Tag Archives: The United Nations Framework Climate Change Conference

carbon reduction plan

The battle against climate change: national carbon reduction goals

As part of the ongoing battle against climate change, numerous countries in the developed world have set themselves carbon reduction goals. They’re fairly self-explanatory; by a certain year, a certain nation aims to have reduced its carbon emissions by a certain amount compared to a previous, certain year.

Essentially every major country has joined in, but are any of them doing enough? Analysis by the CAT Consortium’s ‘Climate Action Tracker‘ suggests that none of the world’s great powers are coming close to leading the way on carbon reduction as you might expect, and in fact it is smaller countries that are achieving the most impressive things in this area. This odd disparity needs to be investigated further.

First of all, let’s take a look at the promises made by various major states. In March 2015, President Obama confirmed that the United States aims to cut its emissions by 26-28% by 2025, in comparison to 2005 levels. The EU demands a 40% cut in greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels by 2030, and this is not merely an aim either; it’s legally binding.

The really good aspect of the EU’s current carbon reduction plan is that it should dramatically overachieve on its commitments made for the Kyoto Protocol, but less promising is that it doesn’t look likely to meet its more ambitious Copenhagen Pledge, which aimed to reduce emission levels by 30% from 1990 levels by 2020. Once one of these high profile pledges has been broken, you start to have less faith that others of them will be achieved.

Ahead of the Paris United Framework Climate Change Conference in 2015, China announced it would be cutting its carbon emissions by a sizeable 60-65% compared to its 2005 level. While this may be a lot more than the other states included in this article, China is of course comfortably the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gas, and its attempts to meet its carbon intensity targets are so ineffective that they would be rated ‘inadequate’ by the Climate Action Tracker if taken in isolation.

India intends its carbon emissions to be between 33-35% lower in 2030 than they were in 2005. They also intend to generation additional forest and tree cover, but on this and indeed their overall emissions targets, India can be alarmingly vague on how it plans to achieve them. Elsewhere, Australia targets a 26-28% reduction from 2005 levels by 2030, and Canada has set a 30% reduction target from 2005 by 2030.

This excel spreadsheet lists NDC* targets by country:

Nationally Determined Contribution

Table of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions from selected countries

Many of these figures sound fairly impressive. Considering how overwhelming swathes of the world are currently powered in not particularly environmentally friendly ways, numbers like 30-35% sound like ambitious targets from nations prepared to make sacrifices in order to safeguard the future for generations to come.

But all is not as it seems. Campaign group The CAT Consortium run the Climate Action Tracker, which grades each nation on how useful its promises actually are. The results are not good. None of the countries listed above are rated higher than a ‘medium’ on their scale, and Australia and Canada are deemed ‘inadequate.’ The five countries whose reduction targets have been deemed ‘sufficient’ by the Climate Action Tracker are Bhutan, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Morocco and the Gambia.

Major countries like the United States are simply not pulling their weight. Their Nationally Determined Contribution towards limiting climate change to an increase below 2°c will not be enough unless other countries make much deeper reductions and comparably greater effort. The CAT is particularly scathing about Australia, whose environmental policies are entirely at odds with its commitments.

If it keeps going at its current rate, Australia’s carbon emissions in 2030 will, astonishingly, be 27% higher than 2005 levels. In 2014, the Australian government abolished its Clean Energy Future Plan, which was going some way to helping the country meet its targets. If most countries mistakenly followed Australia’s example, global warming would comfortably exceed 3-4°c.

Of course, there are pressures that come with being a massive global economy that nations like Bhutan and Morocco don’t face, but that’s no excuse for the broken promises, nor the lack of ambition. Costa Rica’s targets are at the most ambitious end of its fair contribution. The United States’s targets are at the least ambitious end.

Why are smaller nations putting in the most amount of effort? Perhaps the most developed nations in the world, having grown used to a comfortable lifestyle, find it hard to comprehend the sheer destruction that climate change could cause; that’s the most logical conclusion when you see the disparity in the figures.

Our day to day lives are fairly easy- we wake up in homes that are well heated or air conditioned depending on the weather, food stocks are plentiful when we go to stores, electricity is available on demand anywhere we go. All of these things could change if global warming takes full effect, but we take them for granted and perhaps don’t truly believe deep down that they will ever change. These comforts have been there for us since we were born, so surely they will still be there when we die? Well, unfortunately not.

For this reason, environmentally conscious people living in nations deemed ‘inadequate’ or merely ‘medium’ need to be hyper vigilant about holding their ruling class to promises made about carbon emissions reduction, and cajoling them to go further still. In the long run, this is the only way to maintain a standard of living similar to what we enjoy today. Climate change is the most pressing problem posed to the planet, and unless we take an enthusiastic role in stopping it, we will one day rue the consequences. Does our generation want to be remembered for the planet’s destruction?

*NDC= Nationally Determined Contribution

cop21

COP21 – good news for the planet

 On the 12th of December, 2015, high-level representatives from 195 nations, including many presidents and prime ministers, agreed to try to hold warming “well below” 2 °C above pre-industrial temperatures. On April 22, at the UN in NYC, the agreement takes full effect (once nations representing a majority of the planet’s GHG emissions sign the agreement). Unfortunately, the truth is that, even if the agreement in Paris is carried out by every nation, and to the letter, global temperatures will still be on course to rise by around 2.7°C by the end of the century.

Luckily, the best news of the entire COP21 came on Day 1 with the announcement of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition (breakthroughenergycoalition.com). The Breakthrough Energy Coalition is a group of more than 20 billionaires (including Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg {CEO of Facebook}) who have agreed to invest in innovative clean energy. The Coalition wouldn’t be able to fund and meet all of its goals without the most important international commitment by governments to invest in clean energy to date. Mission Innovation (mission-innovation.net) is a group of 20 countries including the U.S., Brazil, China, Japan, Germany, France, Saudi Arabia and South Korea, who have pledged to double government investment in clean energy innovation and to be transparent about its clean energy research and development efforts. In a statement from the Coalition, the importance of both groups is highlighted –

“THE WORLD NEEDS WIDELY AVAILABLE ENERGY that is reliable, affordable and does not produce carbon. The only way to accomplish that goal is by developing new tools to power the world. That innovation will result from a dramatically scaled up public research pipeline linked to truly patient, flexible investments committed to developing the technologies that will create a new energy mix. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition is working together with a growing group of visionary countries who are significantly increasing their public research pipeline through the Mission Innovation initiative to make that future a reality.”

Brazil was one of the last countries to join the ‘high ambition coalition’, while China and India were hold outs to this section of the pact. The ‘high ambition coalition’ are a group of countries, including most of the “Mission Innovation” countries and a group of the most vulnerable (smaller generally, and poorer) nations, that are looking towards a more ambitious goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C. China and India are the major emitters in the developing world, and were the last agree to the main pact, but not the high ambition goal, at COP21.

Below are some major resources for more information on the COP21:

 

COP21 Paris – breakdown of the event

coal plant

Stabilize greenhouse gasses

There are numerous ways that we can stabilize greenhouse gasses, thereby “stopping” climate change. Governments of 1st world and even developing nations must implement some of the following policies (and most might, at least implement some of the following, especially after the upcoming COP meeting of the UNFCCC in Paris). Clearly, the path to stabilize GHG emissions includes making it a priority for governments to financially invest in at least some of these solutions:

 

1. A carbon tax, or carbon cap-and-trade system, or both

2. Further investment in, and development of all forms of renewable energy including: wind, solar, geothermal and biomass/biofuel etc…

3. Carbon capture and storage

4. Widespread adoption of hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles, as well as sustainable mass transportation using biofuel or electricity (bus systems, light rail etc…)

5. More use of, and development of smart grid infrastructure – smart meters, home energy management systems etc…

6. Energy, especially renewable energy, storage

 

 

This is certainly an incomplete list, so please feel free to add points.

The United Nations Framework Climate Change Conference

The United Nations Framework Climate Change Conference

World leaders gather every year for the United Nations Framework Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) to assess progress in dealing with climate change and negotiate protocols and treaties between countries to further address the plethora of issues. This includes plans for sustainability, funding and implementing renewable energy sources, and updating urban planning ideas and guidelines with energy efficiency and green building in mind; all of which is intended to meet the goal of dramatically reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

In 2015, the United Nations Climate Change Conference will meet again in Le Bourget, a northeastern suburb of Paris, France. Running from November 30th to December 11th, the 2015 meeting will be the 21st yearly session and focus on developing and funding the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and setting carbon pricing.

The GCF will transfer money from developed countries to underdeveloped countries, aiding them in investing in renewable energy, sustainable mass transportation, and green building projects. Perhaps the most contentious topic to be discussed is carbon pricing, where countries will be charged for their carbon dioxide emissions. The UNFCCC will decide on pricing as well as the inner-workings of the system, including whether the GCF will function as a tax or a cap-and-trade.

Any agreement reached will go into effect in 2020, leaving the conference time over the 5 years in between to finalize the details. The agreement will detail a list of protocols that all parties agree to be bound by, acting as an updated agreement to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which sets a binding emission reduction target for industrialized countries…

 

Please see http://www.greencitytimes.com/Sustainability-News/the-united-nations-framework-climate-change-conference-2015.html for the whole article.