|Emissions Reductions: Rich Countries Not Pulling Their Weight|
Recent analyses show that carbon emission reduction promises by industrialised nations are actually lower than those made by China, India, Brazil and other developing nations. Even with all the pledges added together they still fall short of cuts needed to prevent a global temperatures rise of two degrees Celsius.
23rd June 2011
6th June 2011 - Oxfam International
A new study for Oxfam reveals that developing countries are pledging to cut their emissions of greenhouse gases by more than developed countries. Oxfam estimates that over 60 per cent of emissions cuts by 2020 are likely to be made by developing countries.
From Monday delegates from 195 countries are gathering in Bonn, Germany to resume negotiations on a global deal to tackle climate change. At last December’s climate conference in Cancun, countries recorded their pledges to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, but making comparisons between them has proved difficult because every country calculates and records their pledges in different ways.
The new analysis by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), commissioned as part of Oxfam's new global GROW campaign, compares four of the most widely respected studies of these pledges. All the studies show that developing countries have pledged to make bigger cuts in their greenhouse gas emissions than industrialized countries, compared to a business as usual scenario.
Tim Gore, Oxfam’s climate change policy advisor said: “All countries need to do their fair share to tackle climate change. Yet rich industrialized countries which are most responsible for the climate crisis are not pulling their weight.
“It’s time for governments from Europe to the US to stand up to the fossil fuel lobbyists. Their competitors in developing countries – from China to India and Brazil – have pledged to do more to rein in emissions and start building prosperous low carbon economies. Europe and the US risk being left behind.”
New figures from the forthcoming SEI overview of the pledges show that:
Oxfam’s analysis also shows that the total emissions cuts pledged by all countries are not sufficient to prevent global temperatures rising above the 2 degrees target agreed by governments in Cancun. Global temperature increases of more than 1.5 degrees will have catastrophic consequences for societies across the globe.
Gore said; “In the end, cutting emissions isn’t about who does the most, but whether the total efforts are enough to avoid devastating levels of global warming – we will either sink or swim together. The pledges currently on the table mean we are sinking.”
The new analysis of efforts on emissions cuts comes days after Oxfam published a report “Growing a Better Future” which forecasts that average prices of staple foods such as maize will increase by between 120 and 180 per cent by 2030. Up to half of this increase will be driven by climate change.
Gore said: “We need bolder action to cut emissions and stop climate change driving generations of children into hunger. All countries must step up and deliver their fair share of the emissions reductions needed. Countries must also ensure the most vulnerable get the support they need to adapt. Rocketing food prices signal climate change red alert”.
Oxfam is calling for action on climate change as part of a new global GROW campaign to ensure everyone always has enough to eat.
17th June 2011 - Stephen Leahy, IPS
Negotiations over a new international climate agreement are on the brink as new analyses show that carbon emission reduction promises by industrialised nations are actually lower than those made by China, India, Brazil and other developing nations. Even with all the promises or pledges added together they are still far short of cuts needed to prevent global temperatures from rising two degrees Celsius, experts reported here.
"It’s a very sad picture we see here," said Marion Vieweg of Climate Analytics, a German NGO that analyses climate science and policy.
"The rich nations are doing nothing to improve their emissions pledges," Vieweg told reporters during the final hours of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiating session here in Bonn. These meetings are intended to work out the details for a new international agreement for government ministers to consider at the 17th Conference of the Parties under the UNFCCC in Durban, South Africa in late November.
After nearly 20 years of negotiations and the Kyoto Protocol to reduce emissions, carbon levels in the atmosphere hit a new record high in 2010 said Bill Hare of the Potsdam Climate Impacts Research Institute (PIK) in Germany. The International Energy Agency reported earlier this month that the world released a record 30.6 gigatonnes of carbon into the atmosphere in 2010 - a ten per cent increase over 2005.
Climate Analytics along with other research institutes had previously identified a large gap between emission reduction pledges and the cuts needed to keep global temperatures from rising beyond two degrees Celsius. Global temperatures have already risen 0.8 degrees Celsius - primarily due to the burning coal, oil, and natural gas. Those fossil fuels release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which traps more of the sun’s heat energy.
If industrialised countries fully meet their emissions reduction promises they amount to only 3.8 gigatonnes by 2020, less than the 5.2 gigatonnes developing nations promised at the last big climate meeting in Cancun, Mexico in December 2010 according to several recent analyses. That leaves a 10.0 to 14.0 gigatonne gap of additional cuts needed to keep temperatures from rising two degrees Celsius.
Historically rich countries are responsible for about 75 percent of the total carbon emissions in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for centuries - making it vital to make cuts as soon as possible.
Not only are rich nations failing to close this ‘emissions gap’ by agreeing to greater cuts in Bonn, they did not clarify how they were going to meet their current pledges, Vieweg told IPS. Instead, the discussion here became fragmented over the questions of how to count emissions and what constituted a reduction.
"Countries want to use what ever suits their needs best… But the atmosphere doesn’t care about anything except how much carbon goes into it," Vieweg said.
"Developed nations have so many loopholes in the current agreements they could end up not making any emission reductions at all," said Sivan Kartha a senior scientist at the Stockholm Environment Institute, an independent international research centre.
These loopholes include accounting tricks, allocations for land use changes, and previously granted emission credits to get Russia and other former eastern bloc countries to join in the Kyoto Protocol, Kartha said in a press conference.
"The simple solution is to close these loopholes but this is very difficult politically," Kartha told IPS.
Another political challenge is to keep the Kyoto Protocol alive. Kyoto is the only legally-binding treaty to reduce emissions, and developed countries are balking at continuing with Kyoto which is a very serious matter for developing countries says Martin Khor of the South Centre, a Swiss-based intergovernmental think tank.
Signed in 1997 Kyoto obliges industrialised nations to reduce their emissions by five percent between 2008 and 2012. Those nations also agreed at that time to a second round of reductions after 2012. However, Japan, Canada, and Russia have now said they will not participate while the remaining parties - the European Union, Australia and New Zealand - have not said anything yet. The U.S. did not join Kyoto and is pushing for a voluntary "pledge and review" system that developing countries reject, said Khor.
"China, India, Brazil and other developing countries are doing their fair share and making collectively larger cuts than industrialised countries," he said.
The entire UNFCCC process could unravel if there is no agreement on Kyoto. It is enough for only a few countries to sign on to keep Kyoto alive because it is "the engine" of commitments to emission cuts that "pulls everyone else along", Khor said.
An agreement to keep Kyoto has to happen in Durban - when government ministers and heads of state meet at the end of November. "This is the European Union’s big opportunity to show leadership. It won’t cost much and they could easily do it," Khor said.
16th June 2011 - Martin Khor, South Centre
We agreed in Bali in Dec 2007 to build a much stronger international climate regime to better cope with recent alarming analysis of the disastrous effects of climate change. But instead of achieving this new regime, we now see quite unbelievably an attempt to dismantle even the weaker regime that we now have. Instead of a legally binding system to lock in adequate emissions cuts to 2020 for developed countries collectively and individually -- which is what was agreed to -- there is now the most likely prospect of a "voluntary pledge" system in which developed countries merely state what they can do, without a formal system of assessing the adequacy of each country's target or the adequacy of the collective effort. This will itself be a disincentive for developing countries, when they see those who are supposed to lead the process, falter instead.
Disastrous Projection of Pledges
Top climate scientists in a UN Environment Programme report show how disastrously off-mark such a voluntary system can be. Instead of cutting their emissions by at least 25-40% below 1990 levels in 2020 as required (or by more than 40%, as demanded by developing countries), the developed countries will actually increase their emission by 6% in a bad scenario (based on the lower end of pledges and the use of loopholes) or will only cut by 16% in the good scenario (based on the upper end of pledges and without the use of loopholes). The calculations are based on the pledges the developed countries made under the Copenhagen Accord.
These pledges, together with the figures from announcements made by some developing countries, show that the world is moving in the direction of a global temperature increase of between 2.5 to 5 degrees Celsius before the end of this century, according to the UNEP report. This is far removed from the 1.5 or 2 degree “safe limit”, and is a recipe for catastrophe. In 2005 the global emissions level is estimated at 45 Giga tonnes (i.e. 45 billion tonnes) of CO2 equivalent and in 2009 it is estimated at 48 Gton. With business as usual, this will rise to 56 Gton in 2020, which is on the road to disaster. The scientists in the UNEP study agree that emissions have to be limited to 44 GtCO2e by 2020 to stay on a 2 degree limitation course. Based on the Copenhagen Accord pledges, the emissions in 2020 could be 49 Gton under a good scenario, but as high as 53 Gton (almost like business-as-usual) in the bad scenario.
Developing Countries Doing Their Share
It is evident that all groups of countries have to contribute to improving this disastrous situation. However the Annex I countries are obliged to take the lead, and show the way. But their pledges so far are deficient, as a group. And the intended downgrading of the regulated system to a deregulated system goes in the wrong direction.
An Oxfam press release last week on their newly commissioned paper says that industrialized countries which are most responsible for the climate crisis are not pulling their weight. “Their competitors in developing countries –from China to India and Brazil – have pledged to do more to rein in emissions and start building prosperous low carbon economies. Europe and the US risk being left behind.” New figures from the forthcoming Stockholm Environment Institute overview of the pledges show that: * China’s total emissions reductions could be nearly double those of the US by 2020 * The emissions reductions of developing countries could be three times greater than those of the EU by 2020. * The emission reductions of China, India, South Africa and Brazil– the BASIC countries – could be slightly greater than the combined efforts of the 7 biggest developed countries – the US, Europe, Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Russia by 2020.
There should thus not be an excuse not to enter a Kyoto 2nd period on the ground that major developing countries are not doing their fair share.
Still Hope for Durban If…..
There is still hope for Durban, however, if enough developed countries decide they will stay with the Kyoto Protocol and fulfil its second commitment period starting 2013. And that those who stay out of Kyoto will make a comparable effort, inside the Convention (AWG-LCA). Developing countries for the first time are making targets, and those of the largest countries have been credible.
There is little time left to salvage a credible global climate change regime as Durban is the last chance to continue with the Kyoto Protocol without a gap (the first period ends in 2012).
We also hope that there will be sufficient progress on finance and technology, especially with the firm establishment in Durban of the Green Climate Fund, the Technology Mechanism and an Adaptation Committee -- three new institutions that are essential to assist developing countries. The negotiations on the Fund and the Technology Mechanism are so far progressing, but a spurt is needed to get final results in Durban. There cannot be a postponement on these, nor the placing of conditions that these will be established only if some developed countries get what they want out of developing countries in other areas.
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