UN climate summit agrees on rulebook – yet more ambition is needed: PIK leaders at COP24 in „Heißzeit“ times

17.12.2018 - The Katowice UN climate summit’s results are “a relief” with regard to the agreed rulebook, according to the Directors of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). However, the close to 200 states at COP24 failed to scale up ambitions for greenhouse gas emission reductions, say Johan Rockström and Ottmar Edenhofer. Concrete measures are urgently needed though since governments are steering Earth into a “Heißzeit”. This “hot age” has been investigated in scientific publications from PIK leaders, including Director Emeritus John Schellnhuber. The term “Heißzeit” has now been elected “word of the year 2018” in Germany.
UN climate summit agrees on rulebook – yet more ambition is needed: PIK leaders at COP24 in „Heißzeit“ times

"The Katowice agreement is a relief - countries recognize the need for global collaboration to deal with the global climate crisis”, says Johan Rockström, who together with Ottmar Edenhofer is Director Designate of PIK. “The Paris Agreement is alive and kicking, despite a rise in populism and nationalism. With the rule book now finally adopted, the Paris agreement can be implemented. Overall the Katowice decisions provide enough momentum to move forward. My biggest concern is that the UN Summit failed to align ambitions with science, in particular missing the necessity of making clear that global emissions from fossil fuels must be cut by half by 2030 to stay in line with the IPCC 1.5 C report.”

“This is a real concern”, adds Rockström. “We continue to follow a path that will take us to a very dangerous 3-4 degrees warmer world within this century. Extreme weather events hit people all across the planet already now, at only one degree global warming. Especially the US is a hard-hit victim, a nation that played an unfortunate role at the climate summit, which already suffers and will suffer even more in the future from an increase of regional droughts and hurricanes. However, Katowice is only one step on the long and winding road to achieving sustainable prosperity within a fossil-fuel free future. All of us need to stop tip-toeing and speed up our steps. And Europe can and must be a forerunner.“

Governments can use carbon pricing to enhance social justice

The climate economist Ottmar Edenhofer did – as the Economist Magazine puts it – talk his lips off with policy makers in Katowice to highlight the risk of climate policy failure. The UN climate summit sends a mixed message, he says: "Once again, governments across the world have proven that they're capable and willing to cooperate in order to protect their citizens from climate risks. Despite a growing number of populist governments, multilateralism succeeded.” However, the world needs more than climate policy targets and processes, Edenhofer emphasizes. “It needs concrete measures, and they must be taken now.” 

“In this respect, climate change can no longer be simply regarded as the biggest market failure of all time - with the continued rise of global greenhouse gas emissions after years of negotiation, it has also become an unprecedented government failure,” Edenhofer points out. “Through appropriate policy measures - like effective CO2 pricing - governments have to build a new trust-relationship to citizens. Carbon pricing cannot solve everything, yet without it nothing can be solved. And governments can actually use carbon pricing to enhance social justice, because the generated income can and must be given back to the people, be it through electricity tax cuts, infrastructure investments, or Christmas cheques."

Impact of "Hothouse Earth" scientific paper

Only strong and rapid greenhouse gas emission reductions can make sure we prevent the Earth to possibly tip into a “Heißzeit”, a “hot time”. This has been shown by a recent major scientific publication authored by Johan Rockström, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber and others. Schellnhuber, Director Emeritus of the Potsdam Institute, coined the term – from the current warm age Earth risks to drift into a hot age. “Heißzeit” has been elected “Word of the Year 2018. Moreover, the scientific paper that is the basis for this is number 4 of the 10 million research outputs whose outreach impact is tracked by Altmetrics - this is not just for climate research, but for all science.