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.

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

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

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