A sobering new assessment by the ''Climate Action Tracker'' of the emission commitments and pledges put forward by industrialized and developing countries for the Copenhagen climate negotiations shows that the world is headed for a global warming of well over 3 degrees C by 2100. Carbon dioxide concentrations are projected to be over 650 ppm, with total GHG concentrations close to 800 ppm CO2 equivalent.
"The pledges on the table will not halt emissions growth before 2040, let alone by 2015 as indicated by the IPCC and are far from halving emissions by 2050, as has been called for by the G8. Instead global emissions are likely to be nearly double 1990 levels by 2040 based on present pledges", said Dr Niklas Höhne of Ecofys.
"In 2020 we project total GHG emissions to be around 55 billion tonnes CO2 equivalent per year from all sources, a reduction of about 3 billion tonnes compared to business as usual. In ten years from now global emissions will already have to be well below current levels of about 46 billion tonnes (in 2008) to have much chance of meeting temperature goals such as 2°C, as called for by the major emitters globally, or below 1.5°C as put forward by the Small Island States and Least Developed Countries as essential for their survival", said Dr (h.c.) Bill Hare of Climate Analytics and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
"After accounting for the new position of Russia, the announcement of President Obama of a US emission reduction pledge for Copenhagen, the developed country emission reductions as a whole are currently projected to be 13-19% below 1990 levels by 2020. However the proposed forest credits these countries want would degrade this by about 5% with the effective reductions in industrial GHG emissions being 8-14% below 1990 levels by 2020. The low reduction target (8%) is unconditional for most countries and the highest reduction target (14%) is linked by most countries to a strong agreement in Copenhagen", said Dr. Michiel Schaeffer of Climate Analytics.
Around 25-40% reductions by industrialized countries by 2020 from 1990 GHG emissions levels are described as necessary by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
"Recent announcements such as the Chinese carbon intensity reduction target for 2020, and the Korean emission goals for 2020 and 2050, are very important and useful. However the overall effect on greenhouse gas emissions (excluding deforestation) is disappointing; with overall developing country emissions projected to be close to, or significantly above, the IPCC range for 2020" said Dr Niklas Höhne of Ecofys.
"Faster economic growth than expected, particularly combined with slower improvements in carbon intensity in China explain part of this. China has ambitious policies on energy efficiency and renewable energy, but the new international target falls short of that ambition. A reduction from "business as usual emissions" by the developing countries as a group is needed in 2020 of 15-30% is needed to limit global warming to 2°C or even lower.
"On deforestation, we have accounted for the announcement of Brazil and of Indonesia which taken together would reduce deforestation emissions globally by about 40% from recent levels by 2020 (or about the same from estimated 1990 deforestation emissions), which is a very important contribution" said Dr Michiel Schaeffer.
"With no concrete pledges on the table for international aviation and marine CO2 emissions these are projected to grow to over double 1990 levels in 2020, reaching about 1.8 billion tonnes per year, and to nearly 4 times 1990 levels in 2050, about 3 billion tonnes per year" said Dr Niklas Höhne of Ecofys.
"From these numbers, there is at least a one in four chance of exceeding a warming of 4 degrees C", said Dr. (h.c.) Hare.
The Climate Action Tracker reveals major differences between the ambition levels of countries when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In the lead are the Maldives and Costa Rica, which have proposed to become climate-neutral by around 2020. At the high end of the scale are Norway, Japan and Brazil, which are proposing to reduce their emissions significantly. In the "medium" range are developing countries such as India, Indonesia, Mexico and South Korea, who propose to reduce the growth of their emissions by the 2020s. The EU is a special case, in that its unconditional commitment is rated "inadequate". However, if it's 30% reduction target were to be adopted, the EU would move into the "medium" range and very close to "sufficient". China has moved down a category, because it's recently announced target falls short of the ambition level that we had expected from the implementation of the current national policies. Between the middle and the bottom of the scale is the United States, whose recently proposed actions are "inadequate", i.e. they do not fall within the range that is needed to keep global warming within lower limits. At the very bottom end of the scale are countries that have yet to propose substantial action beyond "business as usual". These include Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.
Note for the editor
The web-based based climate policy assessment system "Climate Action Tracker" was developed by Ecofys, Climate Analytics and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). It provides a picture of each country's proposed commitments and actions and how these contribute to total greenhouse gas emission reductions globally.
The Climate Action Tracker enables the public to track the emission commitments and actions of countries. The website provides an up-to-date assessment of individual country pledges about greenhouse gas emission reductions. It also plots the consequences for the global climate of commitments and actions made ahead of and during the Copenhagen Climate Summit.
The Climate Action Tracker shows that much greater transparency is needed when it comes to targets and actions proposed by countries. For developed countries, accounting for forests and land-use change significantly degrades the overall stringency of the targets. For developing countries climate plans often lack calculations of the resulting impact on emissions.
You can find the Climate Action Tracker at www.climateactiontracker.org. Ecofys and Climate Analytics are both research organizations that specialize in energy and climate-related issues.