Experts call for urgent action to cut fossil fuel use

A comment article published in Nature and signed by 60 climate leaders from business, academic and policy backgrounds, has called for an aggressive approach to cutting fossil fuel use to ensure that greenhouse gas emissions begin a downward trend by 2020.

The article, Three years to safeguard our climate, warns that without high-speed action the earth faces devastating heat extremes and unmanageable sea level rise.

In the lead up to the G20 summit, the article sets out key milestones for a clean industrial revolution.

These include:

  • increasing renewables to 30% of total energy supply;

  • retiring all coal-fired power plants ;

  • electric vehicles to make up 15% of new car sales globally;

  • mobilize 1 trillion US dollars a year for climate action.

Co-author, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research , said the climate math was “brutally clear”.

“While the world can't be healed within the next few years, it may be fatally wounded by negligence until 2020,” he said.

"Action by 2020 is necessary, but clearly not sufficient – it needs to set the course for halving CO2 emissions every other decade. In analogy to the legendary Moore’s Law, which states that computer processors double in power about every two years, the 'carbon law' can become a self-fulfilling prophecy mobilizing innovations and market forces," says Schellnhuber.

“This will be unstoppable – yet only if we propel the world into action now.”

The authors expressed confidence that both technological progress and political momentum have reached a point that can kick-start the 'great sustainability transformation'.

“2020 is crucial, because in that year the US will be legally able to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Even more compelling are the physics-based considerations, however: Recent research has demonstrated that keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius becomes almost infeasible if we delay climate action beyond 2020. And breaching the 2°C-line would be dangerous, since a number of Earth system tipping elements, such as the great ice sheets, may get destabilized in that hot-house.”

The authors and co-signatories to the Nature article comprise over 60 scientists, business and policy leaders, economists, analysts and influencers, including Gail Whiteman from Lancaster University; Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation; Paul Polman, Chief Executive Officer of Unilever plc; Anthony Hobley, Chief Executive of Carbon Tracker; Christian Rynning-Tønnesen, CEO of Statkraft; and Jonathan Bamber, President of the European Geosciences Union.

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