In order to reduce the risk of climate change, the world must act together and commit to targets for emissions reductions. Current evidence suggests the world should try to hold concentrations below 500ppm CO2e and then try to reduce from there. This would involve emissions peaking in the next ten years and reducing to half 1990 levels, or 20 gigatonnes (Gt) CO2e at most by 2050. This would be equivalent to around 2 tonnes per capita in 2050. Thus, the global targets discussed at the Heiligendamm G8 summit in 2007 and confirmed at the 2008 Hokkaido Summit are encouraging and illustrate that the world is beginning to talk about the necessary levels of commitments required.

Rich countries, with their past responsibility for emissions, better access to technology and better access to resources should commit to at least an 80 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050. This would bring European emissions down to around 2 tonnes per capita and corresponds to the commitment made by the UK government to reduce its emissions by 80 per cent on 1990 levels by 2050. President Obama has indicated an 80 per cent target for reductions for the US (1990 to 2050), although it should be recognized that since US emissions per capita are currently more than 20 tonnes CO2e, or around twice those of Europe, this would leave the US around 4 tonnes per capita in 2050.

In addition to these distant objectives, intermediate targets for 2020 are necessary. Intermediate targets stress the immediacy of the problem, increase the incentive to take early and strong action and show credibility for other countries, businesses and markets. The 20 to 30 per cent reductions for 1990 to 2020, as set by the European Union (EU) Council in March 2006, are a good guide for the rest of the world. If 80 per cent reductions are to be achieved in the 60 years of 1990 to 2050, then more than 20 per cent at 'halfway' are surely necessary.

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