Some 140 countries are now supporting the call for a more ambitious global warming target of 1.5°C from pre-industrial times. In an unprecedented move, Canada and Australia have now voiced their support for this target. Previously, developed countries opposed 1.5°C.
However, according to Philippine negotiator Tony La Viña, 1.5°C still remains a challenge within the negotiations despite mounting support.
“It is politically accepted but 1.5°C is still a challenge inside the negotiations. There are still big countries who are not budging,” La Viña said.
Currently, big blockers to this ambitious target include countries with emerging economies like Brazil and China. But the major blocker would have to be Saudi Arabia which, at the stocktaking on Saturday, said that it will only accept “science proven by the IPCC.” The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a scientific intergovernmental body under the United Nations and produces reports that support the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
However, more scientific studies are coming out warning of the dangers of a 2-degree-hotter world. A study by a team of 17 climate scientists, led by James Hansen, a former director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, indicated that even two degrees of warming is “highly dangerous” and could cause sea level rise of “at least several meters” this century, leaving most of the world’s coastal cities uninhabitable.
Just this November, new scientific data showed that the world is to enter “unchartered territory” as earth is expected to warm by 1 degree Celsius by the end of 2015.
Vatican support for 1.5°C?
Philippine lead negotiator and climate change commissioner Emmanuel de Guzman is said to have met with the Vatican delegation to discuss 1.5. Although no official statement has been said, de Guzman said that the Vatican has been positive about it.
“They were very receptive on the 1.5°C goal. We elaborated the importance of this goal as being founded on human rights and hopefully we will hear something from the pope within the week,” de Guzman said.
“We emphasized that this is about survival and keeping humanity alive and thriving, as well as the preservation of our ecosystem,” de Guzman added.
However, during the high level meeting on Tuesday morning, the Vatican still used the “below 2 degrees” language and not 1.5.
Why 1.5°C should be the goal
For many countries like the Philippines and other small island states like Tuvalu and Kiribati, a difference of 0.5 warming spells the difference between life and death.
At 0.8 °C of warming, extreme weather events like typhoon Haiyan, hurricane Patricia, and extreme heatwaves in India have claimed thousands of lives.
“Already, so many lives have been lost that should not have been lost,” says Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace.
Naidoo says it will take a lot of political will to achieve ambitious goals like 1.5 degrees.
“Nature does not negotiate, we cannot change the science. The only thing we can change is political will. If not now, when? If not us, who?” he said.
“They need to realize that it’s not about saving the planet. The planet does not need saving. If we continue the path that we are and we do not get a fab deal, the planet will still be there. Don’t worry about the planet, this struggle is about humanity, about our children and children’s children,” Naidoo added.
Political statements do not necessarily turn into anything concrete inside negotiations. So while many countries have stated their support on the 1.5°C degree goal, the question is if they will turn this into concrete action and include an ambitious long term goal in the climate agreement.
This article was originally published at GMA News.