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A period of consequences “Owing to past neglect, in the face of the plainest warnings, we have now entered upon a period of danger ... The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.” - ​Sir Winston Churchill1 This briefing sets out why Extinction Rebellion believes that the United Kingdom needs an emergency mobilization to reach net carbon zero by 2025.​ Our argument is built from three commonly accepted scientific and ethical truths. Firstly, the carbon budget left for 1.5℃ warming target is very small and shrinking rapidly, secondly the UK should only use its fair share of the remaining global carbon budget and thirdly that we should not allow the possibility of speculative future technologies to justify passing on our responsibility to reduce emissions to future generations. 1. Our rapidly shrinking carbon budget The headlines are awash with the stories of extreme droughts, floods, cyclones, typhoons and wildfires being visited on people as a predicted consequence of the warming we have already caused (with over half of our total emissions released since the IPCC was established 19882). This constitutes a categorical humanitarian and moral case to cut emissions as fast as is humanly possible, especially considering the ever increasing risks of related famines, conflict and population displacement3. In recognition of the phenomenal risks facing us from unchecked global climate breakdown, the Paris agreement commits us and almost all other countries to “[h]olding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels”4 The tremendous benefits of holding to 1.5℃ were made even more starkly clear in a subsequent IPCC special report5. Because the level of global warming we will experience is determined by the total amount of carbon that we burn, we are able to calculate the ‘carbon budget’ the globe can burn if we are to reach a given warming target6. Uncertainties in the science mean we can not give an exact budget but rather a probabilistic one e.g. the budget for a 66% chance of staying below 1.5℃. Unfortunately, the clear conclusion from such analysis is that (due to past inaction in reducing emissions) the carbon budgets needed to avoid 1.5℃ (or even 2℃!) are now miniscule and require incredibly rapid rates of decarbonisation, and every further delay uses up more of our budget and makes reaching these targets harder to achieve (see figure 1.)

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Figure 1. The rates of decarbonisation needed for a 66% chance of staying below both 1.5℃ and 2℃.7 The IPCC 1.5​°C ​ report concludes that​ “Pathways limiting global warming to 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot would require rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban and infrastructure (including transport and buildings), and industrial systems”. They further state that to limit to 1.5​°C ​“​net anthropogenic CO2 emissions decline by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030... reaching net zero around 2050​”. However, the IPCC allow for net-negative emissions which allows the budgets to be greatly expanded, as this assumes emissions released today will be removed in the future (see section 4 below). 2. Committed Emissions Because any fossil fuel based infrastructure will cause emissions over its operational lifetime it has been possible to design methodologies8 to calculate the committed emissions of existing capital stock and compare that to the size of our carbon budgets9. When this is done we repeatedly see that the commitment of our existing infrastructure stock is already sufficient to exceed our carbon budgets. For example a recent study found “​no new emitting electricity infrastructure can be built after 2017 for this [2°C] target to be met, unless other electricity infrastructure is retired early or retrofitted with carbon capture technologies​.”10 As Prof. Cameron Hepburn of Oxford University concludes: “​For policy makers who think of climate change as a long-term future issue this should be a wake-up call. Whether we succeed or fail in containing warming to 2°C is determined by what we do now, not in future decades​.”11 We can apply similar approaches to our existing fossil fuel reserves and compare those to our carbon budget. Studies which do this are very clear that we already have far more fossil fuels in reserve than we can burn if we are to meet our carbon targets12 and that “​continuing to invest in exploration and extraction technologies to expand current proven reserves is inconsistent with a 2°C climate target​.”13. It’s clear that Adapted from - ​ ​ 9 ​ 10 ​ 11 ​ 12 ​ 13 ​ 7 8

“​policy makers’ instincts to exploit rapidly and completely their territorial fossil fuels are, in aggregate, inconsistent with their commitments to this [2°C] temperature limit.”14 The science is clear. We cannot afford the construction of any further carbon intensive infrastructure or industries and we must leave most of our fossil fuel reserves unburned. 3. The United Kingdom's share of the remaining carbon budget Given the finite size of the carbon budget it inevitably raises the question of how the globe is to divide allocations between nations. There have been various proposals for how this could be done e.g. Raupach et al (2014)15, Peters et al (2015)16 and Larkin et al (2017)17. Most recently Jiang, Peters and Green (2019 suggest that ​“even if the United States, European Union, China, and India could strengthen their nationally determined contributions by 2050, the rest of the world is required to immediately change from their current course to a very rapid decrease in emissions reaching almost zero emissions by 2030, to achieve the Paris 2015 goal.”18 This clearly goes against our international commitment in the UNFCCC agreement to recognise ​“​common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities”​ 19. As one of the wealthiest countries, with a per capita carbon footprint much higher than the global average and large historical legacy of fossil fuel use, it is clear that the UK, instead of taking an unentitled share, should lead by adopting a much smaller portion of the remaining carbon budget. This necessitates that we cut our emissions much more rapidly than currently pledged. 4. Net-Negative Emissions and Our Children's Futures As mentioned above the IPCC have shown that if we assume the successful deployment of negative emissions technologies at a scale large enough to reach net-negative carbon reductions, this implies we can expand our carbon budgets and buy time to reduce emissions more slowly. Whilst the prospect of net-negative emissions should be explored further, it has been strongly argued that the widespread adoption of these as yet non-existent technologies in IPCC models (and hence Government policy) is creating an unacceptable moral hazard. By delaying taking action now on the possibility of technologies which may not come to fruition or scale in the ways we hope, we are potentially creating a situation which could lock future generations into catastrophic climate impacts. 20 Indeed, based on the best current science it increasingly appears that these technologies will not be able to scale in the ways imagined in the models. The European Academies’ Science Advisory Council said in a report last year that: “​Negative emission technologies may have a useful role to play but, on the basis of current information, not at the levels required to compensate for inadequate mitigation measures”21 ​ ​ 16 ​ 17 ​ 18 ​ 14 15

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Extinction Rebellion hold that, when faced with the potentially catastrophic impacts of exceeding our Paris targets, we must proceed on the assumption that net-negative emissions will not work at scale so as not to pass on an unacceptable burden to future generations. This of course means we must act to cut emissions rapidly now. Were such technologies to come online in the future we could consider their deployment to help in our efforts. More reliably, there are many proven ‘Natural Climate Solutions’ 22 where we could explore the co-benefits of carbon storage and mass ecosystem restoration. 5. An Emergency Mobilisation Response Our best scientists tell us​ ​we are in a “​planetary emergency”​ 23, as do world leading doctors24. The General Secretary of the United Nations warns that “​Humanity and life on Earth now face a direct existential threa​t”. We need to heed this counsel and act accordingly. We must declare a “climate and ecological emergency” and urgently pursue an emergency response! Taken to its logical conclusion; the above makes clear that we have tarried too long and now have virtually no carbon budget left. We need to get to net zero-emissions as quickly as possible if we are to use our fair share of the remaining 1.5​°C​ carbon budget without betting our children's future upon the mass deployment of speculative technologies. Such a rapid reduction in emissions will require a transformation to our economy similar to that seen during the mobilization during World War II. Prof. Kevin Anderson, Deputy Director of the Tyndall for Climate Change Research centre puts it thus: “​To genuinely reduce emissions in line with 2°C of warming requires a transformation in the productive capacity of society, reminiscent of the Marshall Plan.” 25 We cannot delay action any longer. Past inaction has led us to this point and we have now entered a period of consequences. Our actions today will determine the fate of all future generations. Will we live up to our moral duty, and do what it takes to avoid climate catastrophe? “It is no use saying, 'We are doing our best.' You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.”​ - Sir Winston Churchill

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