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Proposed emissions targets

Susan Subak, Mike Hulme and Louise Bohn assess the implications for global temperature of current proposals for strengthening the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Susan Subak is with the Centre for Social and Economic Research on the Global Environment and Mike Hulme and Louise Bohn are with the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom.

To clarify the implications of protocol proposals submitted for consideration before the Third Conference of the Parties to the treaty in December 1997, the greenhouse gas emissions targets they contain have been run through the climate model MAGICC. 

The model is consistent with that used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The projections assume that:

  • emissions targets for the period 2000-2020 for Annex I (industrialized) countries are as described below and are held constant after the final target date;
  • emissions in other countries are consistent with the IPCC mid-range scenario IS92a;
  • sulphur emissions are related to carbon dioxide emissions as in IS92a; and,
  • the climate sensitivity is mid-range (a 2.5°C "doubling temperature").

Increases in global temperature compared with 1990 were estimated for the proposals for Annex I reductions from:

  • the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) — CO2 reduced by 20% by 2005, other gases stabilized;
  • the European Union (EU) — greenhouse gases (GHGs) reduced by 15% by 2010;
  • the United Kingdom (UK) — GHGs reduced by 20% by 2010; and,
  • Brazil — GHGs reduced by 30% by 2020.  

The proposals all lead to atmospheric warming of 1.6 to 1.7°C by the year 2100, compared with 2.0°C assuming uncontrolled emissions (see Table). Current treaty commitments would lead to warming of 1.8°C.

In isolation, these measures appear insufficient to prevent "dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system" as called for in the Climate Convention. To go further, future actions would have to involve targets for the period after 2020 alongside reductions in non-Annex I emissions relative to the uncontrolled emissions scenario.

Further details of this analysis are contained in a policy briefing available from the authors.

Further information

Susan Subak, Mike Hulme and Louise Bohn, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK. Fax: 44-1604-593739. Email:

On the Web

Weathervane has published an assessment of the recent US emissions target proposal, stabilization of emissions by 2012. The US Information Service reviews events leading up to the latest stage in the climate negotiations. A consortium of Japanese government bodies and businesses have provided Between Rio and Kyoto, a listing of international rules, conventions and standards relevant to the climate negotiations.

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