Guest blogger Andrew Light is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress specializing in international climate, energy, and science policy. He is also director of the Center for Global Ethics at George Mason University, and author or editor of 17 books.
The agreement that emerged from Copenhagen continues to attract parties, while many still insist that the UN climate summit ended in abject failure. According to a recent Reuters article there are now 110 countries on board, including the world’s major emitters, representing over 80 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. While the collective commitments of these countries so far will not yet achieve the stated goal of the accord of holding temperature rise over pre-industrial levels at 2 degrees Celsius they could hold us to a 3 degree increase rather than the 4.8 degree pathway we would be on under a business as usual scenario by 2010.
These results are consistent with CAP’s previously published analysis following the first soft deadline for submissions to the accord on January 31. Using modeling from Project Catalyst we pointed out that the ambition for reductions in carbon pollution by the largest emitters had increased from the weeks leading up to the Copenhagen meeting to their January submissions to the accord. Developed countries had increased their reductions from 3.6 to 4.9 gigatons annually by 2020 and developing countries had increased their ambition from 8.7 to 8.9 gigatons. More recent numbers from Project Catalysthave these commitments to the accord now at 5.0 and 9.2 gigatons respectively for developed and developing countries.
These projections assume that these countries will succeed in meeting the goals they set for themselves and also that any promises that they make which are contingent on other countries making comparable efforts go forward. Nonetheless if all commitments are made then the parties signing on to the accord will only be five gigatons shy of the reductions needed to stabilize reductions at an increase of 2 degrees C over pre-industrial levels.
The question now of course is how to achieve the remaining five gigatons of reductions. This would be more likely, for example, if the US were to pass something like the American Clean Energy and Security Act which would achieve overall reductions in emissions greater than the US pledge under the accord of cuts of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. The direct set aside in ACES for international forestry programs alone could achieve 750 megatons of reductions annually by 2020. But if a program like this is eliminated in a Senate bill, even if successful, then these additional reductions would not be possible.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has pledged to move to turning the Copenhagen Accord from a political agreement to a legally binding agreement by the next UN climate summit in Cancun, Mexico this December. US Climate Envoy Todd Stern has agreed that this should be the goal and most participants in the process believe that even if the accord cannot be made legally binding by the Cancun meeting a clear pathway to possibly making it legally binding by the time of the 2011 meeting in South Africa should be on the table by Cancun.
Regardless of the time table though, one good outcome of the accord still being a work in progress is that these recent calculations of what can be achieved by current pledges under the accord are not final. They can still be improved. If the Copenhagen Accord had been finalized last December then the current commitments would have locked us into a pathway for global reductions insufficient to achieve climate safety. As we move this year toward the goal of making the accord legally binding the global community will also be moving to adding specific emission reduction targets to the accord – something that was achieved for the Kyoto Protocol but which is not yet part of the Copenhagen Accord. As those targets are added in they will have to conform to the two degree C temperature target that is part of the accord which should aim at closing the five gigaton gap between current pledges by countries signing onto the accord and where we need to wind up.
A list of the 60 countries that have made reductions pledges, and the 50 more that have signed on in support of the accord without specifying pledges is reprinted from Reuters below.
INDUSTRIALISED NATIONS — EMISSIONS CUTS BY 2020 (FROM 1990 LEVELS UNLESS STATED)
* UNITED STATES – 17 percent from 2005 levels, or 4 percent from 1990 levels.
* EUROPEAN UNION (27 nations) – 20 percent, or 30 percent if others act.
* RUSSIA – 15 to 25 percent.
* JAPAN – 25 percent as part of a “fair and effective international framework”.
* CANADA – 17 percent from 2005 levels, matching U.S. goal.
* AUSTRALIA – 5 percent below 2000 levels, 25 percent if an ambitious global deal. The range is 3-23 percent below 1990.
* BELARUS – 5 to 10 percent, on condition of access to carbon trading and new technologies.
* CROATIA – 5 percent.
* KAZAKHSTAN – 15 percent.
* NEW ZEALAND – 10 to 20 percent “if there is a comprehensive global agreement”.
* SWITZERLAND – 20 percent, or 30 percent if other developed nations make comparable cuts and poor nations act.
* NORWAY – 30 percent, or 40 if there is an ambitious deal.
* ICELAND – 30 percent in a joint effort with the EU.
* LIECHTENSTEIN – 20 percent, or 30 percent if others act.
* MONACO – 30 percent; aims to be carbon neutral by 2050.
DEVELOPING NATIONS’ ACTIONS FOR 2020
* CHINA – Aims to cut the amount of carbon produced per unit of economic output by 40 to 45 percent from 2005 levels. This “carbon intensity” goal would let emissions keep rising, but more slowly than economic growth.
* INDIA – Aims to reduce the emissions intensity of gross domestic product by 20 to 25 percent from 2005 levels.
* BRAZIL – Aims to cut emissions by between 36.1 and 38.9 percent below “business as usual” levels with measures such as reducing deforestation, energy efficiency and more hydropower.
* SOUTH AFRICA – With the right international aid, South Africa says its emissions could peak between 2020-25, plateau for a decade and then decline in absolute terms from about 2035.
* INDONESIA – Aims to reduce emissions by 26 percent by 2020 with measures including sustainable peat management, reduced deforestation, and energy efficiency.
* MEXICO – Aims to cut greenhouse gases by up to 30 percent below “business as usual”. A climate change programme from 2009-12 will also avert 51 million tonnes of carbon emissions.
* SOUTH KOREA – Aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent below “business as usual” projections.
* ARMENIA – Increase renewable energy output, modernise power plants, restore forests.
* BENIN – Develop public transport in Cotonou, better forest management, methane recovery from waste in big cities.
* BHUTAN – Absorbs more carbon in vegetation than it emits from burning fossil fuels; plans to stay that way.
* BOTSWANA – Shift to gas from coal. Nuclear power, renewables, biomass and carbon capture among options.
* CONGO – Improve agriculture, limit vehicles in major cities, better forestry management.
* COSTA RICA – A long-term effort to become “carbon neutral” under which any industrial emissions will be offset elsewhere, for instance by planting forests.
* ETHIOPIA – More hydropower dams, wind farms, geothermal energy, biofuels and reforestation.
* ERITREA – Improve energy conservation, efficiency, reduce deforestation, enhance soil carbon stocks.
* GABON – Increase forestry, bolster clean energy
* GEORGIA – Try to build a low-carbon economy while ensuring continued growth.
* GHANA – Switch from oil to natural gas in electricity generation, build more hydropower dams, raise the share of renewable energy to 10-20 percent of electricity by 2020.
* ISRAEL – Strive for a 20 percent cut in emissions below “business as usual” projections. Goals include getting 10 percent of electricity generation from renewable sources.
* IVORY COAST – Shift to renewable energies, better forest management and farming, improved pollution monitoring.
* JORDAN – Shift to renewable energies, upgrade railways, roads and ports. Goals include modernising military equipment.
* MACEDONIA – Improve energy efficiency, boost renewable energies, harmonise with EU energy laws.
* MADAGASCAR – Shift to hydropower for major cities, push for “large scale” reforestation across the island, improve agriculture, waste management and transport.
* MALDIVES – Achieve “carbon neutrality” by 2020.
* MARSHALL ISLANDS – Cut carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent below 2009 levels.
* MAURITANIA – Raise forest cover to 9 percent by 2050 from 3.2 percent in 2009, boost clean energy.
* MOLDOVA – Cut emissions by “no less than 25 percent” from 1990 levels.
* MONGOLIA – Examining large-scale solar power in the Gobi desert, wind and hydropower. Improve use of coal.
* MOROCCO – Develop renewable energies such as wind, solar power, hydropower. Improve industrial efficiency.
* PAPUA NEW GUINEA – At least halve emissions per unit of economic output by 2030; become carbon neutral by 2050.
* SIERRA LEONE – Set up a National Secretariat for Climate Change, create 12 protected areas by 2015, protect forests.
* SINGAPORE – Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 16 percent below “business as usual” levels if the world agrees a strong, legally binding deal.
* SIERRA LEONE – Increase conservation efforts, ensure forest cover of at least 3.4 million hectares by 2015. Develop clean energy including biofuels from sugarcane or rice husks.
TOGO – Raise forested area to 30 percent of the country by 2050 from 7 percent in 2005; improve energy efficiency.
Other nations asking to be associated, without outlining 2020 targets as of yet include: Albania, Algeria, the Bahamas, Bangladesh, Bosnia, Cambodia, Central African Republic, Chile, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Fiji, Guatemala, Guyana, Kiribati, Laos, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Montenegro, Namibia, Nepal, Palau, Panama, Peru, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Senegal, Serbia, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Zambia.
Ecuador, Kuwait and Nauru reject association. The Philippines will support the Accord if developed nations make deep and early cuts. (Compiled by Alister Doyle in Oslo; Editing by Janet Lawrence)