Close the mitigation gap - New analysis demonstrates Annex I emission reduction pledges are dangerously
The UNFCCC Secretariat released new analysis yesterday converting Annex I Parties’ emission pledges
into Kyoto Protocol-style mitigation targets known as “quantified emission limitation or reduction objectives”
The analysis builds on an earlier compilation of mitigation pledges by Annex I Parties under the Kyoto
Protocol compiled by the Secretariat (20 May 2010). The information, along with recent analysis of
accounting loopholes and market mechanisms, confirms that after four years of negotiations a major reality gap
remains between the level of emission cuts proposed by Annex I Parties for a second commitment period under
the Kyoto Protocol and what science and equity requires.
Developing countries are calling for a five-year (2013-2017) commitment period consistent with current practice under the Kyoto Protocol. Annex I Parties have called for an eight-year (2013-2020) period.
According to a recent table in the AWG-KP, developed country emission reductions pledges in total could be
10-14% below 1990 levels by 2017, without current rules and loopholes, and may increase to a massive 4-8%
above 1990 levels if loopholes are not closed. This is a far-cry from the cuts of 40-50% that developing
countries demand, based on sound science and equity.
In addition to paltry pledges, Annex I Parties are pushing to conclude weak land-use and forest
accounting rules that would allow them to increase their emissions. This could be achieved partly through
allowing countries to set their own reference levels (or “baselines”) for their emissions.
By setting high future baselines, rather than using historical levels of emissions, they create space to pollute
further. Or if they don’t pollute in the land-use sector, they can create credits allowing them to pollute more
elsewhere. Some countries are also proposing that accounting for forest management remains voluntary,
thereby allowing Annex I Parties to simply not account for any emission increases.
Recent analysis in Nature estimates land-use loopholes could result in an additional 0.5 gigatonnes per year of
emissions on top of their pledged amounts. This amounts to more than 4% of the 1990 levels of Annex I
Parties in the Kyoto Protocol.
Some Annex I Parties also intend to use “surplus allowances” to increase their emissions further. Most
surplus allowances were created by overestimating the greenhouse gases a country expected to release during
the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. Some countries have made no effort to reduce emissions yet are credited with unused emissions to offset against future emissions or to sell to other countries.
The Nature article says some countries’ Kyoto targets are so weak that “large amounts of surplus allowances have been and will be generated over the 2008-2012 period even without any environmental policy effort.”
According to the article this adds up to 11 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent of surplus allowances – further
weakening Annex I Parties’ efforts.
Annex I Parties’ paltry pledges together with land-use and surplus allowance loopholes would allow them to
increase their emissions by a massive 8% by 2017. Based on their strongest pledges, the results are little better – a rise in emissions of 4%. Rather than cutting emissions, rich countries, under even their strongest pledges, will increase them.
Additionally, by using carbon markets to “offset” their emissions, domestic emissions of the Annex I Parties
will likely climb even further. By using carbon markets to offset their emissions, the rich will pollute at higher
levels at home, and count the offset against a hypothetical baseline in developing countries, often without any real proof of additional reductions. This is a problem as it shift the burden of reducing emissions to developing countries. The European Union, for instance, has said it intends to undertake between 20-30% of all its “emission reductions” abroad.
Killing the Kyoto Protocol?
These pledges must be seen in the broader context of the UNFCCC negotiations, in which a number of developed countries are seeking to dismantle the Kyoto Protocol and establish a weaker system based on “bottom up” pledges. Under this approach developed countries would simply announce their target rather than negotiate them based on what science and equity require. This is the approach envisaged under the controversial Copenhagen Accord.
Facing the reality gap
Measured against scientific analysis, and the demands of developing countries, the pledges and the weak rules put forward by Annex I Parties are dangerously inadequate. Thirty-seven developing countries have proposed cuts of at least 40% by 2020. AOSIS, LDCs and the African Group in Copenhagen have proposed 45% cuts by 2020. Bolivia and a number of other countries have officially proposed 49% domestic cuts by 2017. Based on more recent analysis, Bolivia is now proposing 50%. Clearly, Annex I Parties must face this reality.
A fair and science-based approach
The AWG-KP is being led astray and needs to get back on track. Annex I Parties have delayed the negotiations and sought to shift emphasis from the agreed approach of first setting their aggregate target, and then agreeing to the level that each country should cut. The consequences of deviating from this approach are now dangerously clear.
The negotiations must return to agreeing an aggregate target based on fair and science-based methodologies, and on the provisions and principles of the Kyoto Protocol and UNFCCC. The AWG-KP should be agreeing on the criteria and principles for determining what science, equity and historical responsibility requires of all Annex I Parties to reduce their emissions in the second commitment period.
Source: Third World Network