TWN Info Service on Climate Change (Feb10/10)
10 February 2010
Third World Network

Copenhagen Accord pledges could lead to three-degree warming
Published in SUNS #6860 dated 10 February 2010

Geneva, 9 Feb (Meena Raman) -- The emission reduction pledges by developed countries under the Copenhagen Accord are inadequate and pledges by both developed and developing countries are in line with global warming of over three degrees Celsius, warned a new report by three European scientific institutions.

The scientific groups, Ecofys, Climate Analytics and the Potsdam Institute, in a statement released on 2 February, assessed the pledges made by both developed and developing countries so far, and concluded that they add up to a level of emissions in 2020 that would be in line with a global temperature rise of over 3 degrees Celsius.

The groups' assessment was made by their joint project, Climate Action Tracker. According to their statement, only "2 out of 10 developed countries' reduction targets submitted to the Copenhagen Accord [are] sufficient' to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius. The reduction targets of all countries currently associated with the Accord lead to a striking inconsistency with the 2-degree Celsius goal defined in the very same Accord. The current pledges leave the world heading for a global warming of over 3 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2100".

Another paper, by the World Resources Institute (WRI), using data that the countries submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat, also showed that the developed country emission reduction pledges "will not be enough to meet even the lower range of emission reductions required for stabilizing concentrations of CO2 equivalent at 450 ppm and certainly fall very short of goals to reduce concentrations below that level."

WRI concluded that "existing pledges by developed countries, when added together, could represent a substantial effort for reducing Annex 1 emissions by 2020 - a 12 to 19% reduction of emissions below 1990 levels depending on the assumptions made about details of the pledges. But they still fall far short of the range of emission reductions - 25 to 40% - that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change notes would be necessary for stabilizing concentrations of CO2 equivalent at 450 ppm, a level associated with a 26 to 78% risk of overshooting a 2 degree Celsius goal."

(The Copenhagen Accord adopted the "scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below 2 degrees Celsius").

The WRI paper, published in February 2010, is titled "Comparability of Annex 1 Emission Reduction Pledges".

The groups based their assessment on pledges made by developed and developing countries that were submitted to the UNFCCC Secretariat, following an invitation by the Executive Secretary, Yvo de Boer, to all member states requesting them to notify the Secretariat if they chose to associate with the Copenhagen Accord, giving a deadline of 31 January. He later explained to the media that this was a "soft deadline."

(TWN on 9 February 2010 reported on details of the pledges by developed countries under the Accord).

(Critics of the Accord predicted that the unilateral and voluntary goals submitted by the developed countries could be far below what is required by science, or the need to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level. These fears have now been proven to be justified as shown by the WRI paper.)

The analysis by WRI was based on "the assumption that emission reductions achieved via international offsets contained in the pledges will be real and additional".

According to WRI, "these assumptions make an enormous difference for the scale of some country's emission reductions, such as that of the United States. Therefore, if international emission reductions play a major role in national targets, and they prove not to be real and additional, then some pledges, such as that in the emerging US bill will fall far short of how they appear at face value".

("International offsets" mean doing emission reductions in other countries instead of reducing emissions domestically).

The US, in its submission to the UNFCCC Secretariat in January this year, has formally indicated its target for emissions reductions by 2020 to be in the range of 17% "in conformity with anticipated US energy and climate legislation, recognizing that the final target will be reported to the Secretariat in light of enacted legislation".

Further, the WRI analysis also demonstrated the importance of resolving how land-use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) emissions are to be estimated before final commitments are determined.

"Emissions from the land use sector can vary significantly from year to year and the choice of including them, as well as the choice of the base year, can make a significant difference in defining the stringency of a given country's target. For example, when Canada's pledge is calculated below a 1990 base year and LULUCF is included, the pledge allows for significant emissions growth," said the WRI paper.

With Canada's recent pledge of a target of 17% reduction from the 2005 level under the Copenhagen Accord, the WRI paper shows that this will amount to 3% above the 1990 level excluding LULUCF.

With LULUCF included, it will be 19% above (not below) the 1990 level, allowing for significant emissions growth, reveals the WRI paper. +