Europe to the world: don’t give up on 1.5 degrees goal

Chief Europe Correspondent
Photo of Maroš Šefčovič
Photo credit: Bryan Bedder / Stringer via Getty Images.

NEW YORK CITY — In an exclusive interview with Cipher on Tuesday, the European Union’s new Green Deal chief implored the world to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius ahead of a consequential United Nations climate summit on Wednesday. 

“We are really playing with the future of the next generation,” Maroš Šefčovič, the executive vice president of the European Commission, said on the sidelines of a Bloomberg Philanthropies Climate Week event. “We are pleading for the ambition to be refocused again on the 1.5 figure, because we have seen what 1.1 degrees can do to Europe and to the world.” 

Šefčovič was referencing current global world temperatures, which in 2022 were about 1.15 degrees above pre-industrial levels, according to the World Meteorological Organization.  

This summer saw unprecedented fires, floods and high temperatures sweep over Europe, North America, Asia and other parts of the world, causing havoc, destruction and leaving many people homeless. 

The world agreed under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels and aim for 1.5. That is the limit scientists say would avoid the most severe and irreversible impacts of climate change. 

However, the world is not making sufficient progress on slashing climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions, putting that goal increasingly at risk. 

While no one has officially given up on the1.5-degree goal, “if you are in this business for a while and you kind of also hear what’s discussed in the margins” it’s clear it has become less of a focus, said Šefčovič. 

The issue is going to be top of the agenda at the Climate Ambition Summit in New York City today, where the conversation is set to raise the pressure on leaders ahead of the December United Nations climate conference (COP28) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. 

“Don’t give up on 1.5 and let’s work as a global community on the solutions which are proven, which exist, and build the global consensus around them,” he said. “That will be the attitude of the Europeans in Dubai.”