BANGKOK (AlertNet) – As climate negotiators talk this week in Bangkok, there are no signs the gap between the amount of emissions countries have pledged to cut and what is needed to avoid temperatures rising to dangerous levels has been bridged, climate experts said.
Scientists say the world needs to keep global temperature increases to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels to avoid dangerous climate change, including impacts like more extreme weather and rising sea level.
To achieve this, current global emissions of greenhouse gases, blamed for global warming, need to drop to 40 to 44 billion tonnes, according to the Climate Action Tracker, an assessment tool set up by three European organisations to track emission commitments and actions of countries.
But emissions reductions proposals by governments so far have been inadequate, data show.
In the worst case scenario, the world would fall short of the goal by 10 to 14 billion tonnes of CO2 by 2020,” said Niklas Hohne, a lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) reports and director at Ecofys, a Dutch organisation behind the climate tracker.
Under a somewhat more optimistic scenario – taking into account more stringent accounting rules and assumptions – the gap would still be 8 to 12 billion tons. That is “a significant gap from what’s necessary,” he said.
Hohne said neither developed nor developing countries have increased the ambition of their targets despite a request for that in the Cancun Agreements negotiated last December.
Bill Hare of the Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research and another lead author of an IPCC assessment report told journalists, “The Annex I countries (wealthy industrialized countries excluding the United States) could do another gigatonne of emission reductions relatively easily and non-Annex I countries, also based on our analysis, could do more including cutting a few more gigatonnes.”
That “would start to close the gap,” Hare said.
Annex I countries refer to the 37 industrialised nations that have committed to legally binding emission cuts under the Kyoto Protocol until 2012. No extension of that treaty has yet been agreed, though talks on it are ongoing at this week’s UN climate negotiations in Bangkok.
SOME BRIGHT SPARKS BUT UNCERTAINTY REMAINS
At the talks, the European Union and Indonesia received praise for making clarifications to their pledges that could be considered increasing their levels of ambition. The EU, for instance, is including international aviation emissions as part of its Emissions Trading Scheme from 2012 onwards.
This tightening of emission goals is “a welcome improvement,” Hare said.
Indonesia, which pledged to cut emissions by a quarter from 1990 levels, has said its cuts could be increased to 41 percent through the carbon market and if funding is available to help them achieve the higher target.
Significant concerns remain, however, with regards to the different accounting practices used by different countries to calculate emission reductions as well as the carryover of emission credits.
According to Hare and Hohne, countries like Russia and Ukraine and others in Eastern Europe have emission reduction credits units that have not been cashed in and could be carried over beyond 2012 if countries sign up for a second emissions reduction commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol.
The countries have now put forward emissions reduction targets above their real expected reductions in emissions, counting on using the credits. The credit surplus, termed “hot air” in climate negotiations, is the result of deindustrialization in the former Soviet Union, which led to a reductions in carbon emissions.
“This is a major problem and a major degradation of the real emission reductions achieved if these are not taken off the table, and these issues have not really moved forward here in Bangkok,” Hare said.