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If we are to ensure that global warming does not exceed the limits considered as manageable by a global population of between 8 and 10 billion people (i.e. a temperature rise of 2°C compared with the preindustrial level), we must stabilise the atmospheric concentration of CO2 at around 400 ppm (it has already exceeded 390 ppm). To achieve this, we must begin to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions before 2015, and reduce them by a factor of between 2 and 3 (depending on whether the comparison is with 1990 or 2010) by 2050.
In practice, this will mean extracting only the oil and gas already discovered, limiting the use of coal to installations with carbon capture and storage facilities within the next 10 to 20 years, and releasing no more emissions after 2050. As a result of the 2009 Copenhagen Accord, most of the world’s leading countries have committed themselves to GHG reduction targets: 20-30% for Europe by 2020, 30% for the USA by 2025, and looking further forward, most western countries have referred to reducing their emissions by a factor of 4 or 5 by 2050. China has agreed to reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by 40% by 2020 .
But when it comes to putting these intentions into practice, the reality does not always live up to the intention. Those public-sector and private-sector actors truly committed to the ‘carbon free’ route remain too few in number to constitute a real lever for change.