In yesterday’s issue, ECO outlined the process for tabling, reviewing and adopting ambitious commitments for the 2015 agreement, including setting a deadline for tabling initial commitments in 2014. ECO thinks it goes without saying that such commitments – in their various shapes and sizes – should be framed in terms of a five year commitment period. But since SBI is still stalled and everyone has some free time, we figured we’d lay out the full case for why that’s true.
First, shorter commitment periods encourage early action. As we all know too well, it is easier to put off action when the deadline is far away – and ECO is all about getting action. Second, your political masters are accountable on 4-6 year cycles, so 2030 targets set in 2015 would be too many election periods away, and hence candidates for “someone else’s problem”. Third, a shorter commitment period reduces concerns about locking in low levels of ambition (wonder why ECO would be worried about low levels of ambition…). Fourth, single year targets don’t give ECO or Parties any certainty over emission pathways (just see the discussions in the SBSTA work programme on developed country targets). Better to have things defined in advance. Finally, it enables targets to be set based on the best available science as that science evolves.
This last point has other design implications. While ECO wants (and the world needs) short commitment periods in order to review progress and ramp up ambition regularly, it is also necessary to know where we are aiming. Thus, a long-term temperature goal, a 2050 global emission reduction target and a carbon budget are crucial for setting the course, as are low-carbon development plans for all countries. After all, at least three quarters of all proven fossil fuel reserves have to stay in the ground (and probably more) if the world is serious about avoiding dangerous climate change. So, get into planning mode and start charting the course of those ambitious, 5-year commitment period pledges now. ECO can’t wait until 2014 to see what you’ve come up with!