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| 08/20/15

Months away from Paris climate summit, climate pledges inadequate


Australia has submitted its climate pledge to the United Nations, the last of the world’s rich nations to do so, but, like Canada’s UN promise, the target announced is not in keeping with scientists’ recommendations for the scale of greenhouse-gas emissions reduction necessary to avoid breaching the ‘safe’ limit of 2°C of global warming by the end of the century.

Canberra announced last Tuesday that it would aim to cut emissions by 26-28 percent on 2005 levels by 2030. The reduction target is identical to that of the United States, but with a delay of five years.

The Climate Institute, an Australian environmental consultancy, said that the goal was not in line with the 2°C guardrail. If all nations made equivalent pledges, the world would be on track to see a 3-4°C rise in temperatures.

With all the major developed countries having submitted their pledges, along with a variety of poorer nations, the number of submissions received by the world body amounts to 50 nations. Many of the targets use differing metrics and starting dates, requiring climate policy analysts to crunch the numbers and figure out whether everyone is pulling their weight and if the aggregate pledges are sufficient to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Just over four months ahead of crunch climate talks in Paris this year, where a new global climate treaty is expected to be negotiated, these assessments do not encourage hope.

Calculations by the research arm of the Reuters news agency found that developed nations as a whole have committed to reductions of almost 30 percent by 2030, or a reduction to 9 billion tonnes of CO2 down from the 12.2 billion tonnes that were emitted in 2010.

This compares unfavourably to the 50 percent cut by 2030 that scientists with the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change say must occur in the rich states.

The Reuters assessment matches up with similar analysis from the New Climate Institute, which tracks national pledges. It says that while the US cut announced at the start of August makes a “significant difference” largely because as an executive order, it comes into immediate effect and are an advance on earlier promises, while “governments tend to water down plans after their initial announcement, not strengthen them”, the group said in a statement. The think-tank also says that China’s plans are “conflicted”, the EU’s show “some improvement”, but Japan’s and Canada’s are “inadequate” and a retreat from earlier commitments. Under its pledge, Canada aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. This is the same as a 21% reduction below 2005 emissions levels, or just two percent below 1990 levels.

In June, similar analysis of global reduction pledges by the International Energy Agency concluded that they would permit an extension of just 8 months of the date that the world’s remaining ‘carbon budget’ would be used up.

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