If national targets are not revised in the Copenhagen Accord, the international pledge which was agreed at last year's Copenhagen's COP15 climate change conference, a global temperature increase of up to 4.2º C and the end of coral reefs could become reality by 2100.

Just ahead of the next United Nations Climate Change Conference, which starts on 4 October in Tianjin, China, a new report published yesterday (September 29), in Environmental Research Letters describes how, due to lack of global action to date, only a small chance remains for keeping the global temperature increase down to 2º C, the Accord's target.

Looking at individual countries' agreed targets for emission levels, the report shows that many developed countries such as the USA and the European Union have set their aims very low, aiming at reaching emission levels just a few percent lower than 1990 levels by 2020.

Japan and Norway are aiming to drastically reduce their emission to 25 per cent and 30 to 40 per cent below 1990 levels respectively.

Presenting their results in Environmental Research Letters, the researchers have found that even if nations would agree to a 50 per cent reduction of emission levels by 2050 there would still only be a less than 50 per cent chance to keep global warming below 2º C.

Rising global temperature levels would not be the only consequence of failing to raise the ambition level of future global emission reductions. Increasing ocean acidification could lead to a rapid decline of coral reefs and the marine ecosystem in the 21st century.

Urgent action is necessary, the authors write. “It is clear from this analysis that higher ambitions for 2020 are necessary to keep the options for 2º C and 1.5º C open without relying on potentially infeasible reduction rates after 2020.

“In addition, the absence of a mid-century emission goal — towards which Parties as a whole can work and which serve as a yardstick of whether interim reductions by 2020 and 2030 are on the right track — is a critical deficit in the Copenhagen Accord.” — Our Bureau

Keywords: coral reefs

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