The Key Number is 14

Fighting through the hot air being vented in Copenhagen to understand the real numbers is an obligation, not just a ‘nice to do’. Project Catalyst, an international policy platform that I have been working with for over 18 months, has produced what I think is simply the best piece that crystallises the data in a document entitled ‘Taking Stock: the Emissions Levels Implied by the Current Proposals for Copenhagen’.

(I will post this document in the next day or so, or contact me at if you are in a hurry).

14GTs is what we have to mitigate by 2020 below ‘business as usual’ to have a 40-60% chance of keeping temperature rises below 2 degrees. This then is the magic number we have to make vanish, below which species disappear and whole eco-systems are predicted to collapse with unknown consequences.

The bottom line is that current proposals, if achieved at the high end, would deliver 9GT of abatement by 2020, whereas what we need is 14GTs less than ‘business as usual’. The low end of existing proposals would only deliver 4GTs less then business as usual by 2020, way off what is needed.

Waiting until later (2020-2030) to get emissions down is not a real option. The analysis shows that the cost of acting in this later period rather than now would be impossibly high given all the high-carbon investments we would have wired in over the next decade by failing to act now. The ‘wait until the technology is better and cheaper’ is a mirage we should not be fooled by.

So remember the number 14 (GTs), the level of credible mitigation commitments that are needed to be able to leave on 19th December with a sense of satisfaction at a job well done. Anything less and we have some explaining to do, notably to our children and grandchildren.


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