Pile on the Copenhagen Accord! 110 countries now committed to contributing to 2°C target

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.


* 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.


* 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)

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12 Responses to Pile on the Copenhagen Accord! 110 countries now committed to contributing to 2°C target

  1. Sou says:

    It’s good to see progress being made. However I find all these pledges very confusing. Percentage reductions are difficult to fathom – what do the percentages relate to?

    It would be easier to follow if there was a table listing the total 1990 emissions, the total 2009 emissions, and the total emissions target for 2020, plus the same expressed as per capita emissions for each country (with projected population increases/decreases).

    I don’t envy those trying to make sense of all this.

    I notice that some countries have indicated how they propose to meet the targets and others don’t. That would be useful information as well.

  2. prokaryote says:

    World has underestimated climate-change effects

    Professor Charles Greene asserts in the journal Oceanography that the world’s policymakers have underestimated the potential dangerous impacts that man-made climate change will have on society.

    “Even if all man-made greenhouse gas emissions were stopped tomorrow and carbon-dioxide levels stabilized at today’s concentration, by the end of this century the global average temperature would increase by about 4.3 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 2.4 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels, which is significantly above the level which scientists and policymakers agree is a threshold for dangerous climate change,” Greene said.

    “Of course, greenhouse gas emissions will not stop tomorrow, so the actual temperature increase will likely be significantly larger, resulting in potentially catastrophic impacts to society unless other steps are taken to reduce the Earth’s temperature.

    “Furthermore, while the oceans have slowed the amount of warming we would otherwise have seen for the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the ocean’s thermal inertia will also slow the cooling we experience once we finally reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. This means that the temperature rise we see this century will be largely irreversible for the next thousand years.

    “Reducing greenhouse gas emissions alone is unlikely to mitigate the risks of dangerous climate change. Society should significantly expand research into geoengineering solutions that remove and sequester greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere. Geoengineering solutions must be in addition to, not replace, dramatic emission reductions if society is to avoid the most dangerous impacts from climate change.”

    [JR: I don’t really consider most strategies for sequestering greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere to be geo-engineering, since that would include all biomass power and tree planting and tilling strategies and biochar, which just renders the term meaningless. Sadly, the other geo-engineering — solar radiation management — offer little or no hope unless they are accompanied by very aggressive mitigation.]

  3. prokaryote says:

    China, Germany Lead the Race Toward a Low-Carbon Economy
    Without National Policies, U.S. Will Lag Behind in a Growing Industry
    By Dave Levitan,
    Mar 25, 2010

    As countries around the world set emissions targets and ramp up their national climate policies, the race toward a vibrant low-carbon economy is under way, and there is a growing consensus that the United States will not take the lead.

    A report from Deutsche Bank Group’s Climate Change Advisors found that when considering all of the world’s major emissions and climate change policies as a measure of movement toward a low-carbon economy, China and Germany are extremely well positioned. The U.S., meanwhile, lags far behind.

  4. James says:

    Piling on the Copenhagen Accord? More like being pushed on.

    Let’s not forget what the accord is: a weak, compromise deal that was battered out behind close doors at the last second so that Obama and other heads of state could fly home and declare some sort of success.

    They had trouble even doing that. Gordon Brown called the meetings a failure and Obama said that, at best, we didn’t lose ground.

    Rather then laud this league of major polluters, perhaps credit should go to the over 112 countries that called for a 350 ppm and 1.5 degrees C target. Yes, in some sense they’re the wrong countries: poor, powerless, and vulnerable to climate impacts.

    But in another sense, isn’t that who this agreement is supposed to protect?

    p.s. When Desmond Tutu (and many others) say, “A global goal of about 2 degrees C is to condemn Africa to incineration and no modern development” doesn’t that question whether we should be celebrating that target?

  5. Andy says:

    In this age of hyper international information sharing and trade; are binding treaties like Kyoto necessary? Given that the adverse affect of AGW will become more and more obvious as time goes on: can shame and environmental safeguards in existing trade agreements be big enough “sticks” to get the Copenhagen signers to fulfill their promises?

  6. Ken Johnson says:

    Considering that the 3 deg C (or 3.9 deg C?) projected temperature rise is higher than the 2 deg target, should the U.S. and other Copenhagen signatories’ regulatory policies operate to (a) achieve their emission targets at the lowest possible cost, or (b) achieve the lowest possible emissions at acceptable cost?

    (An example of the first alternative is the U.S. acid rain program, which is currently selling SO2 allowances at $36/ton — less than one-tenth of the expected cost when the policy was enacted. An example of the latter approach is Germany’s feed-in tariff program, which structured under a 2004 mandate to achieve 12.5% renewable electricity by 2010, but which was already up to 15% by 2008.)

  7. prokaryote says:

    “I don’t really consider most strategies for sequestering greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere to be geo-engineering, since that would include all biomass power and tree planting and tilling strategies and biochar, which just renders the term meaningless.”

    Why isn’t this geo-engineering?
    Biomass power technologies to reduce the human emission in the carbon cycle.
    And there are proposals of artificial “trees” filtering/sequestering carbon from the air.
    I see nothing bad to count biomass power to the choices of geo-engineering. And it seems this is the only way we can deal with the situation.
    There are diffrent types of geo-engineering approaches.

  8. john atcheson says:

    This is the kind of “success” which will destroy us. First, the target is weak; second, these pledges have no teeth, no enforceability, and no likelihood of being achieved.

    Pledges are a politician’s best friend, allowing the illusion of action and progress where there is none.

    And if we accept the sham and celebrate it, it becomes an excuse not to pursue meaningful agreements, preventing us from doing the hard work of moving the world toward real and substantive progress.

    The emperor is naked, the man behind the curtain is not a wizard, and Copenhagen is not a solution to anything.

    [JR: I can’t imagine the overwhelming majority of these countries not meeting their pledges. We’re the biggest problem. Europe and China and Japan and Brazil are certainly going to meet their pledges. Brazil is putting it into law.]

  9. Jim Edelson says:

    Joe, I do not consider the Chinese target at all meaningful quantitatively. I do not believe they will change their pattern of development to meet those stated targets. Having said that, the value of the Chinese goal could derive from two factors;

    The first is their semi-commitment to have emission reports examined – I believe, though, that this was hard-fought language that will have no practical effect resulting from any outside scrutinizing of their reports, and thus there will be no real incentive for them to treat the goal as more than a mere talking point.

    The second is the impact on the role of clean technologies in their economic development plans. This is perhaps the only meaningful impact of their stated goal, and of course this is a market incentive which could change in a moment with no enforcability behind it.

    I can see why you say that China will certainly meet their target, given that it will be BAU given their stage in economic development and that their reports will not be verified . But if China just meets their goals, it will be a catastrophic result for the planet if we can’t get them to go beyond this by leading first.

  10. prokaryote says:

    The Role of Deforestation in the Fall of Rome

  11. James Newberry says:

    Science indicates, via. numerous reports, the 2 degree C target is already in effect with today’s concentration of approx. 430 ppm equivalent. All other political assertions are based on fraud.

    The situation is now, as of the year 2010, critical due to 70,000 square miles of dead forests in North America alone and accelerating disintegration of the planet’s ice caps, permafrost and clathrates. Carbon sequestering by the biosphere will soon be neutral and then possibly negative in coming years, such as when dead forests burn and ocean’s saturate with carbonic acid. These oceans have already kept over 20C of heating out of the atmosphere, and that heat is undermining millions of cubic miles of land ice.

    Policy is decades behind physical reality. There is no time left for gradual reductions, we should pursue transformation from mining “fuels” if we believe in continuance of our common heritage.

  12. J4zonian says:

    We could all agree to go from the west coast of the US to the east coast by Thursday by walking 2 miles a day, but that doesn’t mean New Yorkers should put out a finish line and banner.

    I understand that politicians and those in the huge and powerful penumbra of politics get sucked in, spending so much time and energy on the focused activity within, seeming to deal with issues that seem so important they obscure all else. But politics is like a 2-way black hole, keeping all light from getting in as well as getting out. People within the shadow—the umbra and penumbra—get so focused on what’s going on within it they lose touch with reality outside it. The saying “politics is the art of the possible” (and let’s not forget who said that) takes on new meaning—takes on ALL meaning, in fact—as whether something is politically possible or not obscures whether it actually has any good effect or avoids having bad effects.

    What I’m continually baffled and disturbed by is your/Joe’s/this site’s going along with that unreal view of reality. I know you worked in politics, Joe, but I don’t understand why your vast and impressive knowledge of climate science doesn’t help you understand better the truth of the metaphor above:

    You can’t go 3000 miles in a week walking 2 miles a day.

    Whether that’s all that’s politically possible to agree on or not, it’s not enough and we should be saying so, loudly, longly, and to everyone in range, not celebrating the number of people joining in a mass delusion.