Home » General » How U.S, EU Mitigation Plans May Shape Paris Deal

AS Africa fine tunes forced plans towards the common global mitigation goal, two important decisions will be delivered this March that greatly influence the possible shape and structure of a future climate deal, to be sealed at Paris in December.

The first one has already taken place. Two weeks ago, the European Union, a grouping of 28 wealthy, high-emitting countries, submitted its plans for cutting greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) to the UN.

The EU reinforced its earlier inadequate proposals made last September, promising emission reductions of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, but remained non-committal on finance, and completely silent on the critical issue of loss and damage.

Between 1990, the base year, and 2012, the bloc cut emissions by 19,2 percent or 1,1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), according to the European Environment Agency. It later surpassed its Kyoto Protocol emission targets by 3 percent. The numbers may seem impressive they are not. The reductions did not result entirely from domestic measures, but through carbon offsets from overseas.

For example, the UK, a key member of the EU, said four years ago it had curbed GHG emissions by 14 percent, compared to those emitted in 1990.

But without the offsets, a tradeable unit of CO2 removed from elsewhere, the country actually produced 20 percent more carbon than it claimed to have reduced, says a 2011 report by the Global Carbon Project.

This suggests the EU’s emission reductions may have been overstated.

Short on Ambition

Declines in the EU have done little to stop the surge in global emissions, which rose 3,1 percent per year in the decade to 2010, tripling the average yearly growth during the 1990s. Since 1990, emissions have risen over 45 percent.

At this rate, the world is on course for an unsustainable above 4 degrees Celsius warming by 2100, warned the UN Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report last year, the most authoritative

Communication on Climate Change

The situation will be worse in Southern Africa, the report said, with warming of up to 6 degrees Celsius, leading to massive crop losses, water scarcity, disease outbreaks and hunger.

In its intended nationally determined contribution (INDC) submitted to the UN on March 6, the EU remained vague on issues of finance and, loss and damage, which are important to adaptation in Africa. At the climate conference in Peru last December, both matters proved contentious, threatening to hinder the possibility of a breakthrough towards a new climate treaty.

Africa wants loss and damage separated from adaptation, and that the two items be treated as stand-alone items in the anticipated climate agreement. The EU’s silence on these matters dashes hopes they will be treated any differently come December.

Also, ranking among the world’s top five polluters along with the US, China, India and Russia, the European Union’s INDC are not consistent with the global target of limiting the temperature rise at 2 degrees Celsius in this century.

To achieve that, the world’s biggest polluters must cut emissions by as much as 65 percent below 2010 levels by 2050, as well as avail funding and technology to help poor countries cope, scientists say.

According to a Climate Action Tracker analysis last year, if current levels of ambition from the US, EU and China are fully implemented, global warming would reduce by just 0,4 degrees Celsius by end of the 21st century.

Clearly, the EU’s targets are short on ambition, long on disappointment and have failed to demonstrate the necessary level of leadership needed to bring on fence-sitters like Canada, Australia and New Zealand to the party.

US’ Self-Regulation

Then, secondly, there is the United States, the world number two emitter after China.

Before end of this month, the Americans are expected to have formally submitted their plans on how they intend to mitigate climate change to the UN. The plan is not expected to show any differences from what the US announced last November, that it will reduce emissions by between 26 percent and 28 percent below 2005 levels within the next decade.

However, at a time the world is calling for tighter emission controls, carbon dioxide emissions in the United States increased by about 5 percent between 1990 and 2012, according to that country’s Environmental Protection Agency.

The US refused to be bound by the Kyoto Protocol, insisting on self-regulation. Clearly, that has failed.

Now, this is one of the greatest concerns in the world today, that the US will once again frown on a binding international commitment, as has been the case for many years, preferring its ineffective self-monitoring mechanisms.

The Republican-controlled Congress is gly supportive of this position. The US’ intended nationally determined contributions have been expected to influence other giant polluters like China and India to take on deeper cuts, but the prospect of its absence from a binding commitment may just as well put paid to those hopes.

In 2012, forests in the United States offset 15 percent of emissions, the EPA said. There are worries the Americans will try to smuggle forests offsets into its INDCs through crafty, condensed legal technicalities. As with Kyoto, offsets from land use, land use change and forests are accounted for separately and cannot be included in mitigation plans.

Together with China, the US accounts for 50 percent of total global emissions.

Action taken by America will have deep implications on what the world can expect from countries like China and India that until now have been exempt from committing because they are considered developing economies.

Without providing specific figures, China jointly announced with the US in November it plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions across all industries and to increase carbon capture by strengthening its forest policy.

The joint deal was hailed by many as landmark, providing much clearer direction from two giants that have been missing from action for long, and from where the rest of the world could take a cue for an ambitious agreement at Paris.

Whether this will happen remains to be seen. Most countries are not expected to submit their INDcs until September. So far, only the EU and Switzerland have done so.

God is faithful.

Source : The Herald