Market News

 October 07, 2009
Rich nations' carbon targets condemn planet, report warns

 Industrialised countries' carbon targets could amount to as little as a 10 per cent cut in emissions by 2020, according to new study.

The still gaping chasm between negotiators from rich and poor nations attending the latest round of UN-backed climate change talks in Bangkok was underlined yesterday, with the release of a new report.

Comparability of Annex/Emission Reduction Pledges reveals that the carbon targets proposed by industrialised nations remain a long way short of those required to avoid dangerous levels of climate change.

Earlier this year, the G8 committed to working to keep average global temperature increases below two degrees. But according to new research from the World Resources Institute (WRI), the pledges made by industrialised countries are nowhere near the 25 to 40 per cent reduction in emissions deemed necessary by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The panel says the reduction is needed to provide a chance of avoiding a two-degree increase in temperatures.

The study analysed the carbon targets proposed by the European Union, Japan, Russia, New Zealand, Australia, Norway, Belarus, Ukraine and Canada as well as those set out in the US Waxman-Markey climate bill, which has yet to be passed.

It found that the combined pledges equate to cuts of between 10 and 24 per cent on 1990 levels by 2020, depending on various assumptions regarding inclusion or exclusion of land use, land-use change and forestry data and whether countries opt for the lower or upper end of their targets. For example, the EU has said it will upgrade its goal of cutting emissions 20 per cent by 2020 to 30 per cent if other industrialised countries agree to similar targets.

"Our analysis provides a preliminary picture of where the world is headed in the run-up to Copenhagen," said Jennifer Morgan, director of WRI's climate and energy programme. "While emission reduction commitments by these countries could have an important and potentially substantial impact, they will not be enough to meet recommendations of IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report. WRI therefore urges industrialised countries to bring forward more ambitious pledges to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions."

The issue of targets has been one of the main sticking points in the stalled negotiations to agree a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. Large emerging economies such as China and India are refusing to adopt their own binding emission targets until rich nations agree to targets that are in line with that recommended by climate scientists.

In response, industrialised nations have been reluctant to sign up to more demanding goals, fearing an economic advantage for those emerging economies that face less demanding emission targets.

However, there was some progress yesterday on the topic of financing the roll out of low-carbon technologies in developing countries, when the US signalled for the first time that it would support proposals for a new independent fund operated in part by the UN.

Up to now the US and UK have called for funding for any climate change mitigation and adaptation offered to poorer nations to be distributed through existing bodies such as the World Bank. However, emerging economies insist that a new independent body is required to oversee the distribution of funds.

US negotiators in Bangkok signalled that they would drop their opposition to a new fund, although their proposal is still likely to be rejected by the G77 group of poorer nations given their continued opposition to binding commitments on funding.

Under the US proposal, rich nations' contributions to the fund would be voluntary and they would be allowed to select which areas they wanted to back. They also proposed that the funds be distributed to businesses and NGOs, as well as developing world governments.

Observers, however, have welcomed the proposal, hailing it as the first significant movement on the issue of financing in months.

By James Murray