Bonn III: Anyone Remember Environmental Integrity?

14 August 2009

From where ECO sits, Annex I nations seem increasingly committed to wiping countries off the face of the map. Their obstinate refusal to reduce emissions in line with a finite global emissions budget threatens the very survival of a number of countries, through sea level rise, or through impacts that will make them uninhabitable.
The compilation of pledged reductions for Annex I countries, presented by Micronesia on Wednesday’s KP numbers session, so far adds up to an aggregate reduction by 2020 of -16% at best, and possibly as low as -10%, on 1990 levels. This is only a third to a quarter of what is needed for a number of nations to have a chance of simply surviving the fossil age.Even based on estimates prepared by the Secretariat, pledges only add up to 13-21% cuts on 1990 levels by 2020 – and these don’t include the weak proposed US targets, which would further drag down the total. What’s more, these figures are actually worse than the dismal estimates provided by the Secretariat in June. It seems some countries aren’t worried at all – Japan for example told negotiators that they shouldn’t think failing to reach the 25-40% range is wrong.

India has told Canada to do some soul-searching: ECO thinks all developed countries should do a great deal of soul-searching. Have they thought about the temperature rises their targets imply? Do they delude themselves that they will be immune from the consequences? Do they want to see global warming spiral out of control as the Amazon dies back and the Siberian permafrost thaws? Are they happy with the idea of a 4 or 5 degree warmer world – one perhaps unable to support a mere 1 billion people? Russia is clearly untroubled: when asked for its peak emissions date, Russia replied “that’s a very good question.” ECO wouldn’t mind an answer.
Current aggregate pledges don’t even scrape the bottom end of the IPCC’s 25-40% range on 1990 levels by 2020 for developed countries, let alone the more than 40% cuts on 1990 by 2020, which, along with the small matter of $100bn per year of public mitigation finance for developing countries, is needed to be reasonably confident of keeping global warming well below 2 degrees.
And Annex I countries don’t actually intend to reduce their domestic emissions even on the scale they have so far proposed, but rather to offset much of this effort through CDM and novel mechanisms, and to hide emissions through dodgy LULUCF rules. New Zealand told the KP that they wanted access to every kind of offset. This sends a message to developing countries that low carbon development is a contradiction in terms, too costly even for rich countries. Is that really the message they want to send?
Of course rich countries will cry poor and say that deeper cuts just aren’t economically feasible. But we all know this is nonsense. For Australia – one of the most carbon intensive economies in the world – the government’s own modelling showed that their top 2020 target of 24% below 1990 levels would only shave about 0.1 percentage points off their real per capita growth. So Australians would have to wait until about 2054 to be as rich as they would have been in 2050. But bear in mind that in this scenario the average Australian would still be more than one and a half times richer than they are today. Other less carbon-intensive economies would find it even easier to make changes. Developing countries are entitled to ask why the rich countries won’t take the need for deep cuts seriously. Rich countries get richer while poor countries drown.

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