Time to Get Serious About Loopholes

Here’s a quick reminder: According to the latest UNEP report, the weak pledges from Annex I countries get us only about a third of the estimated emissions reductions that are needed if we want to have a two-in-three chance of avoiding more than 2° C warming. Unfortunately we have even more bad news: loopholes!

Loopholes are weak rules that undermine reduction targets, usually resulting from political bargaining. The largest loopholes are:

  • The carry-over of ‘hot air’ due to the over-allocation of AAUs during the first commitment period.
  • ‘Creative’ accounting rules for forestry and land-use emissions (LULUCF) for Annex I countries.
  • CDM credits from projects that are either over-credited or not additional (would have been built anyway).
  • Double counting – attributing emission reductions to both developed and developing countries.
  • Emissions from aviation and shipping (“bunkers”) currently not accounted for under the Kyoto Protocol.

We took a closer look at the loopholes and compared their total size to the cumulative emission reductions that could be achieved with the current Annex I pledges. We found that the current ‘loopholes’ in the system could negate their pledges.

In the worst case, they could leave Annex I countries with sufficient allowances and credits to revert to a BAU trajectory, and could even enable the carry-over of surplus allowances beyond 2020.

As you can see, a graph says more than 1,000 words. Our findings match those of the UNEP Report, the Stockholm Environment Institute and others.

The size of these current loopholes is staggering. Strong action is required now to effectively and efficiently close these loopholes if we want to preserve the possibility of staying below 2° C warming. 

None of the technical issues around the loopholes are insurmountable.  If developed countries are serious about fulfilling their responsibility to lead the fight against climate change, they need to put ambitious targets on the table that are in line with the science and do away with all these rotten loopholes. 

There is no plan(et) B. Every passing day of inaction closes the door that much further on preventing catastrophic climate change.

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