Achieving 1.5 degrees in the real world: Opportunities, barriers and trade-offs

In its Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR15), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows that avoiding global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels is both critical to averting major environmental and socioeconomic disruption, and achievable with existing technologies.

Yet political and economic realities stand in the way of deploying these solutions at the necessary speed and scale. Barriers range from nationalist entrenchment in key countries to competitiveness concerns in the private sector and sheer administrative, technical and financial capacity constraints in many parts of the developing world.

This briefing covers scale of the challenge to achieve the 1.5°C goal as described in SR15, some key issues relating to rapid, deep decarbonisation in developing countries (such as human, institutional, knowledge, and financial capacity constraints), and ways forward to overcome these challenges, with strategic collective action at all levels of governance.

Key messages:
  • Limiting global warming to 1.5°C will require mobilisation of financial flows at unprecedented speed and scale.
  • While efforts (and longer-term ambitions) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have greatly increased in recent years, these are far from sufficient to meet the 1.5°C target.
  • Unfavourable political dynamics at the international and domestic level pose considerable challenges for greater climate ambition and effort.
  • Insufficient institutional capacities to guide, manage, and support a transition to a low-carbon economy are a reality in many parts of the world.
  • Focusing on rapid and deep decarbonisation without addressing these barriers risks problematic trade-offs with social and economic development objectives.
  • Care has to be taken to ensure that rapid and deep decarbonisation does not perpetuate current inequities and undermine public acceptance.
  • Not all countries will participate equally in decarbonisation efforts, highlighting the importance of multi-level governance that includes non-state actors.
  • Financial and technical support, including from the philanthropic community, should focus on strengthening capacities in disadvantaged communities.