The Truth About Mitigation – It’s Still Inconvenient!

The bright and shiny moments in yesterday’s workshop on mitigation targets of developed countries were noticeable, albeit sparse, and mostly rhetorical. It seems to ECO, the truth is still inconvenient!

We learned that reducing emissions is good for the economy. Many countries re- affirmed the need to increase the ambition level and were very aware of the gap between current pledges and the cuts needed to stay below 2 degrees of warming, let alone the needed 1.5°C limit. And nearly everyone – except the U.S. – acknowledged the need for common accounting standards to ensure the environmental integrity of this global climate cooperation.

But, to put it simply, knowing a thing and doing a thing isn’t the same thing...

On the difficult questions CAN posed; negotiators did not have such positive answers. For example, what will their true emissions be? Assumptions on forests and other land use accounting, the use of carbon offsets and hot air carry-over are all huge potential loopholes. While there was some conversation on this subject – with the U.S. promising to count both sources and sinks in its land-based accounting approach and challenging other countries’ approaches – there was no definitive account of those true emissions. Russia, Iceland and others didn’t take up the challenge, but you know, there’s those inconvenient ‘national circumstances’ to consider. The offsets question was kicked to the MRV discussion...so stay tuned.

CAN expected that developed countries with current pledges below the 25-40% range would explain how their low pledges are consistent with their fair share of the needed global mitigation efforts. We did not get answers. We just heard a lot about ‘conditions’ that must be met before they will tell us their real target.

CAN expected developed countries whose pledges are below their current Kyoto targets, and/or below business as usual under existing domestic legislation and targets, to explain how those pledges constitute progress. To ECO’s dismay, one candidate for this question, Canada, didn’t even sit for the exam. Another, the EU, wiggled free of the challenge by explaining that member states really want to achieve their long-agreed voluntary energy efficiency targets which is needed to cut their domestic emissions overall by 25%. ECO, along with the Philippines, would like to ask how that makes the EU a climate leader.

ECO also wanted to know how their 2020 pledges will allow them to achieve near-zero emissions by 2050.        Only Norway seemed to come even close to answering, but Germany did present indicative decadal targets for -80% by 2050, while the UK’s trajectory to -80% is enshrined in national law. The UK’s model is overall not a bad model for a low-emission development strategy. There was a potentially encouraging admission by Poland that it was too addicted to coal and was embracing energy efficiency. Now, if only Poland took that realisation to Brussels.

While additional details remain to be tabled, equally important work must begin to enable the leading industrialized countries of the world to ensure the environmental integrity of their emissions targets.

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