As 2014 was the hottest year on record, and 2015 is likely to surpass that, whilst 2013 broke all records for carbon pollution, there is a fair degree of urgency behind achieving a ground-breaking deal at the Paris Summit in December. Some countries have already ‘declared their hands’ by making pledges in advance of the talks. These give us a hint on the real state-of-play, ahead of COP-21. Up until now, nearly 50 countries have filed their emissions reduction pledges to the UN, covering approximately 60% of the world’s emissions. They include the EU (28 countries, not one), the US, China, Canada, Russia, Australia, and Mexico. Key countries such as India and Brazil, have yet to make official their plans. The national contribution each country is prepared to make, is known at the UN as an Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC). [Tweet "An important factor to look out for is the baseline year upon which such INDCs are made"]An important factor to look out for is the baseline year upon which such INDCs are made. Under the Kyoto Protocol, nearly all countries have previously tended to use the base year of 1990, which make pledges easier to compare. However, the US, China, and Canada have chosen 2005 as their baseline year, with the result that their promised cuts appear higher than they are in reality. Canada’s target, for instance, of 30% below 2005 levels, is equivalent to only 2% below 1990 levels. The US’s recently up-dated pledge of 32% carbon cuts on 2005 levels, still leaves it far behind the EU’s “at least 40% target”, by comparison. China, [...]
President Obama’s recent announcement that the world’s two largest emitters of greenhouse gases - the US and China - had come to a ‘historic agreement’, should surely be cause for celebration in a world threatened by global warming on a major scale. However, it has received a mixed reception. Why? The deal is non-binding: a bilateral agreement based upon successive promises - “you do this, we’ll do that” – and if the US does not deliver on any actions to reduce emissions, then the Chinese would have no international legal obligation to do so. Some critics have understandably viewed the deal, therefore, as ‘meaningless’, but others are more optimistic. As multilateral climate change negotiations in Paris fast appear on the horizon, and the EU has agreed a set of targets for 2030, it could be argued that the onus is now on other countries to follow suit and work towards a ‘relevant and meaningful’ multilateral climate change agreement. If that happens, then Obama’s achievement of getting China to come closer to the bargaining table could very well be perceived as ‘historic’, or at the least, a ‘smart move’. [Tweet "Xi Jinping agreed to shift at least 20% of Chinese energy production to non-fossil fuels"]What does the deal offer? The New York Times reported that officials from the two superpowers had secretly worked, for nine months, to ‘give birth to the deal’, under which Obama declared that the US would cut its emissions by 26-28% by 2025, compared to the 2005 levels. This would more than double the rate of reduction previously targeted for 2020. In return, the Chinese leader, [...]
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