks very ambitious but we’ll certainly have to target the 1.5 degrees in order to reach 2”, explains François Vuille, director of development at the Energy Centre of EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne). “In fact, the more ambitious the objective, the more rapid and stronger the action should be.”

How to reduce the GHG emissions?

The first option is to work on energy efficiency. “With energy efficiency you can divide global emissions by two”, continues François Vuille. The second option is the transition towards renewables. Germany with its “Energiewende” (literally ‘Energy transition’) is the most advanced of the European countries in this respect. Finally, the third alternative is Carbon Capture and Storage technology (CCS), which is reaching maturity and is particularly adapted to coal-fired power stations. But although COP21 talks are primarily focused on the carbon cycle, “we should not forget the nitrogen cycle and biodiversity”, adds François Vuille, “because renewable energy does not mean sustainable energy”. In Germany, it is interesting to note, the sentiments of fear and anger are far more present on social networks on the issue of climate change than in France. 

 

 

© Peter Andrews / Reuters / Kai Pfaffenbach