When is Mitigation “Meaningful?”

8 June 2011

According to the fossil fuel lobbyists in Brussels, Washington or Canberra, it is only developed countries that are being pressured to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. Those special interest lobbyists, and the governments that listen to them, should pay attention in the mitigation workshops this week. ECO notes that the majority of the emission reductions currently on the table are likely to be made in developing – not developed – countries.

A forthcoming overview of the major recent analyses of the mitigation pledges from the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), shows that in 11 of the 12 scenarios looked at, developing countries will be responsible for more real emission reductions than developed countries. According to these studies, the only scenario that sees developed countries’ pledges deliver greater reductions compared to business as usual, is the most optimistic of those outlined in the UNEP emission gap report. Sadly there aren’t many developed countries currently committing to the high end of their pledged ranges with the strictest of accounting rules.

Why does this matter? Firstly, because many developed countries have made implementation of – the higher end of – their pledges conditional on “adequate” or “ambitious” action by major developing countries. Secondly, because developed countries like to reiterate that the $100 billion per year committed in Cancún as climate finance is conditional on “meaningful mitigation” by developed- countries.

So ECO would like to know when developed countries will tell their counterparts whether these conditions have been met. It may be difficult to argue they have not, so long as developed countries ambition remains so low.

In the end, ECO knows that for mitigation to be truly “meaningful”, global efforts must be sufficient to keep global warming below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. There are no prizes for coming first in a race in which everyone fails to reach the finish line. All countries will need to work to close the emissions gap – but developed country governments should recognise that they are currently not doing their fair share. They should stop listening to the lobbyists telling them not to lead, and recognise that it is instead they who are currently following.

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