1 Introduction

This introduction to the Global Status of CCS: 2014 report has been prepared by Lord Stern of Brentford. Lord Stern is a member of the International Advisory Panel of the Global CCS Institute.

Countries have an important opportunity next year to put the world on a path towards avoiding the immense risks of dangerous climate change.

At the 21st session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, due to be held in Paris in December 2015, world leaders should be able to sign an agreement that will mean annual global emissions of greenhouse gases are reduced sufficiently over the coming decades to have a likely, two-in-three, chance of avoiding a rise in global average surface temperature of more than two degrees Celsius (°C) above its pre-industrial level.

In 2010, countries agreed in Cancún, Mexico, that warming should not be allowed to exceed 2°C and made pledges to limit their emissions by 2020.

However, an analysis by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published earlier this year concluded that current ambitions are insufficient and likely to lead to warming of more than 3°C by the end of this century.

This would result in temperatures not seen on Earth for about three million years and would create huge risks to the lives and livelihoods of perhaps billions of people through impacts such as sea level rise, desertification and changes in extreme weather events around the world.

The IPCC indicated that annual emissions of greenhouse gases, which have been rising at record rates over the last 10 years, would need to peak before 2030 and then decline rapidly for the following decades of the century.

It noted that the budget of greenhouse gases that can be emitted this century while still allowing a two-in-three chance of avoiding global warming of more than 2°C is between 630 and 1,180 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e).

Given that the world is currently emitting about 50 billion tonnes of CO2e each year, continued growth would exhaust the budget in less than 20 years.

This has provided clear guidance to countries preparing for the summit in Paris. They will be expected to make commitments early in 2015 for cuts in emissions by 2030 that are consistent with the goal of avoiding global warming of more than 2°C.

The two largest emitters, the United States and China, have begun to show greater urgency in their efforts to tackle climate change.

President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping highlighted the importance of managing the risks of climate change at their first meeting last year and set up a high-level working group to explore the potential for collaboration.

President Obama has made the fight against climate change a defining part of his second term and is using his executive powers to try to curb emissions by the United States, for instance by introducing stronger regulations for power plants.

The Chinese Government is preparing the 13th Five-Year Plan for the period 2016-20, which is expected to include a goal of reaching a peak in the domestic consumption of coal, the most polluting of fossil fuels.

It will also seek to limit overall annual emissions of greenhouse gases and may introduce a cap.

Other countries are also beginning to take action. A study commissioned by the Global Legislators' Organisation identified 100 countries which have been using laws to tackle climate change.

Such political leadership is generating momentum, but overall the scale and pace of progress is still inadequate.

Some countries remain concerned that cutting greenhouse gas emissions may damage the prospects for economic growth and development.

But the IPCC found that making the necessary emissions reductions for a two-thirds chance of avoiding global warming of more than 2°C would only reduce global consumption by between one and four per cent by 2030.

This estimate excluded a consideration of the wider economic co-benefits from efforts to tackle climate change, such as a reduction in local air pollution caused by diesel in vehicles and coal-fired power plants.

A major report by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate found that measures which possess these co-benefits could deliver more than half the overall cuts in emission that would be required to keep within the warming threshold of 2°C.

The Commission pointed out that the transition to a low-carbon economy could help countries to achieve more sustainable economic growth as well as reducing the risks of climate change.

One important issue that needs to be resolved in order to reach agreement in Paris is the financial support that the rich countries need to provide to developing nations to help them make the transition to low-carbon economies and to make themselves more resilient to those impacts of climate change that cannot now be avoided.

The agreement in Cancún recognised that the rich countries should be scaling up their support, from both public and private sources, from about US$10 billion per year now to at least US$100 billion by 2020.

These financial flows to poor countries will be essential to ensure that the international agreement in Paris promotes equitable access to sustainable development.

The role of the international financial institutions and the regional and national development banks will also be crucial in delivering the necessary financial support.

But clear and consistent policy-making and strong political leadership will be required to achieve success as well.

The confidence of the private sector, which should provide the investment required to drive the low-carbon transition, is too often being undermined by bad policy-making and uncertainty.

Government-induced policy risk can kill investment and innovation.

Good policies are needed to unleash the creativity that can quickly bring to market a range of new and exciting low-carbon technologies, including renewables and carbon capture and storage.

There is now overwhelming evidence that a transition to a low-carbon economy offers a real opportunity to generate sustainable growth and development for rich and poor countries alike.

With strong leadership by decision-makers in government and business over the next year, the world can seize this opportunity to create better economic growth and limit climate change.