IPPR's research shows that if global average temperature is allowed to rise more than 2--C above the pre-industrial level, dangerous climate change impacts are likely to occur including:
* crop losses hitting major food exporting countries
* a very high proportion of coral reefs dying
* the irreversible decline of the Amazon rainforest
Simon Retallack, IPPR research fellow and report author, said:
'If the government is to be credible in its attempt to lead the world in making progress on climate change, through its presidencies of the G8 and EU this year, it needs to commit to greater action to reduce emissions at home. Matching Germany's pledge of a 40 per cent carbon dioxide reduction target for 2020 and delivering on its existing target of a 20 per cent cut by 2010 is essential.'
The report presents new evidence showing that to have an 80 per cent chance of preventing global temperature rising by more than 2--C, the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere would need to be stabilised at the equivalent of about 400 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 by 2100 (compared to 379ppm of CO2 only in 2004 and 280 ppm of CO2 in pre-industrial times). By contrast, stabilising at 550ppm, the basis of the Government's current 2050 target, would provide only a 10-20 per cent chance of keeping global temperature rise under 2--C.
To allow for a rise in prosperity and emissions in the developing world, the new research suggests that the UK will need to reduce its CO2 below 1990 levels by about 40 per cent by 2020 and about 90 per cent by 2050. These reductions can be achieved through substantial increases in energy efficiency and renewable energy generation, and by greater action to protect forests and soils which absorb CO2. That will need to be matched by measures to slash emissions of other greenhouse gases, such as methane.
Currently, the government has a target to cut UK CO2 emissions by 20 per cent by 2010, but is only on track to achieve a 14 per cent reduction. It also has a long-term goal of a 60 per cent cut by 2050, but IPPR's research indicates that this will fall short of what will be necessary.
The report, 'Setting a Long Term Climate Objective', was prepared as part of the research programme for the international climate change taskforce established in March 2004 by the IPPR, the Centre for American Progress and the Australia Institute.
The UK's climate change programme (which has a 2020 time horizon) is currently under review with a revised programme expected in the summer.