Obama: global emissions reduction of 80 per cent by 2050

It’s been his campaign’s policy since October last year, but in case you needed reassurance, here’s what Obama’s July 15 speech on foreign policy had to say about energy security (one of five national security priorities – the others being “ending the war in Iraq responsibly; finishing the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban; securing all nuclear weapons and materials from terrorists and rogue states; … and rebuilding our alliances to meet the challenges of the 21st century”):

One of the most dangerous weapons in the world today is the price of oil. We ship nearly $700 million a day to unstable or hostile nations for their oil. It pays for terrorist bombs going off from Baghdad to Beirut. It funds petro-diplomacy in Caracas and radical madrasas from Karachi to Khartoum. It takes leverage away from America and shifts it to dictators.

This immediate danger is eclipsed only by the long-term threat from climate change, which will lead to devastating weather patterns, terrible storms, drought, and famine. That means people competing for food and water in the next fifty years in the very places that have known horrific violence in the last fifty: Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. Most disastrously, that could mean destructive storms on our shores, and the disappearance of our coastline.

This is not just an economic issue or an environmental concern – this is a national security crisis. For the sake of our security – and for every American family that is paying the price at the pump – we must end this dependence on foreign oil. And as President, that’s exactly what I’ll do. Small steps and political gimmickry just won’t do. I’ll invest $150 billion over the next ten years to put America on the path to true energy security. This fund will fast track investments in a new green energy business sector that will end our addiction to oil and create up to 5 million jobs over the next two decades, and help secure the future of our country and our planet. We’ll invest in research and development of every form of alternative energy – solar, wind, and biofuels, as well as technologies that can make coal clean and nuclear power safe. And from the moment I take office, I will let it be known that the United States of America is ready to lead again.

Never again will we sit on the sidelines, or stand in the way of global action to tackle this global challenge. I will reach out to the leaders of the biggest carbon emitting nations and ask them to join a new Global Energy Forum that will lay the foundation for the next generation of climate protocols. We will also build an alliance of oil-importing nations and work together to reduce our demand, and to break the grip of OPEC on the global economy. We’ll set a goal of an 80% reduction in global emissions by 2050. And as we develop new forms of clean energy here at home, we will share our technology and our innovations with all the nations of the world.

It’s a much more progressive target than the G8 was able to come up with: at Hokkaido, the most leaders could manage was “at least 50%”.  It’s more in line with the IPCC, too, which says that to limit temperature increase to between 2.0 and 2.4 degrees C, the 2050 reduction needed is between 50 and 85 per cent: so assuming you want 2.0 rather than 2.4, and adding in the rate of sink failure as well, we should certainly be looking at closer to an 85 than a 50 per cent reduction by 2050 (see page 15 of this). 

And lest you wonder, yup, he’s talking about 80 per cent below 1990 levels, rather than the 2000 levels (which would be a lot less demanding).  Here’s his campaign’s full energy policy brief.