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Industrialised countries show inadequate ambition on GHG reductions

20.08.2009

As the run-up begins to the key United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in December in Copenhagen, the overall outlook is mixed. The objective of the meeting is to agree on the broad outlines and overall ambition of the overall emissions reduction effort after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012, until 2020. This was decided in the “Bali Road Map” of December 2007.

The meeting in Poznan in December 2008 marked the halfway point between the decision taken in Bali Road Map and the Copenhagen conference target. Despite this, only 10% of the work had been done at this stage.

All Kyoto signatories had agreed that a Copenhagen agreement should be within the range of emission reductions identified in the IPCC’s 4 th Assessment report. That is, 25-40% below 1990 levels. However, the picture that began to emerge at the UNFCCC meeting in Bonn in June shows that the level of ambition of the of the industrialised countries falls far short°.

Overall, industrialised countries are aiming for a reduction of around 8-14% below 1990 levels, or less than half of what is required to keep us on a path which makes <2°C possible. A preliminary analysis of industrialised countries level of ambition would put global temperatures at 3-4°C above pre-industrial levels in the second half of this century°°. A particular ‘lowlight’ was Japan’s announcement that its 2020 target was about 8% below 1990 levels, which is only 2% less than its existing Kyoto target.

The proposed reductions for industrialised countries are further complicated by the profusion of different baselines, the inclusion or not of biological sinks (Land-Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry – LULUCF), and the use of flexible mechanisms.

At the Bonn meeting, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer as well as a number of national delegates were already hinting that while there may be a ‘framework’ agreement in Copenhagen, the details will be thrashed out at subsequent meetings in 2010. Unfortunately, it is likely to be these details, particularly the rules for the new and/or expanded flexible mechanisms – CDM-JI crediting mechanisms, carbon trading and their followers, like sectoral agreements – that are of direct interest to the wind industry.

It is a battle that may go on for some time, and with negotiation still in progress in the US on the Waxman-Markey bill (-5 to -15%), there are few incentives for other countries to go first with ambitious reduction announcements.

The third of the six 2009 preparatory meetings prior to Copenhagen is taking place in Bonn last week, to be followed by Bangkok in October and Barcelona in November, but whether they will have much effect on the general trend remains to be seen.

°For information on the different categories of country, click here: http://unfccc.int/parties_and_observers/items/2704.php.

°°See Joeri Rogelj, Bill Hare, Julia Nabel, Kirsten Macey, Michiel Schaeffer, Kathleen Markmann & Malte Meinshausen, “Halfway to Copenhagen, no way to 2 °C”, Nature, 11 June 2009, available at: http://www.nature.com/climate/2009/0907/full/climate.2009.57.html#f1.

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