Climate Promises for the Next Ten Years
The Copenhagen Accord has legs – so far 36 industrialized countries including the United States, members of the European Union, and Russia; and 23 developing countries, including China, India, Brazil and South Africa have signed on. A further 28 countries, mostly those considered least developed such as Mali and Palau, associated themselves with the Accord. That makes 87 nations willing to be listed on the agreement that was drafted in forty-five minutes by a small group of heads of state, including US President Obama, at the United Nations climate change negotiations in Copenhagen. What do these pledges add up to?
The actions pledged are legally binding only to the extent that countries enact domestic legislation. They do not add up to the reductions that climate scientists believe are necessary to maintain a “safe” climate. They are, however, an indication that no major contributor to climate change is willing to reject international cooperation.
Developed countries pledged to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, economy-wide, by as little as 5% to as much as 40% by 2020. The United States offered an emissions cut “in the range of 17%” dependent on domestic legislation (for more on this, see Cara’s post and my ASIL Insight) In contrast, the European Union countries have already adopted a target of 20% by 2020 through EU and domestic law. The EU and Norway promised additional reductions (30% and 40%, respectively), if other developed countries commit to comparable reductions. Most industrialized nations chose 1990 as their base year; the United States and Canada use 2005, Australia selected 2000, and Kazakhstan uses 1992.
Developing countries volunteered to take “nationally appropriate mitigation actions”. These include China’s intention to improve its carbon intensity by 40-45%, increase use of non-fossil fuel energy and increase forest cover; Brazil’s pledge to reduce deforestation (with other actions, expected to reduce projected emissions by 36.1-38.9%); and India’s proposal to reduce non-agricultural emissions intensity by 20-25%.
Not enough, yet, to stabilize the climate, but a basis to keep moving forward.